Strategic planning: Time to call in the “SWOT” analysis

chessleader
Gail
By Gail Phillips, CAE
Senior VP of Association Management

As a volunteer leader, have you ever debated how to move your association forward and stop doing things that just aren’t working? If so, it may be past time for your organization to do a strategic planning session.

To be successful at this task you must have total buy-in by association leadership. Additionally, the planning group should include the board of directors and staff, and it’s important to have committee chairs participate in this process so that their voices are heard. They will carry through the action. Finally, bring in a few at-large members. You may be surprised by their opinions.

Since this could be your first session, let’s start with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. This allows leaders, while together, to put future actions on paper and approve them as a team.

Start with the process by defining the strengths of your organization. Do you offer a superb convention or outstanding education? Or maybe it’s something as simple as allowing members the opportunity to meet together. Record all of these thoughts on a board or flip chart so everyone may see.

To be successful at this task you must have total buy-in by association leadership. Additionally, the planning group should include the board of directors and staff, and it’s important to have committee chairs participate in this process so that their voices are heard.”

The next step is dealing with the organization’s weaknesses. Every group has them, and now is the time to write down what the leaders feel they are. Do you need to work on building membership? What about the quality of speakers at events? Could it be your events themselves, or are there too many? Are you overtaxing the members? Get those weaknesses up there and discuss them.

The third step is to discuss what opportunities are available for your association. Is there a field of potential members you have not tapped? Is it partnering to bring member-enhanced services? Is there an opportunity to bring your members quality education, perhaps some online training? What about enhancing your conferences with more vendors? Is it time to get your organization involved legislatively? These are just a few ideas that we’ve heard from clients.

Finally, once you define the issues, keep an eye open to the threats. If you aren’t aware of what’s out there, threats can hamper your association’s opportunity – and then all of this is for naught. You must see what’s coming over the mountain that may impact the future of your organization. For example, look at others around you to make sure they aren’t ready to poach your membership. How can you overcome threats and continue to provide members with your services?

Once all of these have been defined, it’s time to put your plan into action. Use your opportunities to set goals. Ascertain whether your annual budget can support these goals and, if it can, charge your committees with following through to ensure the goals are met within one to two years. Don’t set goals too far out as marketing is rapidly changing. Consider where you can partner with other groups, such as OMG, to help you meet goals.

Make the goals part of your committee reports to the board. (It’s important to keep your goals in front of the leadership at every meeting.) You’ll be surprised at how much may be accomplished.