When working with people, all Small Staff Association leaders know that the one constant is change. As your association grows and evolves with natural leadership changes, membership growth, and retirement, your membership will change.
For many associations, it doesn’t change that much and the core values stay the same. Usually these changes can be accommodated with small tweaks to programming.
For example, you may be able to go years with lunch leadership meetings and then an infusion of younger employees comes in and with them, second and third shifts or the desire to work through lunch to “get ahead.” That’s an easy fix, throw lunch meetings out the window and opt for an after work or even “virtual” meeting over Skype or FaceTime.
Sometimes it’s the industry that chances. A media association, for example, may change from radio and television to a broader definition of media to accommodate the technological boom and the emerging social media field. In that case, your speakers may go from newspaper publishing to optimizing SEO (search engine optimization or “googleability”) or even connecting the gap between newer technology and more seasoned industry pros.
But sometimes your membership changes and it’s the industry- and your association- that has to keep up. Seem unlikely? Think of absolutely any political party. As key figures change the ideals and values of the party change. This isn’t that far of a stretch to your association. Sure, your values and objectives are certainly different than that of a political party, but a new leader, new board, or even a handful of influential new members can easily change direction of your association.
So now what?
Keep in mind, change is a constant. It’s up to you as an association leader to determine if your association is heading in a good direction or one that may upset or alienate a large percentage. Ask yourself if new goals and ideals are in line with your association’s mission statement. If so, you’re probably okay. If not, it’s time to have some serious conversation about the direction in which things are going.
Is this change polarizing? Are some of your members really in love with the new direction while some are vehemently against it? Find out the reasons why members love and hate the changes happening.
Trust your gut! What do YOU think about the changes? Do you like the way things are headed, or are you uncomfortable with it? If the former, encourage the catalysts for change! Pave the way and make it easier for the changes to happen. If the latter, first make sure you’re not just uncomfortable with change period (don’t be embarrassed, many of us are uncomfortable with change) and if you decided you’re still uncomfortable with the way things are going, have a conversation about it.
Call in the board, senior members, committee leaders, and even some colleagues or friends and talk it over. Sometimes an outside perspective is just what you need!
Whether you love or hate it, change marches on. So what do you DO about it?
Accept it: Roll with the changes and see what happens! It could be the best thing to happen to your association, but keep a close eye on members, especially content senior members. Those are the first to get jaded and alienated with change.
Fight it: Beware, “that’s just not how we do things” without any solid reasons to back up that phrase can be dangerous and lead to those who love the change to be immediately turned off. If you have valid, solid reasons that these changes won’t work long term, simply be honest, show reason and evidence, and talk it out.
Split: Old way versus new way. Not good. Make this your last solution. Consider committees instead. *Note: if it’s a geographic thing (you have more and more members coming from another city) a split may be a good solution.
Don’t panic. Change is constant, as we said. Instead of feeling anxious about the whole thing, try to embrace it as a natural part of your association and be glad that it’s thriving enough to experience something like this!
Need some help bringing up those tough conversations with your members? Download our free guide to member engagement! Click below and take a look.