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Give Your Association a Physical Exam!

Kickstart Your 2021!

by Alice A. Martin, RCE

We all (well, most of us) start every new year with resolutions to do things that are good for us – like stop putting off that annual physical. This brings to mind whether you’ve had an association checkup lately, or ever!

It’s time!

What does an association physical exam look like? It can include several parts, beginning with itemizing the parts of your association’s body you might need to address first.

Think of it as looking for the cause of your pain. Ask these questions:

· Does your pain begin with the confusing and weak structure of your governance?

· Is your board of directors large and cumbersome? Are your directors governing effectively or are they persistently in the weeds, bickering, politicking?

· Are your committees too numerous? Operating without direction or purpose? Do they clearly know their purpose? Do they have profiles that spell out their number, composition, their authority, and their alignment to your strategic plan?

Part 1. If you answered yes or even maybe to any of these, your prescription is to undergo a complete governance structure review. This could be described as a CAT scan or at least an X-ray of the most painful areas. Begin with some research such as a survey or one-on-one conversations with current and past leaders, professional staff, and if you’re a state association, your local association executives. If you’re local, you may want to include some of your key brokers in this endeavor. You may also want to contact other associations with similar membership numbers to see what their structure looks like, too.

Then, you can compare this data with what you currently have with what you think would allow you to be flexible, nimble, and the worn 2020 word, pivot. This exercise will likely result in a proposed new structure that provides descriptions, profiles, and accompanying rationale.

Part 2. Another test to undergo is to examine your governing documents (bylaws, policies, strategic plan, others). If you have done the audit above, this would be necessary to do regardless, but if your structure is healthy, the alignment of your documents may be all you need.

Begin with pulling them all together as there may be multiple places where they can be found – especially with policies. For example, your Board’s actions that literally establish policies are often not included in a policy document and simply get forgotten. And some associations may not even have a policy document.

Your bylaws should be as clean and simple as possible for clarity first. Remember that amending your bylaws can be very cumbersome and involve several steps. When you have a good policy document, you can include details of every aspect of your association’s operations that can be connected in some way – general or specific – to your bylaws. Policies should include committee or task force descriptions or profiles, financing, elections and so much more – and would not require a long process to amend bylaws but simply be approved by your board of directors.

Depending on your ailments or just because you’re looking to get in better shape this year, one or both of these processes are likely to help you be in the best shape ever and on your way to flexibility and strength.

If you need any assistance to undertake this important step, Martin and Downs has the best MDs around. Contact us and we can talk.

P.S. Stay tuned for Part 3 of Kickstarting 2021, Preparing for Your Planning Session in about a month or so.


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