New year, new opportunities for improvement 2 COMMENTS Robert C. Harris Monday, December 02, 2019

As the 2010s end, we now face opportunities associated with transitioning to a new decade. This is a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Tawni Phelan, CAE, CMP, executive director of the Oklahoma Society of Association Executives, offers a positive outlook, “2020 is a new year and decade. Seize the opportunity to make the past a resource and the future a world of possibilities.”

Reflect on the Association

Most association staffs are busy putting out fires, answering questions and meeting deadlines. Make time to discuss with staff or officers how to make enhancements in the organization.

Mission Statement: Is the mission contemporary, clear and easy to understand? It should be visible at meetings and printed on agendas.

Every motion, idea and committee recommendation will be framed by the mission. Most boards are eager to reduce a 30-word mission to fewer than 10 words. Remember, brief is better in most cases.

Vision: Does a vision exist to drive through the new decade? For example, this worked for the USTA in the last decade, “Ten million players by 2010.”

If the mission is visionary enough then two statements may not be needed. Does the leadership share and communicate an aspiration bigger than the mission?

Governing Documents: Are governing documents up to date? Bylaws become cluttered. Policies get lost in various files being of little understanding to the board that must access and apply them.

Create a board playbook or leadership manual that is a guide for good governance. Provide it as a notebook, memory stick or secured on a board portal.

Meetings: Some boards meet three times a year while others meet every month. Decide what is best, considering the program of work mixed with the quality of life of volunteers and staff. Meetings are not intended to be a social platform.

Orientation: Plan an annual orientation or “refresh and blend” for the board. Have directors sign commitment forms about conflicts, confidentiality and fulfilling their fiduciary duties.

Professional Staff: Promote the adage: “the board governs, and the staff manage.” Each has distinct responsibilities. Interference occurs when lines of communication are blurred.

Respect the chief paid officer who is responsible for staff performance. The chair should inspire board performance.

Board Decorum: Set expectations, for example meetings will start and end on time. Directors are expected to maintain professional decorum and respect confidentiality. Accountability, transparency and inclusion are three principles most often adopted guide boards.

Resource Management: Little can be achieved without resources. Maximize revenue streams by being innovative.

New programs and membership categories can be developed. Look for growth opportunities. Protect the resources through policies and fiduciary oversight. Safeguard intellectual property.

Dues Models: Models are changing, including a transition to greater reliance on non-dues revenue. Does the dues model of the 1950s still fit? Should it be tiered? Can members be rewarded for larger investments?

Reach out to new categories of members or new business sectors. Promote inclusivity. When is the last time dues were analyzed, considering operating costs and cost of living?

Strategic Plan: Dust the plan off. It is a roadmap for board and staff. If it is outdated, plan a retreat early in 2020. It is the essential guide for board, committees and staff. The plan should communicate value to members, prospects and stakeholders.

The new year brings opportunities for assessment and improvement. Make time to reflect on ways to make a better association.

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