Common Pitfalls To Avoid When Developing Your Associations Purpose and Vision

A clear sense of purpose and vision is essential for the success and growth of your organisation. However, it can be easy to fall into common pitfalls when it comes to developing these important guiding principles. Here are some of the common mistakes to avoid when seeking to create a purpose and vision that truly resonates with your members and stakeholders:

Keep it succinct.

Keep your vision and purpose statements short and powerful. No one is going to be motivated by a vision and purpose that requires a cup of tea and a lie down halfway through.  

Don’t make assumptions about your members’ values and goals.

It’s important to engage your membership in the process of defining your purpose and vision. This means soliciting their input and feedback, and being open to their ideas and perspectives.

Avoid being too broad or vague.

A purpose or vision statement that is too broad or vague will lack the necessary focus and direction to guide your organisation’s actions. Be specific and clear about what you hope to achieve, and how you plan to get there.

Don’t neglect to consider the needs of your stakeholders.

There may be people who are not currently members as your existing purpose is unclear or mis-aligned. Your purpose and vision should not just reflect the desires of your membership, but also take into account the needs and concerns of other stakeholders, such as staff, partners, and the broader community.

Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.

A purpose or vision statement should inspire and motivate, and sometimes that means going against the grain or thinking outside the box. Don’t be afraid to be bold and innovative in your approach.

Create a narrative.

Make sure that your purpose and vision are aligned and complementary. The vision statement is the end state you want to achieve and the purpose is how you are getting there. Statements that fit together create a cohesive and consistent direction for your organisation.

Don’t forget to review and revise.

As your organisation grows and evolves, so too should your purpose and vision. Regularly review and revise these guiding principles to ensure that they remain relevant and meaningful to your organisation and its stakeholders.

Don’t neglect to communicate and live your purpose and vision.

Once you have developed your purpose and vision, it’s important to clearly communicate them to your members and stakeholders. But more importantly, you must actively work to live these principles in everything you do as an organisation.

If you need a briefing on the future of associations for your board or a facilitator to ensure the success of your next strategic planning process, please contact Belinda Moore.

7 Characteristics of Exceptional Association Leaders

As the leader of an association, your actions and decisions can have a significant impact on the success and growth of the organisation. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for effective leadership, there are certain characteristics that have been proven to be valuable in association leadership including:

Clear vision and goals

Exceptional association leaders are able to articulate a clear vision and set of goals for their organisation. They are able to inspire and motivate others to work towards these objectives, and are able to adapt their strategies as needed to stay on track. Take the time to sit down and really think about the long-term direction you want your association to go in. What are your core values and what impact do you want to have? Once you have a clear vision, communicate it to your team and use it to guide your decision making.

Strong communication skills

Effective communication is crucial for any leader, but it is especially important in the association world where you may be working with a diverse group of stakeholders. Exceptional association leaders are able to clearly and effectively communicate their ideas and expectations to their team, members, and other stakeholders. Practice active listening and make an effort to understand other people’s perspectives. Use clear and concise language in all of your communications, and be sure to pay attention to nonverbal cues as well.

Collaborative approach

Exceptional association leaders understand that they cannot do it all on their own, and are willing to work with others to achieve their goals. They are able to bring people together and foster a sense of teamwork and collaboration within their organisation. Encourage open communication and collaboration within your team, and be open to new ideas and perspectives. Look for opportunities to work with other associations and organisations to achieve common goals.

Strategic thinking

Exceptional association leaders are able to think ahead and plan for the future. They are able to analyse data and information to make informed decisions, and are able to anticipate and mitigate potential challenges. Stay up to date on industry trends and developments, and regularly review and assess your organisation’s strategies. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks, but also make sure to have contingency plans in place.


The world is constantly changing, and exceptional association leaders are able to adapt and pivot as needed to stay ahead of the curve. They are open to trying new things and are not afraid to take calculated risks. Stay open to new ideas and be willing to try new approaches. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out new resources if you need them.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognise and understand your own emotions and the emotions of others. Exceptional association leaders have high levels of emotional intelligence, which allows them to effectively manage their own emotions and the emotions of their team. Take the time to understand your own emotions and how they impact your behaviour. Practice empathy and try to see things from others’ perspectives.

