5 Keys for Successful Association Strategic Planning



Associations face unprecedented challenges in their business models and revenue streams. The traditional reliance on conferences and events to generate non-dues revenue is challenged by external forces such as workforce and supply chain issues. To successfully navigate these challenges, associations must be forward-thinking and proactive. They should invest the needed time to map out a comprehensive strategic plan. Here are five key suggestions to guide your association in its strategic planning:

1. Conduct Regular Interviews with Segments of Your Membership

To adapt effectively to the changing needs of your members, it is essential to understand their ever-evolving expectations and requirements. What made them satisfied with a membership three years ago may not apply now, especially after COVID. 

Conduct interviews and surveys to gain insights into what they are looking for and how they perceive the future of the organization. Recognize that their needs may have significantly changed over the past 12 months. Having a 30-minute phone interview with pre-determined questions will allow for more one-on-one response, and allow for ideas that you may not have considered. Online surveys will gather more data, but may not allow for as much idea-sharing.

Additionally, annually analyze your membership categories to gain insights into the types of members joining and identify any challenges faced in membership renewal. Always encourage honest feedback. It may inform your strategic decisions. Having candid member responses will help provide a roadmap for effectively addressing their needs in the next two to three years..

2. Revisit and Reinforce Your Mission and Vision

Before embarking on the strategic planning process, take appropriate time to remind all stakeholders, including members and suppliers, of your association’s mission and vision. These guiding principles serve as a compass, aligning everyone involved with the organization’s long-term objectives. It is not uncommon for the mission and vision language to evolve as priorities change or as the need for modernization arises. Consider updating your mission statement every three to five years to reflect and ensure its relevance in the current landscape. This reaffirmation of purpose creates a strong foundation for strategic planning.

3. Conduct a Comprehensive Business Analysis

To inform your strategic planning efforts, it is crucial to conduct a thorough analysis of your association’s financial performance over the last three years. Identify and evaluate the sources of your revenue, their strengths, weaknesses, and possible threats. Research how other associations and companies in your industry generate both dues and non-dues revenue. 

Analyze the effectiveness of both non-dues and dues revenue streams. Expand your analysis beyond the association to examine the broader factors such as supply chain and recent policy changes. Also, be open to prospect potential collaboration opportunities or sponsorships that could enhance your association’s value proposition. If needed, contact a third-party company, such as Big Red M, to help you make sense of the data. (link?)

Presenting this comprehensive analysis during the strategic planning meetings will provide valuable context and data for decision-making.

4. Act Upon Member Priorities Quickly

In a rapidly changing environment, associations that act swiftly and decisively gain a competitive advantage. Embracing agility and developing a culture of execution within your association is paramount. Ensure that communication lines are open and that feedback is actively sought and acted upon. Identify the priorities and preferences expressed by your members, then translate them into action plans. 

By being transparent, responsive and efficient in executing member-driven initiatives, your association demonstrates your commitment to the evolving needs of your members and will stay ahead in a competitive marketplace.

5. Have Active and Knowledgable Committee Involvement

Successful association strategic planning requires a well-informed committee that represents diverse perspectives and expertise. Engage the committee members who possess a deep understanding of the association’s industry and the challenges it faces. Leverage their collective knowledge and experience to develop strategies that are both visionary and practical.

Some committee members may not be familiar with the inner workings of your association beyond their own businesses. Present the collected qualitative and quantitative data as a scene-setter and context during the strategic planning meeting. This approach will help committee members understand your association’s inner workings, financial statements, and external landscape, setting the stage for an informed and effective planning process.


In an era of evolving business models and revenue streams, associations must adopt a proactive and forward-thinking approach. By conducting member interviews, reaffirming mission and vision, analyzing business performance, and executing member-driven priorities promptly, associations can position themselves for success. Engaging a knowledgeable committee and providing the necessary context further enhances the effectiveness of the strategic planning process. 

Don’t be afraid to reimagine and reshape your association’s future through strategic planning. If your association requires support in the strategic planning process, consider seeking assistance from our experienced consultants who will provide valuable guidance and insights to facilitate the development of a robust and future-oriented strategic plan. For a free strategy call contact us, or visit our Strategy Programs page for more information.


Related Posts

Need Help?

Follow Us


803 W Broad St, Ste 730, Falls Church, VA 22046


(571) 814-3443