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Strategic planning for associations is something we take seriously. When we meet and talk with new associations seeking our help, one of the first things we ask to see is their strategic plan. How many would you guess provide us with this document? If you guessed low, you’d be in the ballpark.

The reality is that, like most businesses, associations probably know the value of strategic planning. Perhaps they’ve done some in the past. Very few have genuinely adopted strategic planning as the backbone and foundation upon which their association is built and driven.

Strategic planning is essential in determining and achieving your association’s short and long-term goals. Once completed, the strategic plan should become the living, breathing document by which your association is guided. Creating a strategic plan is the necessary first step in growing any association.

A well-written strategic plan is comprised of several parts, among which are:

  • Defining a Vision
  • Establishing Core Values
  • Goal Setting (10-year, 5-year, 1-year, Quarterly, Monthly)
  • Identifying Targets and Markets
  • Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Branding
  • And Much More


Defining a Vision and Setting Goals

Creating a vision of what you would like your association to be or become lies at the heart of an effective strategic plan. Your vision is a description of where you want your association to be in one year, five years, and ten years. It should align with your association’s goals, values, and mission. Here are some vision statements to get your juices flowing:

  • “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.” -Southwest Airlines
  • “To create a better everyday life for many people.”-Ikea
  • “A world without Alzheimer’s disease.” -Alzheimer’s Association

A vision is aspirational and, once defined, should make you feel excited and energized about what’s possible.

Once you’ve uncovered your vision, you’ll use it to dictate and establish what goals your organization will need to meet to realize it. The process by which goals are created is too lengthy for a blog article, which is why the best strategic plans are built with a seasoned facilitator or team. Creating, communicating, and enrolling staff and members into a new vision and new goals can be challenging, especially for those new to the concept. Your facilitator will guide you through the strategic planning process from start to finish, ensuring that, once complete, your association is on a path to growth and longevity.


The Strategic Plan Creates Alignment

Once written, your strategic plan will act as the foundation and framework of your association. Individual and organizational goals will be aligned, and every event you host will move the needle closer and closer to your ultimate goal. Reaching big goals like increasing membership year after year only happen when everybody on the boat is rowing in the same direction at the same time.


Enrolling Members

By enrolling your members in the vision of your association, you’ll be encouraging (or inspiring) them to get more involved. This involvement creates momentum and growth. It will also (naturally) increase and provide you with valuable feedback. For example, if your association’s vision is to create a world where people understand and participate in science, one of the steps in your strategic plan may be to promote science in high schools and colleges throughout the country.

To do this, you may encourage your members to host presentations at educational facilities near their homes. You may also invite science professionals to serve as guest speakers at member meetings and reinforce the importance of your vision.


Creating Consistency Over Time

Many associations struggle with a lack of consistency due to board turnover. Strategic planning will help your association build and establish consistency over time. Regardless of who is on the board each year, there will be a clearly defined plan for where your association wants to go. This plan can be used by board members, regardless of whether they’re new or have served for years, to provide members with appropriate communications, and host the right types of events.


Contact Stansfeld, LLC Today

If you’re searching for professional assistance with your association’s strategic planning initiative, contact Stansfeld, LLC today. We can help you build the organizational roadmap which will empower your association to reach its goals.

For more on growing your association, download our guide below.

Guide to Growing Your Association