Posted in Strategic Planning

BACon Blog - Competition Will Be the End of Your Association

It is very hard for a bad association to go away. Associations that are badly governed, that are not properly focused on a strategic plan, that are not truly meeting the needs of their members… even these bad associations never go away and just keep on limping along.

But that is ending. Bad associations will be going away. And they are going away due to competition.

This competition comes on many fronts, including:

  • Other associations. Association members are no longer willing to tolerate bad association governance. They are taking action by creating alternative associations in the same field. This is particularly true of younger members who will not sit back and let older members continue to badly lead and manage the association.
  • The private sector. Companies are seeing more and more lucrative opportunities that may have traditionally been met by associations. Providing education, coordinating networking meetings, providing advocacy and lobbying on issues… if a dollar can be made, the private sector is striving to make it.
  • Social media. While social media can be a wonderful tool to enhance the association experience, it is also an eye-opening opportunity for individuals who are frustrated with their association. They see the ability to coalesce with a group of like-minded individuals outside of the traditional association model.

Make sure your governance is as effective and efficient as possible. Create a strategic plan that is connected to your operational plan and drives the decisions in your budget. Review every aspect of your association and demand excellence and adherence to best practices.

It is not easy. Tough decisions will need to be made. Traditional approaches will need to be set aside which will make some of your members and staff upset. But in today’s competitive environment it needs to be done.

Your association can get better and grow and flourish for years to come. Or it can go away. As an association leader, the choice is yours.

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