How to Craft an Association Strategy: Building a Strong Foundation for Organizational Success



Strategies are comprehensive plans designed to establish and strengthen your association, its relationships, and its partnerships between your staff, members, and external entities such as stakeholders, industry peers, customers, suppliers, and government bodies. Your association likely has several strategies in place. There’s your member recruiting strategy for one. Your marketing strategy is possibly another along with your event strategy, and perhaps a few more. 

But, when was the last time your association seriously reviewed and updated its strategies? As your association grows, it’s crucial to revisit your strategies often to ensure you’re poised for future success. In this blog, we’ll look at the basics of foundational association strategies including evaluating your strategic goals, crafting an association strategy, optimizing your membership benefits, and formulating a roadmap to maximize your association’s outcomes.


Evaluating Your Association’s Strategic Goals

  • Back to the Basics: You may have your association’s mission, vision, and values documented and nicely framed on an office wall, but have you revisited them in light of your goals? These mission, vision, and values statements are the sails to your association’s ship. They give your association direction and should serve as your navigational compass for strategic goal setting.
  • Make sure the word “influence” is woven into your goals: A primary benefit of having an association membership is having your voice heard through the collective power of like-minded organizations and individuals. Make sure your strategic goals keep this benefit front and center. By joining forces with you, organizations can tackle industry-wide challenges, advocate for common interests, and drive meaningful change.
  • Your goals should include education:  Your strategic goals should also have an educational component. Another membership benefit is Associations provide an avenue for organizations to gain and share knowledge, expertise, and best practices.
  • Goals should also include “opportunities for collaboration”: By joining your organization, members should be able to collaborate to gain insights, learn from each other’s experiences, and stay ahead of industry trends. Collaboration opportunities foster growth and innovation not only for members, but for your association as well.
  • Resource Optimization (Sharing is Caring): An association strategy should also address resource optimization, which is the bringing together of shared resources, infrastructure, and capabilities. This enables organizations to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and access specialized services that might not be feasible individually.


Crafting an Association Strategy

Developing an effective association strategy involves several key components. Here are a few you may want to consider:

  1. Define Objectives: Clearly articulate the objectives your organization aims to achieve through associations. These may include advocacy, information sharing, industry standards development, professional development, or business growth.
  2. Identify Target Associations: Identify relevant associations, networks, or industry groups that align with your organization’s goals, values, and target audience. Conduct thorough research to ensure compatibility. Also, choose associations that offer value-added benefits.
  3. Establish Mutually Beneficial Partnerships: Create a value proposition that outlines the benefits your organization brings to the table. Identify shared interests, goals, and collaboration opportunities that will attract potential association partners.
  4. Plan for Engagement: Outline strategies for active participation and engagement within the association. This may include attending conferences, workshops, and seminars, contributing to thought leadership initiatives, participating in committees, and networking with fellow members.


Lastly, to achieve the best possible outcomes for your association, here are some key strategies to consider for maximizing your association’s outcomes:


  • Use Data-Driven Decision Making: Try not to rely on hunches. Use data and analytics to make informed decisions. Regularly assess membership trends (at least once a quarter), event attendance, engagement metrics, and other relevant data points. This information will help you identify areas that need improvement and opportunities for growth.
  • Focus on the Membership Experience: Create a positive and engaging experience for your members. Personalize communications, offer tailored benefits, and foster a sense of community through networking events and online platforms. The more valued and connected members feel, the more likely they are to remain active participants in the association.
  • Have Diversified Revenue Streams: Relying on a single revenue source can be risky. Explore and develop diversified revenue streams such as membership fees, event sponsorships, partnerships, educational programs, and merchandise sales. This approach will provide financial stability and flexibility to invest in initiatives that drive your association’s mission.
  • Forge Collaborative Partnerships: Establish strategic partnerships with other organizations, industry leaders, or institutions that share common goals. Collaborative efforts can amplify your association’s reach, leverage resources, and lead to mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Invest in Continuous Learning and Development: Invest in the professional development of your association’s staff and volunteers. Equipping your team with necessary skills and knowledge will enhance their ability to deliver value to members and execute successful initiatives.
  • Assess Outcome Measurement and Evaluation: Regularly assess the success of your association’s initiatives and activities against the established goals and objectives. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress and adjust strategies as needed. Continually refine and improve your approaches based on performance insights.
  • Provide Member Feedback and Involvement: Encourage member feedback and involve your members in shaping the association’s direction. Conduct surveys, focus groups, and feedback sessions to understand member needs and preferences better. Members who feel heard and valued are more likely to actively contribute to the association’s success.
  • Embrace Adaptability and Innovation:  Encourage adaptability and innovation as essential components of your association’s culture. Be willing to experiment with new approaches and technologies to stay relevant and responsive to evolving member needs.


By implementing these strategies and maintaining a focus on continuous improvement, your association can maximize its outcomes and make a meaningful and lasting impact on its members and the industry or profession it represents.


Here Are a Few Examples of Association Strategies You May Want to Consider

  1. Advocacy Strategy: This strategy focuses on influencing policymakers and promoting favorable industry regulations or legislation. By partnering with associations that lobby for common interests, associations can collectively advocate for positive change.
  2. Knowledge-Sharing Strategy: This strategy emphasizes information exchange, research collaboration, and industry-wide learning. Organizations can actively participate in conferences, webinars, and workshops to share expertise, foster innovation, and stay abreast of emerging trends.
  3. Standards Development Strategy: Organizations can work with associations involved in developing industry standards and certifications. This strategy ensures that organizations adhere to best practices, fosters quality assurance, safety and/or environmental standards, and enhances consumer trust.
  4. Business Development Strategy: Associations often provide networking and business development opportunities. Organizations can leverage these platforms to forge strategic partnerships, generate leads, and expand their customer base. A business development strategy will establish a roadmap for members seeking to broaden network and development opportunities.



In a rapidly changing business environment, associations can play a crucial role in fostering collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and collective action. Association strategies are navigational charts for organizations to sail through the challenges of today’s interconnected world. By developing a well-crafted association strategy, organizations can (and will) strengthen their position within their respective industries.  Contact us for a free strategy call or visit our Strategy Programs page on how to help ensure success for your organization.


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