Monday, June 20, 2016

No Money, No Mission

No money, no mission. It's a common phrase in the world of associations. And it's worth remembering, even though, in my experience, it often isn't.

Truth is, the culture of many associations continually drives them to try and do more with less. They get trapped into thinking things can get done on a shoestring. But they can't, at least not the big picture goals most associations set for themselves.

Think about it. I wonder how many associations out there are similar to the one I work for. We're a trade association, with companies as members. Our reality is that, even with the committed financial and volunteer support of our members, we are a far smaller organization that even the smallest of our members. We have less money and less staff people than they do, despite the fact that we're trying to accomplish things that the members themselves admit they can't accomplish on their own.

And frequently, it's the members themselves that help create the culture that we should be doing more with less. They're running lean organizations. They wouldn't be successful and have the resources available for association membership and initiatives if they weren't. And they often (appropriately) bring that lean mentality into the association Board room or around the association committee table. Above most other things, they expect efficiency and effectiveness.

But occasionally I ask them: How do things actually get done in your organization? When there's a problem that needs to be solved, or a challenge overcome, don't you typically follow a regular process? (1) Identify the problem; (2) Craft a solution; (3) Supply the needed resources; (4) Attack and resolve the issue.

Too many associations, I think, skip step 3, either because their volunteer boards won't allow it or because their association executives won't demand it. Whichever, it results in an association without the resources it needs to implement the solutions it has identified.

No money, no mission. The next time you're struggling to accomplish something big, remind yourself of this simple message.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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