How to Create a Successful Association Consulting Partnership



Updated By: Jannan Poppen

Having been involved in some incredible projects over the years, both on the association and consulting side of the relationship, we’ve developed a unique perspective on what it takes to create a successful association consulting partnership. Here are three “green flag” qualities to look for in a successful partnership.

The consultant understands that each association is unique.

Although it can be common for consultants to fall into a “routine bias,” resulting in the same recommendations regardless of the specific situation, that isn’t necessarily going to serve your association in the way you need it to. In a successful association partnership, the consultant knows that each association is unique and therefore, the recommendations they provide should be unique as well. If the consultant seems to be working off a template, ask which recommendation is unique to your organization.

They have a proven process and are excellent communicators. 

One of the best ways to ensure a successful consulting relationship is to follow a proven process or framework. Although the recommendations for each association should be unique, the process your consultant follows should always be the same. Below you’ll find the five-step process we follow with each client. The process includes regular check-in points and leans on the side of overcommunication to make sure everyone knows what is happening at each phase of the project.

One: Conduct a launch meeting where we share the overall scope of work for the project. 

Two: Develop a timeline. Include benchmarks, deliverables and dates delivered, and what information we need from the client to implement each step of the process.

Three: Conduct bi-weekly meetings. The meetings consist of a 30-minute conference call where we discuss the project status, what we’re learning, and discuss gaps or information that we need from them.

Four: Send out weekly updates. This ensures the project stays on track and everyone is on the same page. 

Five: Set clear expectations about final deliverables and final presentations. This step of the process ensures that everyone is clear about when the results will be delivered and when the project ends. If more work is needed, a new scope of work, timeline, and budget will be set. 

They know the work inside out.

An effective consultant will know the field intimately and will have done the type of work they are supporting you with. That may seem like a given, but it’s also important that they have recently done the type of work you are seeking. For example, if a consultant is advising you on sponsorship sales, you should ask about the last one they closed!

They don’t just tell you what you want to hear.

Finally, finding a consultant who is willing to provide the unvarnished truth will pay off in dividends. When you hire a consultant, the value of an outside perspective is priceless. Make sure your consultant is willing to share both good news and the hard truth. Our goal is to give the most frank perspective we can offer, even with the risk that the next project may never come.

A successful consulting partnership can yield lasting benefits and dramatically increase your association’s growth. Use these tips to help find the right consultant for your association. Of course, we’d love to have the opportunity to grow your association in a consulting relationship. Please reach out if you’d like to speak with us about consulting.


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