1.27.2014

What Makes You Relevant? What it Takes to Build and Maintain a Nonprofit Association

The purpose of any association, regardless of the constituents that it serves, is to champion the interests of its members and in the process remain relevant. Remaining relevant creates the necessary incentives for members to maintain their affiliation with the association (and usually pay dues). What is the secret though to remaining relevant and are there special considerations that need to be taken into account in the African environment?

To answer the first part of the question, there is no one size fits all solution for all associations. Remaining relevant to your members though does require an understanding of:
 
  • Who they are (i.e. what is the profile of the average member and how well does your association match this?) 
  • Why they initially joined your association (i.e. what were the initial incentives and do those still exist?) 
  • How their needs have evolved over time (i.e. people often have different needs at different stages of their lives and careers, how has your organization responded?) 
  • Who your competition is (i.e. if for example your association is a source of information for a particular interest group, are there other resources such as the internet where members can access information without the associated membership fees?)
The second part of the question, which addresses the complexities of operating as an association in Africa requires an understanding of how Africans define membership. Our relationships are largely formed based on in-person, face to face interactions where trust can be formed. Thus a sustainable association model must identify ways to mimic this while at the same time factoring in scalability. For example, If you plan to increase your membership to 1 million members, it would be unrealistic to expect to meet each one of them in person on a regular basis.

Are you managing an association? How have you approached remaining relevant to your members?
 
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