Practical Tips for Successfully Implementing Your Association’s Strategic Plan

Developing a strategic plan is an important step for associations looking to achieve their purpose and goals, but implementing the plan can be a challenge. Here are some practical tips for successfully implementing your association’s strategic plan:

Communicate the plan

Clearly communicate the strategic plan to all stakeholders, including staff, members, and board members. Consider holding informational meetings or creating a summary document to ensure that everyone understands the plan and their role in its implementation.

Assign ownership

Assign specific tasks and responsibilities to individuals or teams to ensure that the plan is implemented effectively. Consider using project management tools or software to track progress and ensure that tasks are completed on time.

Set clear goals and targets

Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals and targets to help guide the implementation process and measure progress. Regularly review and update these goals as needed.

Monitor progress

Regularly monitor progress and track key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure that the plan is on track. Consider setting up dashboards or metrics to track progress and identify areas for improvement.

Stay flexible

Be prepared to adapt and adjust the plan as needed, as circumstances and priorities may change over time. Consider holding regular check-ins or review meetings to assess progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Seek feedback

Involve all stakeholders in the implementation process and encourage them to provide feedback and ideas for improvement. Consider holding focus groups or surveys to gather insights and identify any challenges or opportunities that may arise.

Celebrate successes

Regularly celebrate successes and milestones along the way to keep momentum and motivation high. Consider holding events or recognising team members for their contributions to the implementation process.

If you need a briefing on associations for your board, or a facilitator to ensure the success of your next strategic planning process, email Belinda Moore for more information on how we can assist.

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.

Fostering an Innovation Mindset in Your Association

A nimble, innovation mindset is crucial for associations to stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of their members. However, fostering this mindset can be a challenge, especially in a traditional, hierarchical organisation. Here are seven tips for encouraging creativity and adaptability in your association staff and board:

Encourage open communication.

Encourage open and transparent communication among staff and board members to create a safe space for sharing ideas and feedback. This could include regular team meetings or open forums for discussion.

Embrace failure.

Encourage a culture of learning from failure rather than punishing it. This can help create a safe space for risk-taking and innovation.

Encourage continuous learning.

Encourage staff and board members to pursue ongoing learning and development opportunities to stay up-to-date on industry trends and best practices. This could include providing training resources or encouraging staff to attend conferences or workshops.

Encourage diversity of thought.

Encourage diversity of thought by promoting a diverse and inclusive culture and seeking out diverse perspectives and backgrounds among staff and board members.

Encourage collaboration.

Encourage collaboration and teamwork by providing opportunities for staff and board members to work together on projects and initiatives. This could include cross-functional teams or collaborative brainstorming sessions.

Encourage experimentation.

Encourage experimentation and innovation by providing resources and support for staff and board members to test new ideas and approaches. This could include a budget for pilot projects or a dedicated innovation team.

Recognise and reward innovation.

Recognise and reward innovative ideas and efforts to encourage a culture of innovation within the organisation. This could include providing incentives or recognition for innovative projects or ideas.

By following these seven tips, associations can foster a nimble, innovation mindset among their staff and board. From encouraging open communication and embracing failure to encouraging continuous learning and experimentation, there are many ways to encourage creativity and adaptability within the organisation.

If you would like to connect with other Association Professionals and Industry experts to discuss association specific topics – just like this one – take a look at the Answers for Associations online community. The Answers community is a place where peers can connect and discuss sector related topics, share ideas, experiences and resources, explore opportunities, and more.

The Ingredients for Successful Strategic Planning

A good strategic plan acts are a roadmap to the future of your association. If you want that roadmap to be as clear and easy to follow as possible, ensure you have considered the following: 

Clearly defined goals and objectives

It is important for associations to have clearly defined goals and objectives that are aligned with their purpose and vision. This helps to ensure that resources are being used effectively and that progress can be measured. For example, an association that is focused on promoting sustainability within its industry may set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by 50% within the next five years.

Stakeholder engagement

Involving stakeholders in the strategic planning process can help to gather valuable insights and perspective and build buy-in and support for the plan. For example, an association that is considering implementing a new membership model may seek feedback from its members and other stakeholders to ensure that the model meets their needs and expectations.

