The 3 Rs of association management

ON August 8, 2018, the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), the “association of associations” in the country, and EventBank, a leading cloud-based engagement management technology company, jointly held a panel session on “Best Practices in Membership Management” at the Philippine International Convention Center. The event was attended by over a hundred participants from associations, chambers of commerce, and other membership and service organizations.

The panel was composed of myself; Mr. Charlie Villasenor, chairman of the Procurement & Supply Institute of Asia; Mr. Ebb Hinchliffe, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines; and Eloisa M. Acosta, chief operating officer of the Institute of Internal Auditors Philippines. It was moderated by Eric L. Schmidt, cofounder and CEO of EventBank. The panel discussed wide-ranging topics on membership engagement practices and challenges, member retention rates, key performance indicators for associations, data protection issues, social media, technology adoption and other related subjects.

During the panel discussion, I shared three mutually reinforcing factors that would make or break an association. I called them the “3 Rs” of association management, adapting it from the 3 Rs that we learn in grade school which refer to the foundations of a basic skills-oriented education program: reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic (as discussed in my August 10, 2016, column entitled, “Are Associations Headed for Extinction?”).

According to Wikipedia, the phrase 3 Rs came from a speech given by Sir William Curtis, a member of Parliament, in about 1795. Since its original creation, many others have used the term to describe other “sets of three things.” So, here is my adaptation of the 3 Rs  in association management which I learned from experience:

Relevance—This goes back to the fundamental adherence of an association to its purpose and mission and, consequently to the value proposition it provides to its members. In the 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do that Others Don’t, published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), successful associations have kept their products and services aligned with their mission even in the midst of changes in the external environment.

Relationship—This relates to the engagement of the association, first and foremost, with its members and then with other stakeholders, e.g., partners, donors, regulators, etc. Effective member engagement plays a crucial role in promoting an association’s core values and message. Engaged members act as “brand ambassadors” and become a key asset able to transform passive members into “multipliers,” according to the Geneva-based MCI Group, a global research and consulting organization (please refer to my column on September 27, 2017, entitled “Effective Member Engagement for Associations.”) Building and nurturing relationships is an essential part of an association’s DNA.

Resources—This refers to human, financial, and collaboration resources that an association needs to develop, maintain, and increase for growth and sustainability. First, the quality of an association depends on the quality of its people. Second, associations need financial resources (and ample reserve funds) to operate and sustain their work and advocacies. And third, associations have to take advantage of what partnership and collaboration opportunities additionally bring to their benefit.


The column contributor, Octavio Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) and CEO and  founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE). PCAAE is holding its Sixth Associations Summit on November 23 and 24, at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC). The event is hosted by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and supported by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB). 

PCAAE enjoys the support of ADFIAP, TPB, and the Philippine International Convention Center. E-mail [email protected]


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