The Association Cycle

Associations, more than any other type of organization I’ve seen, are defined by their annual cycle.

Volunteers and board members turn over every year. Many organizations have a new president or chairman every year. Annual meetings happen, well, annually! Membership renewal is typically on an annual basis. Awards are given out each year. Periodicals come out periodically.

This cyclical nature is a tremendous strength that also brings some challenges.

The strength is that associations have significant momentum stored up in the flywheel of their annual cycle. This energy creates significant barriers to competitive challenges and provides a sustainable source of income. People have been predicting the end of associations since I started working with them almost 20 years ago. Still here! Still valuable!

That annual cycle momentum has a lot to do with association staying power.

The challenge is that the default action of any association is to repeat the process over again, often precisely like it was the year before. Do nothing and you do the same. Status quo is the much easier path for associations, more than other types of organizations. This can result in a gradual decline since the world around us is constantly changing and failure to adapt will erode performance over time.

Implementing association strategy successfully requires being fully cognizant of the organization’s annual cycle and using it as a primary implementation method. Annual cycles should be modified each year to create outcomes that contribute to your strategic goals. This can involve pruning or adding items to your cycle but more often it requires modifying what you already do to create different results.

Own the cycle or it will own you.

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One thought on “The Association Cycle

  1. No question David the ‘cycle’ is double-edged. The certainty and stability of the association cycle (or business cycle for that matter), can easily lead to complacency and apathy. The association leader’s challenge is to maintain the stability of the annual cycle without losing the passion to grow. Thanks for the post.

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