I had lunch with a colleague recently, a woman who I've known for several years. She has been active with one of our client associations and was president of that association a few years back. In addition to her service as president of that association, she was the driving force for forming another organization, an organization dedicated to fostering mentoring among women to help members find their strengths and empowering them to use those strengths.
Occasionally, we meet for lunch so she can ask me questions about "nuts & bolts" issues facing the women's association. The organization is not able, yet, to afford an executive director, but the vision of its founders continues to burn and propel it forward.
Yesterday, as I listened to her discuss the organization's mission, it occurred to me that she was describing the fundamental purpose of ALL associations: encouraging connections between people with common concerns or challenges. It doesn't matter if an organization is a trade association whose members join together to promote their industry or a professional society whose members come together to enhance their stations in their professional lives, they're all about helping people make connections.
Now, that wasn't a revelation. I've been in association management for long enough to know that's what it's all about. But even seasoned pros can forget to focus on the basics, sometimes. So, I'm reminding myself, and anyone else who reads this message, that successful associations give sufficient attention and adequate resources to their fundamental reason for being: connecting people.
That having been said, connecting people need not be exclusively through a "personal" connection. A Twitter tweet, a Facebook post, an electronic newsletter, and a blast voicemessage can all contribute to connections. I suggest those should not replace person-to-person connections, but they should augment one another. And a true "personal" connection is always the clearest and most direct way to establish connections...in my opinion.
It occurs to me, too, that organizations that owe their very existence to connections between people with common bonds should be able to easily address disagreements between members. After all, members' commonality should always trump their differences. Well, that may be a topic for another post.
As you go about your business of planning events, formulating policies, beating revenue goals, and building websites, remember that they should all be powered with the fuel of connections.