Want an Innovative Association? Start with Your Board Portal.
By Dustin McKissen, February 02, 2017
For most of my career I’ve worked for or around trade
associations and professional societies. And during that time, the challenges
facing associations and societies have had one primary source:
In many ways, associations have been innovated out of
relevancy, or at least the relevancy they held prior to the digital revolution.
Historically, associations have provided members with three
Almost nothing can be found online more readily, for less
money, than education and networking.
Association members can now gain industry-specific knowledge
from blogs and digital publications, rather than just the association’s trade
journal. Association members can learn from colleagues from both within and
outside of the industry using webinars and other virtual training
opportunities. Even Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) represent a new source
of competition for education historically provided by an association.
Networking is also a core association offering—and again,
something that can be found without paying association dues and flying across
the country to attend a conference. Even as a one-time association
professional, I was amazed at how many of my colleagues I met through LinkedIn,
rather than at ASAE conferences. The blunt reality was that for me, LinkedIn
was an infinitely more important and valuable networking tool than my trade
Even advocacy has been disrupted by social media. It used to
take millions of dollars and an entire industry to move the needle on public
policy. Now a campaign supporting or opposing legislation using Twitter can be
just as effective as a coordinated industry effort.
Associations do other things besides education, networking,
and advocacy, but to one degree or another those three offerings form the core
of what most associations offer their members.
However, associations can still provide valuable programs
and services to members.
One association I worked for created an in-house, for-profit
insurance company offering errors and omissions insurance to members. Another
association I consulted for became the source for data for an entire industry—so much so that the insight offered in
the association’s annual industry outlook, available to members only, was the
primary motivator for members to join the organization.
Every association is different, and figuring out what your
organization needs to do to remain relevant will depend on the needs of your
That said, every association needs to share one thing in
common if it wants to continue to play a valued role in its industry.
The common trait every association needs to share?
A culture of innovation.
And innovation starts at the top, with the Board of
That’s a bit hard to imagine, given that the typical board
meeting sounds like something straight out of the 19th century.
First, there’s the arcane rules and language, all of which can make a board
meeting sound like the Senate debating the Missouri Compromise, rather than a
regional association of electricians deciding whether to hold its meeting at
the Des Moines Holiday Inn or the Best Western of Greater Des Moines.
Then you get to the reams and reams of paper.
A board meeting is the last place in America where you’ll
come across an inches-thick binder full of paper.
This return to the 19th century that happens
during most board meetings makes it more difficult to implement the culture of
innovation your association needs. It’s a lot harder to talk about implementing
the change your association needs to better serve members when your board of
directors hasn’t used innovation to make its own work more efficient and
Fortunately, it’s easy to begin creating a culture of
innovation within your board of directors.
the board of portal of choice for a growing number of associations, will allow
your board of directors to do everything from conducting paperless meetings to
engaging in collaborative strategic planning.
The result will be a truly innovative board of directors.
And ultimately, a more innovative association.