As an association leader, you are a beacon of leadership. Think about it. Your members look to you for networking events, advice about their careers or special interest group, maybe even job postings or ways to be successful. It’s a very important role! Take a moment and enjoy some well-deserved kudos.
Now take a moment to think about the other leaders floating around out there. There are a lot! From public figures to bosses, literally everyone is being influenced by someone.
By and large, that’s a good thing! Variety is the spice of life and new ideas that come in at work, with other organizations, and in other activities can enrich your association’s repertoire of programs and events. But should you connect with these other leaders in your membership’s life so you can take part in the enrichment too?
Answer: even though it seems obvious that the more people you know and connect with the better, the answer is probably not. You want to encourage involvement with your association, but that needs to be driven by you and embraced by the members themselves. You don’t want to cross any boundaries that could make you and your association seem overbearing, like stepping out of turn and connecting with "someone a member mentioned once." Remember that active membership and participation is already a big ask.
“But I want to meet these people!” Of course you do! Encourage your members to bring the influential people in their lives to association events. If your budget permits, why don’t you hold a special event where members are invited and encouraged to bring along their bosses and work colleagues? Along those lines, encourage your members to invite their coworkers to join your association. If it’s possible for your chapter, maybe a dues promotion is in order.
Say you have a member who works for a very influential company, which you really, really want to make a closer connection with. Go through the member first! Reach out to him or her individually, but don’t go overboard. Nobody wants to be used for their connections.
Another way to connect with other important leaders in your field is to join other associations yourself. Another group may be seen as “competition” but there’s no reason to think like that. Show up, shake hands, and work together! Both organizations have a bank of interested, qualified people and sharing some of the burdens of sponsorship and event planning will make things easier for you, as well as give you an opportunity to meet other influencers.
Finally, small association leaders tend to do a lot for other people and not a whole lot for themselves. You promise your members awesome networking and you deliver, but what about you? Spend a little time researching other movers and shakers out there and do some connecting. Your future self will thank you for it!