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Open Garden Organization

A Blueprint for Associations in the Digital Age

By Amith Nagarajan

The future of the association industry is unclear. Within today’s cultural shift in the economic, political, and social climates, associations need to be flexible and ready to evolve to meet the needs of both their audiences and world at large. Today, the threat to associations is the possibility of becoming antiquated due to their lack of willingness or ability to change and modernize with the culture around them. However, this situation also presents an amazing opportunity to experiment, innovate, and ultimately achieve sustainable growth and new levels of mission attainment.

About the Book

In Amith Nagarajan’s The Open Garden Organization: A Blueprint for Associations in the Digital Age, readers will learn how to experiment in new ways and drive progress forward within their organizations. The backbone of Amith’s method lies in the “Open Garden Model,” which focuses on three main principles: purpose, culture, and inclusivity. The Open Garden Model encourages associations to:

a checkmark Clarify and deepen purpose
a checkmark Discover and live their values
a checkmark Embrace a future of uncertainty by taking on many small risks to experiment and learn
a checkmark Shift their business model to one that embraces an inclusive and expansive audience, reaching far beyond the scope of traditional membership

The Open Garden Model will help associations grow their new market far beyond their traditional base, create new and sustainable revenue streams, and elevate their brand’s credibility and member loyalty. Ensure your association has the ability to sustain and thrive in today’s changing world.

" Amith Nagarajan has combined his work and experience with associations and building his own company to provide a blueprint for associations to use as they journey into a future that is changing and evolving more quickly than ever before in our history. It is a simple message but one that challenges all of us to adapt to a new way of thinking for associations to remain relevant. " John Graham, President & CEO, American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)
"Amith has an uncanny ability to see—and help create—the future. That’s why I’m both a fan and a follower. See what’s ahead in the pages of this book." Mary Byers, author of the bestseller, Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations
"This book is required reading for association CEO’s who recognize that while members are important, there are other audiences their organization can serve without disrupting the member relationship. Each chapter contains solid information about how to transform your association to prosper and deliver enduring value." Michael Anderson, CAE, FASAE, FAUSAE, Canadian Society of Association Executives – President & CEO, 1999 - 2017
"Amith, as one of the association sector’s most successful entrepreneurs, has always been at critical inflection points in technology. Now as the 4th Industrial Revolution is unfolding, Amith once again is seizing the moment to apply insight in leadership and principled execution for association executives seeking to navigate their organizations in advancing their mission and vision for what will be a generation of constant change." Don Dea, Cofounder, Fusion Productions and digitalNow
"As CEO of AIIM, I wrestled constantly with how to better focus my staff and my Board – and frankly my own efforts! – on what is truly important. Far too often, we would wind up having “traditional” association conversations – responding to the latest chapter blow-up, worrying what to do about member retention, and trying to understand the needs of our most active members. Over time, I realized that in these disruptive times, we had it exactly backwards. The key to the future lay not in deeper and deeper understanding of the core, but on what it takes to engage those at the periphery. Making the association a trusted provider and curator of content is key to engaging those at the edges – tomorrow’s new blood – and is critical to making engagement a habit rather than a one-off. Amith Nagarajan’s The Open Garden Organization is a guidebook that will inspire you to go further than ever before and help you achieve these big goals." John Mancini, Former CEO, AIIM
"Amith challenges association leaders to combine clear purpose, obvious culture, and intentional inclusivity into a model that can propel associations into the next century." Ron Moen, Chief Information Officer, American College of Chest Physicians
"Amith is one of the rare few in the association community who both understands the big changes we’re facing in leadership and management today and can provide useful, tangible advice on how to deal with it. If you want your association to thrive in the next ten years, you’d be smart to keep this book by your side." Jamie Notter, Culture Consultant and co-author of Humanize and When Millennials Take Over
Amith Nagarajan

Amith Nagarajan


Amith Nagarajan’s association career began shortly after he founded Aptify in 1993. Aptify initially provided technology to Fortune 1000 companies and had no involvement with associations. A few years later, Amith was fortunate to unexpectedly run into his first association client. Shortly thereafter, recognizing the immense need and opportunity in the associations. Aptify grew rapidly and was placed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in the United States twice. Since then, Amith has been involved with a number of high-growth startups in and out of the technology industry.

Additionally, he has served as an advisor and a board member for many not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. Today, Amith is focused on, an artificial intelligence company for associations, and, a digital platform that enables association to share their ideas, strategies, and knowledge with their peers. Amith earned his bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and also completed the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program run by Entrepreneur’s Organization and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.