PMG’s first client was The Schizophrenia International Research Society (SIRS) in 2008. At that time, SIRS was a fairly new society having only run one meeting on their own with a few hundred attendees. Interest grew quickly from individuals in the schizophrenia research field, and the leadership realized they needed professional management. Since then, the society has grown to host one of our largest meetings, drawing over 1800 attendees from over 50 countries. If you are involved in association management, seeing this growth and development in a society is rare and incredibly exciting. The goal is always to have a financially secure society with involved members who participate in committees and society activities. So then, the question becomes where does this start? After working with this society for the past 4 years, my advice is focus. This is ironic since beginning this post, I have made a cup of coffee, toasted a bagel, and walked around the office three separate times making sure to talk to everyone. Thankfully, focus does not necessarily mean sitting still and waiting for something to happen, but it does mean that you need to have an efficient system in place from the start. The bagel and coffee were simply part of my sustainable writing process.
For association managers, developing a strategic plan for the association creates focus for each committee, board member and officer for years to come. This focus empowers members to get involved and make smart decisions towards the society’s long-term progress. Steps to develop the society’s focus includes developing a vision statement, strategic plan, creating a policy & procedures manual, and implementing a governing structure. Without guidance and a strong foundation, the association will struggle with the smallest decisions, making it difficult to remember the reason the association exists in the first place.
The simplest way to accomplish this focus is to learn from other well-established organizations. Network with other association managers and study what works best for them. We do that daily here at PMG. Work to determine what makes other organizations successful and take time to figure out what can be implemented for your society. Even if you are finding a new way to format an agenda or communicate with your members, you are helping the society direct focus towards the overall mission.
Today, SIRS has a strong membership and nine committees who work on implementing more effective policies based on the Society’s vision statement and strategic goals. In doing so, the Society has partnered with a publisher to create an open access journal specific to schizophrenia research which will further the field and the organization’s reach. As association managers, it is our job to help our Board focus on the strategic goals and objectives for the Society while we provided expert management for the organization. This is what we strive to do at PMG each day.