Strategic planning and execution is one of the most challenging parts of running an association, and many strategic plans end up going on a shelf never to be heard of again. On the other hand, successful development and implementation of a strategic plan can be transformative, making an association high-performing, sustainable and forward-looking. Redstone has worked on strategic planning with a number of clients, including the Professional Standards Board for the Planning Profession in Canada (PSB) – one of Redstone’s first clients since it launched as an Association Management Company (AMC) in 2015 – and has seen the results and impact of a thoughtful, well-executed strategic plan.
While not a traditional member-based association (but rather an incorporated not-for-profit organization headed by a Board of Directors that operates under agreements with its members to provide certification and accreditation services), there are a few lessons learned from Redstone’s work with the PSB on their strategic plan that can help your association succeed. Firstly, keep your association’s mandate top-of-mind when developing your plan. Associations are responsible for fulfilling their mandates, which affects many parties, including members, stakeholders, customers, and even the general public. Furthermore, associations have fiduciary responsibilities and must maintain reserves as contingencies. In both the development and implementation of the PSB’s strategic plan, the impact of decisions and initiatives on key stakeholders, including its member associations and certification candidates, were always at the heart of the conversation. Also, by prioritizing efficient and effective service-delivery, the PSB was able to grow its revenues and move into a significant positive financial position without ever having to raise its fees for its customers (even when considering costs for inflation, which PSB has been able to account for and absorb).
Secondly, break up your plan into manageable portions. Creating a strategic plan with many components can be daunting, but prioritizing and scheduling the different phases of the plan’s implementation will ensure that staff and volunteers have reasonable timelines and can keep the strategic plan on track. For the PSB, the plan included updating its examination, digitizing its certification process, and developing volunteer engagement and communication plans. All of these initiatives took some time to complete (four years), but were successful because the committees and board did not spread themselves too thin trying to work on everything at once.
Thirdly, persevere and keep the end goal in mind. Sometimes the implementation of a strategic plan takes longer than you originally anticipated. The PSB’s new website and database faced several obstacles, including budgetary concerns, stakeholder input delays, and extra time needed for translation. The project took almost two years to complete, but it has been well worth the wait!
Finally, enjoy your successes. Redstone staff reflects on the organization’s achievements over the past two years and is proud of its contributions to its success. The PSB is now in a positive financial position, has good relationships with its stakeholders, is both digitized and bilingual, and is moving on to the development of a new strategic plan in 2020. It is important to learn from your strategic plans, celebrate your achievements, and of course, share your learnings with your team.
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