Connecting people and collaborating with others are two of the things I enjoy most about the work that I do with our association clients. Seeing a group of people or associations coming together to create success for a common purpose is satisfying for me and effective for all of those involved when they realize the efficiencies of collaboration.

Some opportunities for collaboration come more naturally than others, but too often we don’t reach out to others for mutually beneficial partnerships. This is especially disappointing in the association sector as associations are in the business of bringing like-minded people together.

Associations can come together for some obvious reasons:

  • Networking between members in related professions and industries
  • Joint professional development events and collocated conferences
  • Government relations (lobbying) and policy development
  • Development of association evaluation tools

Policy and Procedure Documents

An example of how associations can work together is by adapting to new laws and government requirements together. Most associations don’t realize that each one of them will be creating the same action plan. Why not do it together?

When the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) was introduced, many associations, chambers of commerce, etc., offered their members webinars, workshops and articles, but how many associations worked together to develop policies and procedures for their own association? Why couldn’t a group of associations have worked collectively with a lawyer to create shared policies and procedures that could be customized for each association?

The Government of Canada is working to finalize data breach legislation that will require all corporations (for-profit and not-for-profit) to have policies and procedures in place for responding to a data breach. We can expect many associations and others to respond as they did to the CASL legislation by offering education to their members. Instead of taking that education and developing policies and procedures for your association, why not contact some colleagues in other similarly structured associations and work together on this? Save staff time and legal fees by collaborating and, at the same time, create lasting relationships. Create learning environments for many associations to participate in with strong content and opportunities for questions and mentorships.

Association Evaluation Tools

Another great area for collaboration amongst connected association leaders is the development of association evaluation tools. Those who have attended the Symposium for Chief Staff and Elected Officers led by Glenn Tecker and presented by the Canadian Society of Association Executives in Canada and ASAE in the United States know that Glenn and his partners spend a lot of time speaking about board and staff evaluations. Why not work with colleagues from other associations to develop board self-evaluation, CEO evaluation and staff evaluation tools? Without sharing confidential information, share results and talk about trends and benchmark against each other. Associations are more similar than they are different.

Successful associations are continuously evaluating programs, staff, volunteers and association direction. The development of these evaluation tools is a great opportunity for collaboration. Why reinvent the wheel when you can learn from peers or, better yet, develop new tools together?

Board and Staff Professional Development

Many professional development opportunities exist both in person and online for association volunteer leaders and staff, but sometimes training is desired in a specific area. Why not reach out to colleagues with other associations to find out if they have a similar need for training and work together on bringing in an expert?

Another great opportunity for collaboration is to ask a colleague with another association to provide training to your group. Look to experts at other associations who can share their knowledge with your team. How can you reciprocate?

Ask Your Association

Look to groups such as ASAE, CSAE, BoardSource, consultants and others for samples and templates or ask your association management company if they have samples to share. If your professional association does not have what you need, ask them if they can help to bring a group of members together to create it, or reach out to colleagues and collaborate on it.