At a later date the association may not survive

4th Apr, 2016

Philip SpringuelAssociation executives are visionaries, leaders with implacable enthusiasm and an ability to race forward with the essentials: membership development; policy positions; service delivery; interactive and social communications; engaging effectively with the Board of Directors; and proposing events, conferences, scientific symposia or major congresses.

Text Philip Springuel, Head of Corporate Affairs, European Food Information Council (EUFIC), and ESAE President

Well, these same executives often have a disdain for technical details, believing that things will take care of themselves, or be resolved at a later date. That’s fine, but an untrained or ill-advised approach may create unexpected and embarrassing costs to the organisation that may threaten its very existence.

Best practice at the forefront

At the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE), now also known as AssociationExecutives.EU, we bring best practice training to the forefront. We offer our members the privilege of receiving and sharing essential skills, and networking experiences that help prevent the embarrassing prospect that they will fail and leave the association vulnerable to extinction.

Associations come into being because individuals or groups determine that they must pool their resources to address a pressing subject. Thus, there is a passion for the cause, a drive and a desire to be heard, but there is unfortunately little initial focus on establishing structures to address critical management issues. In businesses, there are structures necessarily in place to ensure the profitability and technical compliance of the organisation. Aspects related to keeping the business running are taken care of on a regular basis, not ‘at a later date’: accounting and reporting; profit and loss; tax administration. But as Véronique De Hertogh rightly says in her article about VAT for associations, associations are completely different from corporate companies. But unlike corporations, associations may not survive misdiagnosing the very real implications of poor VAT management over time.

It is critical that the association have business-like structures in place to address technical matters. Professional Congress Organisers (or PCOs) can play an important role for your events, but when budgets don’t yet allow for that, association managers must have either or both the skills and professional advisers to ensure there are no errors that will doom the association ‘at a later date’.

Facing one’s weaknesses

My experience with association leadership has taught me that despite my passion and experience, I must have the courage to reveal that I have many weaknesses, many technical areas that I am no expert in. So I ask questions, I seek training; I risk embarrassment now because I prefer not to face existential embarrassment to my organisation later.

I take this opportunity again to entreat you to join ESAE, where executives and managers are encouraged to ask questions, network, share experiences and obtain training. AssociationExecutives.EU allows you to dress down and learn in a mutually understanding peer-to-peer environment.Don’t simply take note of this advice as a to-do ‘at a later date’, join AssociationExecutives.EU now, while there is still time to sign up to attend our most important best practice event, the European Association Summit in Brussels.

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