Where a trade organization or chamber is and where it is going, much like the companies they represent, is too often not thought out strategically as both the organization and its members are busy with their daily demands of life and business. As more than 100,000 trade associations and chambers have gone out of business since the 1960's - how do we make sure your association or chamber isn't the next one that ceases to exist?
This isn't about developing a mission statement, though such a statement is nice to have. This is about finding an association's compass and ensuring that everyone in the association follows where it points.
The way to begin building a successful trade association or chamber is to engage in strategic planning with paid staff and volunteer leadership. First, we spend several days in a deep assessment of the organization and interview staff and key volunteers. This allows us to get the full view of the organization, how it works, how it communicates, how it allocates recources, how it makes decisions. Then, we get away, spending a day or two literally thinking of where the organization has been, where it is and where it wants to be. This measures the degree to which the organization has aligned its efforts and services with its mission and everyone pulls in the same direction. Finally, everyone takes ownership of the resulting report and all it content - everyone holding themselves accountable for the achievement of the results. It is the only reason to do strategic planning - accountability and ownership of the results of our collective efforts.
No one need feel threatened by such a process as this does not undermine leadership. To the contrary, strategic planning helps the executive and the volunteer leadership design the strategy for the organization's future and identify the key elements necessary to accomplish the strategy.
When done well, strategic planning establishes the guideposts of the associations future and allows paid staff and volunteers to determine how they will hold each other accountable for seeing their horizon and committing the resources to getting there.
The last thing anyone needs is another study - and this process engages the vision, energy and resources of an organization to find the horizon and then create the steps to get there.
This process proved invaluable to our leadership of trade associations!