Strong work ethic

Exceptional association leaders lead by example and are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They are willing to put in the hard work and long hours needed to achieve their goals. Action suggestion: Set a strong work ethic for yourself and your team, and be willing to go above and beyond when necessary.

Being an exceptional association leader is no easy feat, but with the right combination of vision, communication skills, collaboration, strategic thinking, adaptability, emotional intelligence, and a strong work ethic, you can lead your organisation to success. Don’t be afraid to seek out new resources or ask for help when you need it (the free Answers for Asssociations online community is great for this), and always remember to stay true to your values and vision. 

Want to learn more? I will be attending the Association Leaders Retreat in Darwin from 19-21 July. This is a chance to step out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in a unique and enriching experience alongside fellow association professionals. Over three unforgettable days, you will indulge in a showcase of local cuisine and breathtaking landscapes while participating in dynamic sessions designed to foster collaboration and connection with your peers, leading to impactful outcomes. No stuffy PowerPoints or formal presentations here – this is a chance to break away from routine and engage in a refreshing retreat.

The Key Elements of An Association Membership Model

Associations have played a significant role in connecting people for thousands of years. From hunter-gatherer societies to modern professional organisations, associations have taken many forms and have had a profound impact on society. In recent years, rapid changes in technology, economics, and culture have necessitated a transformation in the way associations operate, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this shift.

One of the most fundamental changes many associations are considering is their membership model. An association membership model is the foundation of an organisation, underpinning all aspects of its operations. It is essential that this model is the result of careful consideration and aligns with the purpose and goals of the association. The includes consideration of the following elements:

Association Purpose

An association is a group of people who come together to achieve a shared goal. Its primary function is to work towards this goal, rather than to attract and retain members. A clear and defined purpose is essential for guiding the actions and decisions of the association, as well as for measuring success and navigating through changes. To ensure that the association is aligned and motivated towards its purpose, it is important to define its vision, mission, and values. The vision is the desired outcome or impact that the association hopes to achieve. The mission describes the actions and services that the association provides to achieve its vision. The purpose is the reason behind these actions and serves as the driving force for the association. The values are the core beliefs that guide and motivate the association and its members.

Association Type and Structure

The type and structure of association will influence the membership model. There are various types of associations that can be classified based on their goals and objective such as philanthropic foundations, environmental and animal protection organisations, hospitals and health services, social services, religious groups, international aid organisations, educational institutions, cultural and recreational clubs, advocacy and political organisations, business and professional associations, and labour unions. Within each of these categories, there are subcategories that further classify the association based on specific characteristics. The structure of an association, whether it is a single entity operating nationally or internationally, or a federation of independent organisations, will also impact the development of its membership model.

Who the Association Serves

It is important to identify the specific individuals and businesses that an association should focus on serving and engaging with, rather than simply attempting to attract as many members as possible. A clear understanding of the purpose of the association can help to clarify which groups are most important and should be prioritised.

There are five types of stakeholders that an association may interact with: those it exists to serve, those it engages with to further its purpose, customers who purchase its products and services, those who are targeted as part of a specific campaign, and vendors who provide products and services to the association’s community (stakeholders will fit into only one of these groups).

To determine whether an association is serving or engaging with a particular group, it is helpful to consider whether members of that group should have a governing role in the association. If the answer is “yes” that group is more likely to fall into the cohort of members you serve.

How the Association Serves

It is important for associations to carefully consider their activities and prioritise those that will have the greatest impact on achieving their purpose. This can help to avoid wasting resources on activities that are not aligned with the current goals of the organisation. There are five main ways in which associations can serve their stakeholders: representing the interests of the group to external parties, mobilising people or organisations to take action towards a specific objective, providing products, services, and other resources to assist stakeholders in achieving their own goals, creating opportunities for participation and excellence, and fostering a sense of community and connection among members. The choice of functions that an association undertakes can have a significant impact on all aspects of the organisation, and it is important to make these decisions intentionally rather than simply continuing with activities that have been conducted in the past. 

