Posted in Strategic Planning

BACon BLOG - Get Rid of Your Association’s ProgramsA thought experiment: Suppose a program for your association went away today. Would members notice? Would the membership be any less appropriately served? Would your profession, industry or cause be worse off?

Or, would it not matter one iota?

Programs at associations often have a life of their own and go on ad infinitum. And then new programs, services and initiatives are layered on top of the old programs. Resources are spread thin, including monies, volunteer time and staff time.

And then the board of directors sits back and wonders why the association is not making the progress that it should.

Why do association programs seem to last forever? Here are four reasons:

    • Inertia.  No one thinks to ask why a program is still in existence. It was here yesterday, so that is enough reason for it to be around tomorrow. Through sheer inertia programs stick around long past their usefulness or meaning to your members.
    • Fear.  There may be one member somewhere who likes a program. And association leaders are petrified that the member might post something on Facebook criticizing the association leader for ending the program.
    • Staff.  Some association staff will act inappropriately in order to preserve their employment at the association. If a program that they manage goes away then there may be no reason for them to remain at the association. So they work behind the scenes to preserve a program in order to preserve their job.
    • Leaders.  Often a member leader may have developed the idea for a program or they worked to get it approved by the association board of directors. When the time comes for the program to end the member leader feels like part of their legacy is being destroyed. So they lobby for the program even if it is no longer of use to the membership.

So what is the solution? A comprehensive review of your association’s programs. Looking at all of your program offerings and bringing to bear as much knowledge and data on the success, or lack of success, of the program will allow your leadership to make the appropriate decisions to ensure that your association is as effective and efficient as possible. Conducting a program review also helps to take out the passion surrounding programs and helps to focus on the bottom line.

So do your association’s members a favor. Get rid of the programs they don’t want or need.

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