8 Tips for Turning Around A Small Association with Few Cash Reserves and Minimal Staff Resources
Oct 29, 2023·By Belinda Moore
With the right approach, great things can be achieved by associations working with few staff and limited financial resources. Following are tips for those wanting to achieve a significant turnaround in their organisational performance.
- Prioritise – and stick to it! – You don’t have the resources to be all things to all people. If you try to achieve everything at once you will fail. Plan your turnaround process carefully. Note all the tasks that need to be completed in order of priority. Then start at the top. You will be pressured by people who want their particular interest area prioritised. Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”. Turnarounds are a step-by-step process, and you risk failure by diverting attention and resources away from the tasks that need to be immediately accomplished in order to reach the end goal.
- Don’t just budget – cash flow! – If cash is tight having a budget isn’t good enough. You need to live by your cash flow. This spreadsheet maps out all your anticipated income and expenses. When budgeting be conservative on income and generous on expenses. This gives you a buffer when you hit one of the inevitable speedbumps that will crop up from time to time. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing the inclusion of unrealistic income targets to make the cash flow work.
- Ensure you have the right team in place – Having one wrong person on your team can completely derail a turnaround. Ensure you have the right Board, management, and staff in place to effectively plan and execute the turnaround. If there are people on the team who aren’t part of the solution, get rid of them as quickly as possible. For a turnaround to be effective everyone on the team must be working together – and working hard.
- Streamline your administration and processing functions – Unnecessary administration diverts valuable time resources and creates the need for costly additional administrative support. If entering into a turnaround phase, first streamline your administrative processes to minimise data entry and automate everyday tasks (such as event registrations and membership processing). Remove barriers to joining and renewing (such as unwieldy application processes). This will provide a solid foundation for future growth. There are a number of low cost, cloud based integrated database and website systems such as www.wildapricot.com that are quick and easy to implement.
- Focus on delivering compelling tangible member benefits – Associations that succeed aren’t those with the most benefits. They are the ones that deliver the most value to their members. Identify the most compelling value you can deliver to your existing and prospective members and focus on delivering that. Don’t be distracted by investing resources into minor benefits. Be prepared to let go of the benefits that may have served you well in the past but are no longer compelling to members. If you don’t know what your members currently value, then ask yourself the question … “If our association disappeared overnight what would our members miss?”
- Run awesome events – The symbiotic relationship between successful events and strong membership growth are well recognised. Make your events the “must attend” for your profession or industry. This means focusing on the details – engaging speakers with great content, compelling programs, innovative formats, fresh venues, great food, and air-conditioning that won’t freeze or boil your delegates.
- Seek fewer sponsors at a higher value – Sponsorship seeking takes a lot of effort. Seek a handful of industry exclusive annual partners who are a natural fit for your organisation. Find out how they will measure the success of the arrangement. Structure the partnership to achieve those outcomes. Schedule to catch up with them every couple of months. Create a situation where you, your members and the partner all win.
- Communicate! – Great internal and external communication are critical to an effective turnaround process. This isn’t just sending out the occasional update to staff or members. Communication is a two-way street. Get your key stakeholders involved in the process. Get them passionate about the purpose you are trying to achieve, get them actively involved in implementing the plan, and (very importantly) take the time to celebrate each successful step along the way. A turnaround is a team effort that is made more successful when all team members are enthusiastically pulling in the same direction.