Most of us entered our careers all bright-eyed, creativity flowing, ready to take on the world. And then, most of us quickly learned some universal truths - one of which being it can be very difficult to pitch an idea to upper-management that is new or “different” to your organization, and get the go-ahead. This can be especially difficult in industries that are more hesitant to change, like associations and other member-based organizations.
That being said, the biggest barrier toward getting the “yes” typically lies in how you bring your new idea to the decision-maker. It’s not that your idea is bad - it’s just different, and they can’t quite see your vision right away, so they’re more inclined to pass. With these three steps, you can easily take a step back and build a pitch that will resonate with your boss, CEO or board in a way that they’ll easily understand its potential for having a positive impact on your members.
Start with your observations
It can be difficult to automatically see how a new idea can be relevant to your association and its members. And rightfully so! Often our ideas come from noticing something done by a business that is in no way similar to our own. But that’s where this step comes in. What did you observe that was so inspiring? Start to paint the picture by sharing what you saw, not selling it.
By laying out the foundation of the idea first, you’ll be helping the decision-maker build the excitement you already have. They have to go through the same journey as you in order for your pitch to be effective!
Identify what you learned
Now it’s time to take those observations and identify more broadly just what is so good about them. This will help give context to your idea, rather than leaving it open for the decision-maker’s own interpretation. Remember, this is all in an effort to guide them toward understanding how this new and (seemingly) unrelated or difficult idea would provide value to your members.
Relate it to your association
Finally! The part you’ve been waiting for! You see, this process secretly helps make your idea better. By pausing to take a good, hard look at what inspired you and why, you’re able to build the idea out and give it more meaning. Instead of just taking something that spoke to you and trying to replicate it, you’ve identified how it can actually be unique to your association and make a visible impact.
Let’s say you are really into this fashion podcast that a local clothing retailer has been doing. You’ve noticed that social media posts promoting it have been getting more engagement, and start to wonder if your members would appreciate a podcast…
PAUSE! Stop right there, take a step back.
What else do you notice? What drew you to it in the first place? What keeps you coming back?
The big focus of this podcast is helping busy women elevate their style with quick, easy, and affordable tips. It’s made fashion totally attainable and much more convenient for you.
How can you deliver convenience to your members through a podcast?
Maybe it’s for new members to get updates on association initiatives and what they mean, and tips on how to get involved during their first year.
Maybe it’s open to all members, and it’s a succinct, weekly update on all things association life.
Or maybe it’s all about “hidden” benefits, and helping members uncover ways they can get the absolute most out of their membership.
Put it all together, and you see how much more compelling your idea is:
“I’ve been listening to this fashion podcast for a little over a year now. I’ve noticed that it’s given me actionable ways to update my look that are convenient for my lifestyle. I would like to provide the same value to our members through a podcast that gives a succinct, weekly update on all things membership. With so much going on, I think this will really help keep members engaged and knowledgeable on all of our initiatives. Can I put together a proposal for you?”
We don’t have bad ideas, it’s our approach that gets in the way. By taking the time to step back and think it through, we can be much more compelling by the time we go to even the toughest of critics - like your board of directors. For more tips on crafting that approach, check out our free guide How to Get Your Board on Board (heads up, it is a little specific to shopping for a technology solution, but let’s be honest, the principles can be applied to most anything).