CEO Perspectives on Association Forum’s Governance Professional Practice Statments

Association Forum members have access to professional practice statements. A committee reviews these statements annually. Learn more about what’s new and what to look for with this important member benefit!

By Ewa Greenier, MPH, MBA, CAE

Serious African American Manager In Stylish Glasses Reading Corporate Document

Association Forum’s Professional Practice Committee assesses, reviews, and updates professional practice statements annually. This crucial function ensures that all statements align with best practices for association management professionals to implement within their organizations.

Recently, the Committee updated the statement “Association Strategic Governance, Part I: Functions.” Updates included removal of redundant wording, clarification of terms and concepts, inclusion of diversity as a fifth governance characteristic, expansion of sections on board strategic and operational planning, and up-to-date references.

Adrian Hochstadt, JD, CAE, CEO of the Veterinary Medical Association Executives, and Caley Mutrie, CAE, IOM, Executive Director of Association Acumen, contributed to the review and revision process. Both reflected on the use of this document.

As a CEO or Executive Director, how do you use this statement within your organization?

Mutrie: I’ve used the statement to onboard new staff, especially those without much background in association management, along with other practice statements, to help them better understand our governance operation. I especially reference the Governance Professional Practice statements, I and II, and the statement on Governance Structure, as part of the annual board and committee orientations,” Mutrie states. “Governance means different things to different people and having concise, association peer-reviewed resources that focus on strategic governance functions, the characteristics of good governance, and governance structure, add valuable perspective to the leadership orientation process and ongoing organizational oversight.

Hochstadt: A CEO can utilize the Association Strategic Governance Practice Statement as a good governance checklist. Governance is an essential feature of not-for-profits, and as CEOs, we devote a great deal of attention to this part of association management.

The statement recently included diversity as a fifth board characteristic. In the statement, the diversity board characteristic states that an association board should strive to reflect the diversity of the membership, the communities they serve, and society in general, and foster an equitable and inclusive culture. How does diversity strengthen a board?

Hochstadt: Adding diversity as one of the key board characteristics was long overdue. This is a critical component of keeping our associations relevant as society continues to diversify. Diversity enhances an organization’s mission because a diverse group of people in an inclusive culture is more likely to speak freely, think creatively, take risks, and develop solutions. In addition, diversity, equity, and inclusion is proven to be profitable and improves competitive advantage through improved productivity, increased retention of employees, attracting new members, and fostering loyalty.

Mutrie: Diversity of board membership enhances the range of perspectives, experiences, expertise, and insights a leadership body can harness to resolve problems, make decisions, and spark innovation. It also adds to the organization’s credibility and enhances its reputation of being socially responsible and culturally aware, thus turning policy into visible and overt action when it comes to diversity.

A statement that the board is responsible for development of the strategic plan and should regularly set aside dedicated time for strategic planning was added to the document. Can you comment on the importance of highlighting this?

Hochstadt: The committee strengthened the statement by adding this clarification. Strategic planning is a critical responsibility of a governing body. The association’s initiatives and projects should flow logically downstream from the strategic plan. It is the building block for the organization. But it must be adaptable. Every quarter, my organization’s board reviews the plan, including tactics that flow under the objectives, to make sure they are still relevant and consider changes. This practice helps me and the staff be aware of any changes in the board’s direction. It’s also an excellent tool to assist in making decisions on what projects to pursue and when to say no.

Mutrie: Boards are often reticent to spend the time and allocate funds to strategic planning. It’s crucial to remind our boards that strategic planning is key to identifying organizational goals, refining our efforts, aligning all services with the organization’s purpose, and keeping decision-making in line with new and updated data. This process also allows our stewardship and application of the organization’s funds to be used to carry out mission-critical initiatives. Our board and committee orientations stress the responsibility of leadership to set strategy for the organization.

Do you have any additional suggestions on the applicability of these statements to you and your staff?

Hochstadt: This practice statement contains updated reference resources on association governance. Be sure to check them out. And by the way, they are excellent sources to share with your leadership teams.

Mutrie: There is tremendous value in the collective wisdom of our association management peers when it comes to best practices. I routinely reference the statements for guidance and have applied to a variety of situations. I encourage other staff to use them, too, as an additional tool in bringing standards and best practices to each of their areas of operation. They’re a great resource!

Moving Forward

Mike Thill, Senior Business Development Specialist at the American Society of Anesthesiologists, chairs this year’s Professional Practice Committee. Thill reminds association professionals that, “Association Forum’s Professional Practice Statements serve as a valuable resource and tool for association management and members. The Professional Practice Committee would like to build awareness around these statements, so members know that there are resources available to help support and guide them.”   This year’s Professional Practice Committee will continue to review and update outdated statements. Association Forum members can access all the statements online at www.associationforum.org/browse/practice-statements/.

About the Author

Ewa is Director of Professional Practice at the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology and a member of the Association Forum’s 2023-24 Content Working Group.

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