One of our association management clients has recently decided to join with another association on a new joint venture. This is a very exciting opportunity for both associations and their members. Our focus is to ensure that this joint venture is mutually beneficial for both associations and their respective members. The reason they are joining forces on this project is for the benefit of the members and not the associations (although there is no detriment to the associations). We will need to work to ensure the members are the ones who win.
Where do you start when developing a strong working relationship with the other association’s executive director, what do you need to do to ensure that needs of your members are met, and how do you ensure your new endeavor is a success? It is important that the two associations work together with the primary purpose of creating added value for their collective membership.
Determine the values of both associations and both sides on the purpose of wanting to join together
Before starting this partnership, we have to ensure that there is trust between the two associations and no fear of side agendas such as financial gain, obtaining membership lists or pillaging sponsor contacts. To do this begin with clear communication with the other association. Make sure that both parties discuss their questions and concerns prior to the contract being signed. It is our belief that staff should work with staff and volunteers such as board members should work with other volunteers. Keeping things on the same level develops long term relationships, trust and a solid partnership.
Once both associations involved are comfortable with the proposition, create a contract between the two associations to ensure that they understand that the main purpose of this joint venture and that it is not to benefit one of the associations more than the other, but rather to benefit the members of each association.
Create an open working environment
If you are not familiar with the other association’s leadership it is important to meet regularly throughout the development and planning process of the potential venture before the contract is signed. Ensure that you both have the same vision and goals for this project. Find out how the person likes to work: are they quick to respond to enquiries, are they organized, supportive, logical and do they see the big picture for both organizations? On the flip side, think about your style as well. Be cognizant of their needs and the way their association is run as well.
Create clear and concise listings of questions for all of your meetings to discuss, and scenarios to walk through together to get a feel for both associations, their members and board of directors.
Try to create a working relationship early in the process before signing any contracts to ensure that these two associations can indeed work together and that both association managers and their volunteer leaderships have the same agendas and goals from the combined project.
If your associations have worked together in the past consider any challenges that may have been faced during the project and address them early in the planning of the new project.
How does merging on this project benefit your association (primarily your membership)?
Make sure you think about your members and what their needs are. It’s not about just piggy backing on each association’s expenses. You want to make sure there is a benefit to your membership by joining. You want to make being a member of your association efficient, effective and beneficial.
An example of a joint venture might be that members can gain continuing education credits more easily by attending either association’s conference, or combining the two association’s conferences and or tradeshows. This may also help you attract more attendees and in turn more members. If you are adding convenience to their busy lives they will see this as a member benefit.
Do your part
Follow up with the members of your association, find out what their thoughts are on this new project. Do they feel that this a new member benefit, are they excited about the positive changes your associations are collaboratively making? Promote the new venture with positivity to the members of your association and encourage them to maximize on their experiences and gains from being part of this project.