The role of an association’s board of directors (board) has two main objectives. The primary is to be the strategic thinkers that provide direction to the association members they represent. The mission of the association drives the strategy and decision-making process, therefore the board needs to always relate their strategic thinking back to the mission.
The second and most important part is providing guidance to staff, so they know how the resources of the association need to be allocated to achieve the mission. It’s all about making choices to balance the needs and wants of the organization.
The resources of an association come in many different forms. These include money, volunteers, equipment, knowledge, skills and technology.
There is a saying “Money makes the world go around”, and as a resource, money can definitely make the work of associations easier. It allows for contracting with your staff or association management company, hiring outside consultants if necessary, funding education initiatives, board meetings, advocacy and providing value to members. That being said, board members need to be careful thinking of money as something that will fix or improve all situations. Money is a valuable resource, but the board needs to be aware of the strategic initiatives of the association that need funding. Providing staff with a list of the high priority initiatives is paramount to the success of an organization. Prioritizing according to the association mission statement will make allocating funds easier.
Your board members, committee members, staff and association members are instrumental in achieving the mission of your association. The knowledge and skills your people bring to the table is, by far, the most important asset any association has when setting priorities regarding resource allocation. Again, tying people resources to your mission is incredibly important.
Equipment and technology are the other resources that allow staff to do their job. Technology is constantly changing so making decisions about how much and what technologies to utilize is a difficult task. One of my clients implements an exam for the certification of their members. In their case, the training of examiners on evaluation techniques and providing the tools to host the exam are valuable and necessary for the association in order to legitimize the process and grow their membership.
I also work with a client that has allocated a set number of staff hours to work on a specific strategy that is important to the success of their association and their industry members. The staff hours are designed and put in place to keep the project moving forward, where in the past the project was run by volunteers. As you can appreciate, volunteers have day jobs so the board felt it was important to allocate staff resources to keep moving the initiative forward.
Another client allocated financial resources to contract the services of an outside consultant to assist in achieving the strategic priority of their association. Employing the specific knowledge and skill of the consultant was viewed as necessary to advance the strategic objective and therefore financial resources were put in place to make it happen.
Setting priorities seems like a simple concept, but it isn’t always a straightforward task. Associations have external forces that constantly change and can impact the direction of the association and its members. How resources are allocated is difficult, as there is a finite amount of resources for any association. Distributing them wisely to achieve your goals and strategic priorities is paramount to the success of the board and association as a whole.