How the Association engages with stakeholders.

An association’s engagement model outlines the way it communicates and engages with its members and stakeholders. To effectively develop this model, it is important to understand the current and ideal methods of engagement delivery and the gap between the two. This includes considering the type of engagement tools being used, such as traditional, modern, or online methods, as well as the association’s ability to effectively utilise these tools, ranging from developing to advanced. It is at this state that an association would consider the role of chapters, special interest groups, and components in achieving the purpose of the association.

How to make the model financially sustainable

The association’s financial sustainability is critical to its long-term success. The full range of revenue streams, of which membership is only one, should be carefully considered to ensure they align with the other elements of the membership model. Factors that will impact this decision include current reliance on membership fees, cost of delivering the membership program, whether fees are appropriate for all membership categories, current capacity to execute the ideal state revenue streams, and resources available for change.

A final note – the difference between a membership fee and a membership category review.

It is important to note there are two main types of membership reviews: membership model reviews and membership category reviews. A membership category review involves finding a better way to structure existing membership categories to offer value to different market segments, while a membership model review involves examining the entire membership model to ensure it aligns with the association’s purpose and meets the needs of its members.

Undertaking a membership model review can be a complex process, but it is essential for the long-term success and sustainability of an association. By adapting to changing circumstances and staying relevant, associations can continue to make a meaningful impact on society.

If you are looking for support to maximise the success of your membership program we can assist. Email Belinda Moore for more information.

Briefing: Association Trends, Shifts in Strategic Planning, and the Evolution of Membership Models

I’m presenting a briefing on Association Trends, Shifts in Strategic Planning, and the Evolution of Membership Models in Auckland next Wednesday.

The two-hour session will be divided into two parts.

  1. A briefing on current trends in associations, shifts in strategic planning, and the evolution of membership models.
  2. An interactive “ask me anything” format to ask specific and discuss the insights from the briefing.

The session won’t be recorded as it includes a sneak peak at content from my new (yet to be released) whitepaper on the future of association membership models.

You can click here to register

The session will run from 10am-12pm on Wednesday 8 March in the Norman Shieff Room (6th floor, ADLS Offices, Chancery Chambers, 2 Chancery Street, Auckland). Registration is $99 AUD for Answers for Associations members and $179 AUD for everyone else.  

If you have any questions please email

Association Trends to Watch in 2023

As the association sector continues to evolve, it is important for CEOs and Boards to stay abreast of the latest trends and understand how they can impact their organisation. Here are a few that are particularly relevant at the moment:

The rise of virtual events.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the way we do business, virtual events have become an increasingly popular alternative to in-person events. This trend is likely to continue into 2023 and beyond, with many associations opting to host their conferences, meetings, and other events online.

Increased focus on sustainability.

Sustainability has long been an important issue, but it is becoming increasingly critical as the impacts of climate change become more evident. In 2023, it is likely that associations will be under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to take steps to reduce their environmental impact.

The importance of digital transformation.

In the digital age, it is more important than ever for associations to have a strong online presence and to be able to communicate effectively with members through digital channels. In 2023, it is likely that associations that fail to embrace digital transformation will struggle to keep pace with their competitors.

The rise of artificial intelligence and automation.

Artificial intelligence and automation are changing the way we work and are likely to continue to do so in 2023. While these technologies have the potential to streamline processes and improve efficiency, they also have the potential to disrupt industries and displace jobs.

The need for diversity and inclusion.

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on diversity and inclusion within the association sector, and this trend is likely to continue in 2023. Associations that fail to prioritise diversity and inclusion may struggle to attract and retain members and may face reputational risks.

The role of data and analytics.

Data and analytics are becoming increasingly important in the association sector, as they can help organisations make informed decisions and better understand the needs and preferences of their members. In 2023, it is likely that associations that fail to effectively utilise data and analytics will struggle to keep pace with their competitors.

The need for flexibility and agility.

