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The Seven Habits of Successful New Associations

The First 100 Days
The Seven Habits of Successful New Professional Associations

Whether you’re a new president, a new company or a new association, the path to success or failure is often set in the first 100 days. Over the past ten years, Virtual has helped dozens of organizations find and pursue that path. Here’s how your organization can emulate their success.

  • An experienced legal team pays for itself.

Too many organizations burn through tens of thousands of
dollars writing bylaws, intellectual property rights (IPR)
policies and incorporation documents from scratch. There is
a tremendous wealth of knowledge and work that has
already been done and is available to address a vast array of
scenarios. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your legal team is
starting from square one, find another team.

  • Staffing decisions can wait.

Before you run out and hire an executive director, make sure
you can afford one and you understand what skills are
important. Do you need someone to be an external voice for
the organization and someone experienced with non-profit
governance? If the answer is yes, consider that this profile
will be difficult to match with one person. Industry expertise
often dictates that you find someone in the private sector,
one who is unlikely to have non-profit association
management experience. Seek advice, and if you need an
immediate resource, do not enter into a long-term
commitment.

  • Budget drives dues, not the other way
    around.

Before you run out and hire an executive director, make sure
you can afford one and you understand what skills are
important. Do you need someone to be an external voice for
the organization and someone experienced with non-profit
governance? If the answer is yes, consider that this profile
will be difficult to match with one person. Industry expertise
often dictates that you find someone in the private sector,
one who is unlikely to have non-profit association
management experience. Seek advice, and if you need an
immediate resource, do not enter into a long-term
commitment.

  • Have a sales plan.

Particularly in today’s climate, memberships won’t sell
themselves. Thought leaders are often easy to persuade, but
someone needs to work on converting the masses. Your
earliest members and board of directors must come to the
situation with a commitment to open their “rolodexes” and
make some calls.

  • Administrative details matter.

The best sales force in the world doesn’t matter if no one is
following up by faxing agreements, answering inquiries,
processing checks and invoices and tracking membership
growth. Be sure to have a plan in place for professional-class
administration before launching a sales effort. While
considering your staffing needs, assess the scenario of
employing an association management company (AMC) to
manage your operations, finances, membership
management, marketing, PR and other functions. Many small
and mid-sized organizations never hire their own staff;
instead they rely on an AMC to provide them with an
appropriately sized and skilled team to address some or all
of their business functions.

  • Craft the board carefully.

The makeup of the board is one of the most important
decisions an organization will make in its early days. In
considering the initial board composition, think carefully
about the heavy lifting that will be required in the first year.
Be sure to recruit board members who are able to put in the
time required to make the organization successful—both
operationally and financially.

  • Don’t launch too soon.

Often, new organizations are met with a degree of
skepticism. The way to overcome it is by showing critical
mass from day one—the right players, the right numbers.
If you don’t have the right mix of “doers” and “marquee
players” from the start, hold off on a public launch until
you do.

Want to start your association off right?

At Virtual, we’ve helped dozens of new and growing organizations meet and exceed their goals.
For more information, contact Andy Freed at afreed@www.virtualmgmt.com or +1-781-876-6205.