|Lego Value Meal|
We had both association executives and consultants to the association community present at this dinner, and I couldn't help but notice that the battle line seemed to be drawn between those two camps and the perspectives they each brought to the table.
Most consultants I know are definitely in "proposition is broken" camp, a position I believe they sincerely hold. Even though they are in the business of selling a solution--and therefore need the problem to exist--the ones I interact with speak with honesty and not obfuscation. They, after all, have typically seen the worst of the worst, often getting called in to help associations in the most dire of circumstances.
But I argued that these experiences may have skewed their perspective. Although they represent some of the loudest voices in our community, and many of them seem intent on demolishing the value proposition that still serves many organizations well, I'm still not convinced they have correctly diagnosed the problem.
Just what is the association value proposition that is so besieged? Ask the consultants and they'll respond with discussions about revenue streams and social objectives. Associations are organizations, they'll say, that center on membership, delivering the goods and services the members need and want. And that's no longer a business your antiquated governance and management methods can compete in.
That's true as far as it goes. But I don't think they're thinking high enough. I say associations are organizations that manifest the collective will of a constituency that feels a sense of shared purpose. Period. It's not about dues or advocacy or continuing education. Those are activities many associations engage in, but none of them are necessarily required for an association to function at a high level. What's needed is that special set of skills that harnesses the passion of others and applies it to a shared vision.
That's the value proposition that the best associations bring to the table, and if there is any threat to it at all it is coming from other forms and methods of community that are proliferating in our society.
But that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with our value proposition. Indeed, it validates that the proposition has real value, and that people will seek it from any organization or business that is exceptional at providing it. To succeed, an association shouldn't run from this proposition--it should find ways to become better at delivering it.
This post written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit www.ericlanke.blogspot.com, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.