Iinitially thought that the “stay at home” order brought about by Covid-19 would give me more “me time” and family-bonding time only to realize that, as the days progressed, I was busier than ever—organizing webinars for members, accepting invites to speak in online forums, e-meetings with staff, and formulating strategies for the associations that I am involved with.
For all these activities, I was fortunate to receive a pandemic management strategy framework from Belinda Moore, director of Australia-based Strategic Membership Solutions (SMS), which specializes in strategy, sponsorship and membership support for associations, charities, unions and other not-for-profit entities. I tweaked this template to be applicable to the Philippine association setting.
Demonstrate consistent, purposeful and calm leadership.
A good start for the management (secretariat) team is to prepare a clear, written strategy that outlines a realistic pathway forward through the crisis and then secure a buy-in from the Board and staff. It would also be a good move to get allies from among a few member-champions who share your agenda to ensure a regular, consistent, and clear messaging to all stakeholders throughout the crisis, including strategies to deal with the downturn that will ensue during and after the pandemic.
Provide members with solutions they need when they need them.
Members’ needs and welfare should be first and foremost in the minds of the leadership team and immediate efforts should be made to provide the right support to each member segment and to be prepared to innovate to achieve this.
This is also the time to be a trusted source of truth and curated insights by keeping members up-to-date on issues and trends that affect them. There is also need to facilitate connections between those in the association community to enable them to share stories, and to ask for and offer support.
Ensure the financial sustainability of the association.
It is also best to understand the new financial position of the association and undertake proactive cash flow management by cutting unnecessary costs and identifying the shift in income, such as moving to online events. It is also a must to continuously manage your relationship with existing sponsors and supporters and to plan your recovery strategy.
Equally critical is to ensure that your staff members are supported to deliver the plan outcomes in an environment where they are comfortable (e.g., work from home), and to minimize the risk of the staff by automating and streamlining processes, where possible.
In essence, an association must have human and financial strengths to survive this pandemic. This can only be achieved by a united leadership (Board and management) that can formulate and execute a clear strategy to provide meaningful and impactful solutions to all key stakeholders of the association—members, volunteers, supporters and sponsors—during these trying times.
The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific and the Founder & CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE is holding the Associations Summit 8 on November 25 and 26, 2020 at the Philippine International Convention Center which is expected to draw over 200 association professionals here and abroad. The two-day event is supported by Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the PICC. E-mail email@example.com for more details on AS8.