You have to work with groups outside your association to further the goals of your association. Almost every association recognizes this, and almost every association conducts an array of meetings and activities with external groups … but many do not connect these activities to the strategic plan of their association.

If you don’t have a plan, you won’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re guaranteed to get nowhere.

Your strategic relationship plan (SRP) should be relevant to the profession or trade your association represents and should not only be consistent with your association’s mission, vision and strategic plan but should specifically advance the vision, mission and strategic plan of your association.

The creation of an SRP based on the goals of your strategic plan will include a review of your current outreach connections, identification of new connections, your participation in coalitions and the potential creation of new coalitions, and identifying member leader and staff roles in implementing your outreach and coalitions program.

The review should include everyone in your organization who interacts with an external group, including board leaders, board members, staff at all levels and member volunteers who represent your organization to external groups.

Put quite simply: If a relationship does not advance your strategic plan, the relationship needs to be a low priority for your organization. In some cases, the relationship should be ended.

It’s tough to say no to opportunities for interaction with other groups. But if you don’t do it, you will have a bloated outreach approach with members and staff running around to meetings across the country that have no connection to your strategic plan, thus no connection to the issues of importance to your membership. Don’t waste your precious time with groups and coalitions that are not intrinsically connected to your strategic plan.

Once you have determined your strategic relationships, you need to prioritize these relationships. Again, this is a tough process and you may need to have discussions with certain groups and coalitions that might desire a different kind of relationship than one you are willing to provide. You can prioritize your strategic relationships into three different levels:

    • Level 1: Your association is proactive about these relations. You provide leadership and work collaboratively. These relationships should be few in number in order to maximize your association’s ability to focus on these relations. Requires leadership by your association, including significant resources and significant staffing.
    • Level 2: Your association would play a role as a participant and be interested in monitoring the activities around this relationship. This relationship would require staffing but likely minimal monetary resources.
    • Level 3: This is a relationship where your association takes a more passive role. This relationship would require minimal staffing and no monetary resources

With an effective strategic relationship plan, you can be more confident you are not wasting the precious resources of your organization and that your organization’s outreach is advancing the strategic plan and staying relevant to your members.

John’s article was originally published on Barnes-Consultants.com, and can be accessed here.

President at Barnes Association Consultants

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. Services include strategic planning, board development and work management, and governance review and improvements. Before launching Barnes Association Consultants, John was CEO at the American Physical Therapy Association.  John worked closely with the APTA Board and Directors and was responsible for the management of the association. Previous to serving as CEO at APTA, John worked at the American Academy of Dermatology as their Deputy Executive Director. John was a leader in all aspects of managing the organization. John has extensive public policy experience through his years serving on Capitol Hill.  John was Chief of Staff to Congressman Greg Ganske of Iowa, where he managed and directed congressional offices in Washington and Iowa. He also served as Special Assistant for Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

John is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, Association Forum, BoardSource and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

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. Services include strategic planning, board development and work management, and governance review and improvements. Before launching Barnes Association Consultants, John was CEO at the American Physical Therapy Association.  John worked closely with the APTA Board and Directors and was responsible for the management of the association. Previous to serving as CEO at APTA, John worked at the American Academy of Dermatology as their Deputy Executive Director. John was a leader in all aspects of managing the organization. John has extensive public policy experience through his years serving on Capitol Hill.  John was Chief of Staff to Congressman Greg Ganske of Iowa, where he managed and directed congressional offices in Washington and Iowa. He also served as Special Assistant for Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. John is a member of the American Society of Association Executives, Association Forum, BoardSource and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

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