In a rapidly changing world, it is important for associations to be flexible and agile to respond to new challenges and opportunities. In 2023, it is likely that associations will need to be prepared to adapt quickly to changes in the market, technology, and regulatory environment.

As the association sector continues to evolve, it is important associations to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and be proactive in adapting to these changes to better position themselves for success in 2023 and beyond.

If you need a briefing on associations for your board or a facilitator to ensure the success of your next strategic planning process, please contact Belinda Moore.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal Released

We are excited to announce the release of Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal, a compilation of articles from over 50 association thought leaders from around the globe.

This journal offers a unique perspective on the future of associations and the role they will play in shaping industries and communities. From innovative ideas for growth and sustainability to strategies for adapting to changing environments, the articles in this journal provide valuable insights and inspiration for association professionals.

As the association landscape continues to evolve, it is important for professionals to stay informed and stay ahead of the curve. The Associations Evolve: 2023 & Beyond Journal is a must-read for anyone looking to drive positive change and impact within their organisation. Get your copy today and join the conversation on the future of associations.

Post-COVID Association Trends

Since COVID began, the pace of change in associations has accelerated. I’ve been documenting these shifts and here are the 11 major shifts I’ve noted so far …

1. The Pace Of Change Isn’t Slowing.

Associations had to make significant changes when COVID struck. Necessary shortcuts were taken. They are now working to ensure the foundations to support these changes are in place. A classic example of this are events … 

2. How We Run Events Has Changed.

When COVID hit, associations recreated their face-to-face events in online formats. While this was great as a stopgap, it became evident that online events are not a direct replacement for face-to-face. Online events are a different beast. Combining both formats creates an opportunity to deliver greater value to members. Associations are updating their event calendars to capitalise on this.

3. Focus on Fostering Engaged Communities.

The idea of building online communities is appealing, but the reality is often challenging to execute. Building sustained momentum within an online community takes considerable skill, resources, and focus. Associations are making significant investments in specialist staffing, training, and technology to ensure success.

4. Adaption to Changing Community Lifestyles, Habits, and Preferences.

COVID has caused people to reassess their lives. Work from home opportunities have enabled people to relocate outside capital cities. The crisis has precipitated significant shifts in habits, lifestyles, and engagement preferences. This affects how members engage with all touchpoints including events, training, conferences, publications, online communities, and communications. Associations are reviewing touchpoints to ensure they align with these changes.

5.    Competition Is More Intense.

Associations are experiencing the erosion of their value proposition. Competition is coming from for-profit companies, other associations, and informal groups. Competitors may compete with some or all products the association offers. Associations are overcoming this “death by 1000 cuts” by focusing where they can deliver the most powerful impact. They are also using collaboration and partnerships to gain (or maintain) a more secure position.

6.    Embracing Technology – Partnering In Development.

Great technology enables personalised member experience, easy-to-access interfaces, streamlined internal operations, and productive workplaces. The demand by associations for great technology has accelerated the pace of technological development and adoption. Association specialist technology providers are racing to keep up with the demand for more innovative solutions. Forward thinking associations are working closely with industry software developers to ensure the solutions are fit-for-purpose.

7.    Our People Are Change Fatigued.

 Association staff put in a herculean effort to adapt their organisations to the COVID landscape. They achieved amazing things in the face of relentless change and constant uncertainty. Most are now change fatigued. Mental health challenges and burnout are a real risk. More associations are adapting their planning and expectations to protect the mental health of their teams. As one client put it, “our main challenge this year is not to break our team.”

8.    Workplaces are Changing To Attract And Retain Quality Staff. 

People are leaving their roles in droves. There is huge competition to attract and retain the best quality staff. There is an active drive by associations to secure their organisation in a competitive labour market. Associations are creating more flexible, purpose-orientated workplaces. They are driving innovations to increase productivity and staff satisfaction.

9.    Younger People Are Driving Product Innovation.

Gen Z is now part of the workforce and Gen Y are already heading into leadership pathways. The drive to innovate to attract these people is more intense than ever. This urgency is driving innovations in value creation, service delivery, and leadership pathway development. Associations are getting better at balancing the need to engage younger generations while also continuing to serve the older generation. And often finding these innovations appeal to the older demographic as well.

