Professional associations are interesting. Some run as highly efficient professional organisations. Some run as “clubs”.

With most (but not all) associations facing declining membership and increased costs, the associations which operate using sound business principles will survive and others will struggle.
How does your association stack up on this checklist?

• How is your association constituted and when was the last time you evaluated whether it is the most appropriate form for you? (Incorporated Association, Company limited by guarantee)

• Does every member of your governing body have a copy of the Constitution?

• Do you have a well written and well laid out strategic plan and do your meetings run in a way which enables you to measure how well you are reaching your objectives?

• Do you have a membership committee? If so who chairs it – is it a “future leader”?

• Is there a clear and agreed succession plan for future leaders of the association and if so, are those people being “groomed” so that they are fully prepared when their time comes?

• Are the people on your elected arm there because they want to be there, or because they feel they should be there?

• Are the people on the elected arm the best people for the job or role, or are they people who were “willing to do it”?

• Is there a crystal clear understanding about the role of the elected arm and the “staff” arm of your association and does each group know exactly where the line is drawn?

• If your paid staff are “professional” as opposed to “admin” or “clerical”, do you work on the recommendation system at meetings – ie. Encourage them to bring forward the major issues with recommendations for you to adopt, modify or reject?

• Do you operate on the “portfolio” system – ie. Everyone (or most people) has a particular portfolio or area of responsibility they look after and report on?

• Does everyone who has a portfolio give a written summary at each meeting.

• Do your meetings tend to look forward and plan, or look backwards and reminisce?

• What is the balance in your meetings between looking for solutions or looking for problems.

• Does everyone turn up to your meetings prepared or do you ever waste time pandering to the people who are not prepared or disorganised?

• Is it considered to be a privilege to serve on your association executive, or is it considered to be a burden?

• If you have sub-committees, is each chaired by a different member of the governing body, thereby both sharing the load but more importantly, spreading the knowledge and wisdom.

• Do you have a planned mechanism to ensure that you do not lose the “corporate memory” of your association

• Do you believe that the members of your association understand the issues that you make decisions about on their behalf?

• Does your association think and act strategically, or does it tend to be reactive?

• Does you association have a modern website which has a good “back office” function for managing membership and other administrative functions?

• Does your association use e-mail decision making for minor or administrative decisions?

• Does your association still send out paper based documents (agendas and minutes) or is it done by e-mail or website?

• When was the last time your governing body consciously and deliberately examined your constitution to determine if amendments were necessary.

• When did you last deliberately examine the structure of your organisation and evaluate whether it is still the best way to operate?

• Do you have a report at every meeting on the state of the membership, the number of prospects, the conversion of prospects to members, and the number of resignations?

• Do you have a finance committee which approves all payments and reports to the governing body on performance against budget?

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