Posted in Strategic Planning

BACon Blog - 6 Signs That Your Association Isn’t Planning StrategicallyIs your association planning strategically? Here are 6 signs that you’re not:

1. Don’t have a strategic plan. Yeah, um… if you don’t have a strategic plan, you’re not planning strategically.

2. Strategic plan does not drive the decisions of the association. When you reach a decision point, whether it’s your board of directors, CEO or senior staff, are you stopping to ask how the strategic plan impacts the decision? Or are you plowing forward with the decision and not even thinking about your strategic plan?

3. Strategic plan covers everything at the association. Does your plan run the entire gamut of the association? Some associations attempt to fit in every program and initiative into their strategic plan. If it’s in the budget, staff (and some board members) push to include it in the plan. This is their way of legitimizing the program and initiative (and their job).

4. Members and staff don’t know what is in the strategic plan. Ask them. Go ahead. Ask your member leaders and staff what the goals are in your association’s strategic plan. If they can’t whip them off the top of their head, you’ve got a problem.

5. Board only discusses the strategic plan every 5 years. Do you ever hear these comments at your association:

“Is it time to look at the strategic plan?”

“We’re too busy doing the work to spend time on strategic planning!”

“Our association is unique. Strategic planning might work at other associations, but not here!”

6. Staff roll their eyes when the strategic plan is brought up. This is death to your strategic plan. And, quite frankly, should not ever be tolerated.

Now… here are 6 signs that your association IS planning strategically:

1. Absolute commitment to vision and mission. The vision and mission are displayed prominently throughout association headquarters. They are on the homepage of the website. They are referenced every single day at your association.

2. Strategic plan with clear goals, objectives, strategies, and metrics. My mother is able to read your strategic plan and understand what you are trying to do and how you are going to do it.

3. First item on board agenda is the strategic plan. The strategic plan is priority number one at your association and is at the top of every board meeting agenda.

4. Plan is focused on key, strategic items over next three years. The plan is not everything your association does… but is focused on the key things you want to accomplish in the next three years.

5. Strategic plan is prioritized. You know what you are going to do in Year 1 of the plan, Year 2 of the Plan, and Year 3 of the plan.

6. Board and staff involved in development and review of plan. Your board of directors and staff work together as a team in the development of the plan and regular reviews of the plan.

SO… ask yourself again: Is your association planning strategically?

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to