Developing Associations

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Once an association is established, its members must come together and dig deeper to develop the organization’s framework; the rules and protocols that will direct its activities.

Formulate Corporate By-laws

Associations, especially formal entities, need guideposts and operating protocols.  Further, official (corporate) by-laws are often required for corporate reporting, securing lines of credit, and general illustrations of legitimacy and ability to “do business.”  By-laws can be boiler-plate or highly customized, addressing specifics like board operations, committee structures, and member obligations.

Grau & Associates walks its association clients through this formulation process whether for an initial draft or to update an existing document.  G&A always pays attention to details, accounting for unanticipated circumstances and routine requirements of day-to-day operations.

Build a Membership Structure

Building a membership structure is inextricably linked to developing a dues structure and an annual budget, but it is still a separate exercise.  To be functional and effective, membership structures must be balanced between two guidelines.

  1. Membership structures must be broad enough to include many different audiences and capture maximum revenue.
  2. Membership structures must be narrow enough to assure continuity and adherence to the association’s purpose.

Grau & Associates helps associations answer questions like:

  1. What membership categories are appropriate?
  2. How many categories should there be?
  3. How will the association market to the various categories?
  4. Will the messaging be the same or will the association hold different values for different membership groups?
  5. Should there be a public-sector membership category?
  6. How will individual members be treated?
  7. Will membership categories be subdivided to accommodate large and small companies or will they be treated the same?

When the process is complete, an association’s membership “structure” will present as a simple list of membership category opportunities, but behind the list will be considerable thought regarding how the association will work and represent itself.

Develop a Dues Structure and Annual Budget

Deciding who pays how much is not as easy as assigning fees to membership categories.  The exercise goes syncs with developing a membership structure and like a membership structure a dues structure should abide by two rules.

  1. The dues structure should be equitable. For example, larger companies may pay more than smaller companies assuming each is receiving the same benefits.

Or, different membership categories should pay more, or less depending what benefits they want, i.e. “platinum” memberships vs. “bronze” memberships.  When creating a dues structure, one size RARELY fits all.

  1. The dues structure should be manageable. Complicated formulas or too many variables will make accounting and accountability arduous.  It will lead to invoicing errors, frustrated staff, and angry members.

A reliable dues structure and good faith estimates for the year’s membership (accounting for different numbers of members paying different amounts for different membership “levels) allows an association to develop a working budget.

Grau & Associates analyzes an association’s possible membership pool and the association’s annual goals.  Then, G&A helps the association create a reasonable annual budget by reverse engineering what its members should pay vis-à-vis what its activities will cost.

Outline Potential Committees and Their Purposes

On their first day, association stakeholders find there are so many things to do and maintain that keeping up a productive routine is very challenging.  As associations mature and grow, achieving their goals and maintaining that routine becomes even more difficult.

To overcome this issue, Grau & Associates identifies and helps establish appropriate committees to divide and conquer everything that needs to get done.  For example, many associations quickly establish a finance committee, a membership committee, and a communications/government affairs committee.  G&A’s experience in knowing what an association needs and how to operationalize solutions is critical for any association, whether it is just starting out or is reconfiguring and adjusting to new demands and growth.

Draft Governance Protocols

Ultimately by-laws are an association’s operational backbone.  Members and leaders rely on agreed upon rules to maintain balance and provide guidance, especially during major events and changes like board elections, large expenditures, or establishing new policy positions.  However, depending on how detailed an association wants it by-laws to be, there are many important day-to-day routines that needn’t be formalized, but should nevertheless be developed and implemented.

For example, Grau & Associates may suggest (and help draft) operating guidelines for committee meetings, checklists for event development and management, or routines to address annual scheduling, grassroots campaigns, or responsibilities for amending the website or social media accounts.

Identify Membership Services and Facilitate Delivery

Aside from its over-arching its mission and vision, an association’s largest commitment is to its membership.  In addition to a unified voice and platform to accomplish common industry goals, what do members get for their dues?  Newsletters?  Networking?  “Affinity Agreements?”  Lobbying? Continuing Education?  Events?

Grau & Associates is experienced at establishing these and many other membership services.  Whether an association is adding a new service to an existing suite or providing initial membership benefits, G&A will guide the process from prioritization, to budgeting, to piloting and official roll outs.

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