10. Rise Of the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) approach.

The war in Ukraine represents a significant shift. For the first time companies are acting on a large scale to influence an outcome. By collectively withdrawing their business from Russia they are dealing significant blow to the Russian economy – and the Russian war effort.  Companies are harnessing their power to create an powerful impact. This reflects the growing popularity of the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) approach. The expectations of companies, their staff, and the public have changed. Progressive associations have recognised this trend and are expanding their outlook beyond only “creating value for members”. 

11. Better Alignment Of Operating Models To Purpose.

Many associations use very traditional business models that are not suited for the contemporary operating landscape. Associations are now better aligning their operating models to better achieve their purpose. Associations are reviewing membership models (not just fiddling with member categories), volunteering pathways, and component frameworks (special interest groups, branches, etc). As more of these long-term projects launch, we will see a transformation in the shape of associations around the globe.

What does the war in Ukraine mean for associations?

It is usually nations who are the main actors in the theatre of war. Corporations generally take on a supporting role – such as when Steinway & Sons dropped pianos to troops during World War 2

The war in Ukraine represents a significant shift. For the first time companies are acting on a large scale to influence an outcome. By collectively withdrawing their business from Russia they are dealing significant blow to the Russian economy – and the Russian war effort.  

Companies are openly harnessing their power to create an powerful impact. Many of these are doing so by following the principles of the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) approach. This movement is only getting stronger.

So what does this mean for associations?

There is an increasing expectation that associations expand their outlook beyond just “creating value for members”. 

This isn’t about conforming to a trend. It’s about survival. The younger generation are the future leaders, staff, and members of our associations. And, overwhelmingly, younger people want to align with organisations who embrace ESG principles.

If your association isn’t going to deliver, they will happily look to another who will. Or start their own.

Strategic planning needs to catch up – and quickly. Don’t start your strategic planning process by looking at the past. And not by looking at the present. Instead start by getting excited about the future. Explore the possibilities by asking “What powerfully positive impact could we create for our team, our members, our sector, and the world?“. 

And think big! Associations are well placed to harness the latent power of the large communities they nurture. The potential is enormous. Are you making the most of yours?

I will be attending the Association Leaders Exchanges in Melbourne and Sydney later this month where I look forward to robust conversations about this and a range of other issues affecting associations. I hope to see you there.

JOURNAL: Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond

Forty-six association experts from around the world have collaborated to produce a collection of articles showcasing contemporary thinking on governance, membership, revenue, events, and much more.

This is a great resource for those looking for inspiration and motivation to make 2022 your best year ever. It makes great holiday reading for those who are feeling particularly enthusiastic (tip: this publication pairs well with red wine and cheese).

Download “Associations Evolve: 2022 & Beyond”

This publication is part of our Associations Evolve project which looks for ways to help associations to thrive into the future. 

Thanks to Beau Cummin from Visual Traffic for his fabulous work designing this publication, Northern Territory Business Events for their great support of this project, and all our wonderful contributors.  

We hope you will find this collection of articles from experts in the association space as informative, inspiring, and motivating as we did. 

All the best for a fun and relaxing break over the festive period. I hope you arrive back at work refreshed and ready for an awesome 2022.

Warm regards,

WEBINAR: How to Create a Strategic Plan that Really Works

A great strategic plan conveys a compelling shared vision of the future of your association – as well as a clear pathway to get there. It is a fabulous tool for motivating your Board, staff, members, and other stakeholders. It also ensures your strategy creates a tangible and long-lasting positive impact. For more than 25 years, Belinda has been refining a process for association strategic planning. In this session, she will share her bespoke process and provide you with all the information you need to run the most successful strategic planning session ever. This session is great for those wanting the insights necessary to run their own plan, or those seeking to better understand modern strategic planning processes so they can better direct their facilitator.

Click here to Watch the Webinar.

Click here to Download the Slides.