Members of associations across all professions are finding it increasingly difficult to rationalize membership and return on investment in belonging to an organization. They want new services offered by associations to help provide them with the tools they need as a professional. Association leaders, such as boards of directors, agree with the membership, but what is required to expertly introduce a new service or program?

Quite often, the introduction of a new service or program means either removing a poor functioning program or service or increasing staff requirements – which means creating a new staff position or increasing hours for specific staff. How, as an association leader, do you make this decision, and how do you know if it will positively affect your organization and the member’s needs?

Associations should be an encouraging two-way dialogue between the office and membership to identify member needs and how to provide value to members. Satisfied members lead to an increase in:

  • Membership retention
  • Membership recruitment
  • Volunteer engagement
  • Revenue

Organizations with membership should be conducting membership satisfaction surveys at least annually. Please see for information on performing surveys of the membership.

The purpose of the membership satisfaction survey is to help management understand membership needs and increase member return on investment. In many cases, the need for implementing a new program or service will be identified. It is important to also ask about existing programs and the value they provide to the members to determine if one needs to be removed.

If it is determined that there is a desired need for a new program or service, the following procedures should be performed.

Determine Key Concepts

Define key concepts that will be used to determine if the new program or service will add value to the association. What are the main ideas that should be evaluated further to ensure that this new program or service will add increased value to your members?

Perform a SWOT Analysis

While keeping these key concepts in mind, perform a SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis is a global summary of the association’s overall situation used to identify internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats. Strengths are matched with opportunities to create opportunities; weaknesses are matched with opportunities to overcome the weaknesses; strengths are matched with threats; and finally, weaknesses are matched with threats to minimize weaknesses and avoid threats.

Do you have a staff member that can easily take on this task? For example, if the requirement is the development of a social media strategy, is there a staff member who understands the balance between frequency of posts to get the best return, is a content expert who can create posts and has the time to post on various channels?

Perform a GAP Analysis

It is important to perform a GAP analysis of the identified key concepts. The analysis should include:

  • Issue
  • Current situation
  • Desired situation
  • Barriers to success
  • Recommendations

Perform a Break-Even Analysis

If there is a cost associated with the new program or service, ensure you perform a break-even analysis.

The formula for a break-even analysis is Revenue = Fixed Costs + Variable Costs + Profit.

A break-even analysis should be used to determine the number of participants that the program will require to break even. Ensure that you incorporate fixed costs as well.

The following example is for the implementation of an accredited webinar education program.

Revenue = Fixed Costs + Variable Costs + Profit
Participant registration = $100/session/member


Annual Software Subscription = $300/session. Accreditation fee = $125/session

Staff additional hours = 10 hrs./month at $25/hr. = $250

Presenter honorarium $100/session
Break-even 9 registrations

9 X $100 = $900.00

$900.00 = $675.00 + $100.00 + $125.00

Develop an Action Plan

An action plan is created to explain the steps required to achieve the goals of the association. The plan is a sequence of activities that must be performed for the strategy to succeed. The action plan has three major elements that include the task, timeline for accomplishment, and resource allocation, such as budget or policies required. It is also important to include the people responsible for each task and any notes related for clarification.

Create a Timeline

When proposing a new service or program for an association, a projected timeline is a helpful tool to use to demonstrate feasibility, execution, and responsibilities. This proves that the projected program can be implemented effectively in the timeframe proposed.

Identify Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators are used for performance measurement. They measure operations and evaluate the success of the program or service. Examples are:

  • Increased revenue
  • Increased member retention
  • Increased general membership numbers
  • Increased attendance at events

Perform an Evaluation Plan

No project can be launched without an evaluation plan. It is important to have an evaluation plan that clarifies the tasks to be accomplished. Evaluation should begin immediately upon implementation of the strategy. The Chief Staff Officer and board of directors should be asking questions regarding the program’s effectiveness and the satisfaction of the members.

They should also be evaluating the staff time required for this project and if other programs are being affected.

Create Recommendations for Implementation

A decision must be clearly backed with recommendations on how to proceed and why. This is where the association would then receive buy-in from the board of directors, shareholders, and staff to proceed in launching a new product or service or decide that the time is not right.

As demands from members and competition from similar associations increase, it is important to ensure that your association is providing an exceptional return on investment for your members. Listening to your members’ needs and participating in two-way conversations with your members will enable you as an association leader to determine the best way to become a leader in your industry.

Implementing new programs and services that ultimately increase the value in membership is one way your association can continue to meet its mission and the needs of members and future members. Adapting to the times will make your association a high-performing association.