Data and analytics

Using data and analytics in the strategic planning process can help associations make informed decisions and better understand the needs and preferences of their stakeholders. For example, an association that is considering expanding its services may use data and analytics to identify areas of greatest need and to develop targeted strategies for reaching new audiences.

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. This means that strategic plans should be designed to be adaptable and responsive to change, rather than being rigid and inflexible. For example, an association that is facing challenges due to the rapid changes within their industry may need to adapt its plans to continue serving its members effectively.


As sustainability becomes an increasingly critical issue, it is important for associations to consider the long-term impact of their actions and to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations. For example, an association that is focused on protecting the environment may set a goal to reduce its use of single-use plastics and to increase its use of renewable energy sources.

Diversity and inclusion

Including diverse perspectives in the strategic planning process can help associations better understand the needs and preferences of their stakeholders and promote inclusivity within their industries. For example, an association that is seeking to increase the diversity of its membership may set a goal to increase the representation of underrepresented groups within its leadership and committees.

Digital transformation

In the digital age, it is important for associations to have a strong online presence and to be able to communicate effectively with their stakeholders through digital channels. For example, an association that is seeking to increase its membership may set a goal to improve its website and social media presence to reach new audiences and provide resources to its members.

By incorporating these key elements into their strategic planning processes, associations can position themselves to achieve their goals and better serve their stakeholders.

If you need a briefing on associations for your board or a facilitator to ensure the success of your next strategic planning process, please hit reply and let me know. I would be happy to discuss how I can assist in more detail.

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.

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,

WHITEPAPER: Association Apocalypse

The operating landscape of associations is undergoing a seismic shift. Associations need to act now to ensure they can navigate these shifts to emerge stronger and more relevant than ever before. In my new whitepaper, Association Apocalypse, you can read more about the:

  • Six fundamental shifts occurring in the association operating landscape,
  • Three key models associations will need to re-invent, and
  • Eleven core operational enablers associations must get right along the way.

This whitepaper has been designed to assist association leaders to understand the scale of the change coming and create a platform for productive discussions within their associations about appropriate pathways forward. If you have more questions please feel free to contact us to find out how we can assist.

Read the whitepaper.

How Does the Prospect of a Significant Economic Downturn Affect Your Association?

How does the prospect of a significant economic downturn affect the day to day operations of your association?

Business Models – During a downturn your organisation becomes particularly vulnerable to losses and can easily miss opportunities for gains due to tight financial and staff resources. If you’ve got an ancient business model that is barely surviving the not-so-new millennium, then don’t count on it making it through a downturn. Now is the time to review your business model to ensure you are optimally set up to succeed in the current and future operating environment. I recommend reading Peggy Hoffman’s Mission Driven Volunteer article for more insights on this. It’s a couple of years old but still very relevant.

Sponsorship & Partnerships – We are seeing big changes in how corporates are seeking to partner with associations. They are investing more money than ever but into fewer partnerships. They want tangible results and creative implementation. They are seeking engagement with the “right” people (rather than a lot of people). They will run screaming from the next person who puts “we will put your logo on our website” as a major potential partnership benefit (seriously … please don’t do this). When you submit a proposal for a partnership you are entering a VERY competitive space. Associations are investing heavily into business partnership programs that are highly professional. You need to ensure your program can compete. (If you’d a copy of a successful proposal to give you an idea of what is out there email me on

Membership – Research has shown that membership is counter-cyclical. People tend to gravitate towards associations during downturns … provided that association is providing tangible value. Now is the time to look at the value you are providing to members. Are you really making a positive difference in their lives? Would they notice if you were gone? If the answer to those questions is “no” then you’ve got serious work to do. Your goal is to ensure you are truly entangled into the lives of your members throughout their career. If you have organisational members, you need to ensure you have multiple points of contact within each organisation – and a relationship with each contact. For membership ideas check out the Membership Managers’ Handbook

8 Tips for Turning Around A Small Association with Few Cash Reserves and Minimal Staff Resources

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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 that are quick and easy to implement.
  5. 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?” 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.