Trade and church associations in the U.S. face a constant challenge: How to persuade members of the association’s value? That challenge looms larger in a difficult economy when nonprofits must take a hard look at every expense, including membership dues.
So how does an association energize its members? By following the energy of members.
That unconventional approach represents CHHSM’s new four-part operational strategy: First, listen for members’ needs and desires; second, pay close attention to those centers of engagement where leaders are already organizing to support each other; third, identify those resources needed to advance the effort; and fourth, tell the story of the movement.
“Our job is to follow the energy that’s already coursing through CHHSM in our passionate leaders and mission-driven organizations and to respond to that energy with resources that encourage growth and vitality,” says Bryan Sickbert, CHHSM’s president and CEO. “Rather than trying to persuade members of our value as an association, we want to organize ourselves around what members value — what energizes them.”
In recent months, CHHSM staff has pursued this new strategy through regional groups in the St. Louis and Chicago areas and through an affinity group of senior living members. (See story on CHHSM Senior Services Collaborative.) Now the CHHSM Board of Directors has taken action to expand this effort in 2011.
Meeting Nov. 9-10 in Cleveland, the board voted to draw up to $75,000 from CHHSM’s reserves to increase the association’s technological capacity and implement new systems that support centers of engagement across the country.
CHHSM will redesign its website to create a more interactive platform that conveys the energy of members and connects them with each other. CHHSM will also implement systems like teleconferencing, webinars and online collaboration tools to support members.
“These expenditures will be an investment in our future as we seek to create a more connected and, therefore, more vibrant community of leaders,” says Peggy Mullan, board chair and CEO of member Beatitudes Campus in Phoenix, Ariz.
The board also directed the Executive Committee and president to review CHHSM’s bylaws with an eye toward revisions that will maximize the flexibility and effectiveness of CHHSM’s membership and governance structure. Any recommended revisions will be brought to the full membership for approval.
In other business, the board voted to discontinue the annual CHHSM awards program, which has had limited participation by members.
The board and staff agreed that a competitive program that ranks the service of individuals and organizations is not consistent with CHHSM’s culture or in keeping with the association’s collective witness as faith-based ministries. The board charged staff to implement other ways of celebrating the contributions of employees, volunteers, trustees and creative programs.