It seems reasonable to assume that association members, especially if they pay dues, would have a strong interest in the mission, goals and objectives of the organizations to which they belong. Moreover, it seems these same individuals would be in the best position to generate a menu of products and services that would serve their unique needs and business plans.
In many associations, committees are formed around specific functional areas to engage association members, to allow members the opportunity to provide input on a regular and ongoing basis, to develop innovative strategies for reaching annual association goals and to recommend, as appropriate, the allocation of association resources, both human and capital.
At least, this was my conclusion seven years ago when I first entered the association community. Today, I’m more inclined to believe that association professionals drive innovation (rather than members). After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s my assessment of many member communities. They simply don’t know what’s possible and they aren’t privy to the opportunities that exist.
This is where we come in – and why we have jobs during these otherwise bleak economic times. As good association professionals, we have our ear to the ground. We harness our networks, social media channels, professional development opportunities. We’re on the cutting edge of member services and are constantly connected with people who have great ideas and are trying new things.
As the staff liaison to my association’s Quality and Education Committee, I look forward to next month’s committee meeting when I present a recommended agenda for two of our upcoming conferences, complete with topics and speakers, as well as a completely redesigned and much-overhauled annual convention agenda, including suggested keynotes and special events.
Plain and simple, it’s important for our association to be competitive, innovative and dynamic this year. With a number of recent organizational changes, the status quo is no longer an acceptable benchmark for success. Now’s the time to step it up with renewed focus, energy and enthusiasm.
It’s not to say committee members won’t have input. In fact, our agenda will contain many more topics than those listed here; however, any agenda item the staff believes could benefit from substantive change is receiving special attention prior to the meeting. We’re developing the fresh and innovative recommendations we think will best serve our members. At the meeting, we’re simply looking to committee members for feedback and approval.
So, my question to you is this: Do you agree with my strategy? Does staff drive innovation at your association? Should they? If member-driven, does staff even have the opportunity to bring new and innovative ideas to the table? Are your members truly in tune to the needs of their colleagues? How are problematic ideas/recommendations handled?