Case Study: Increase Organization’s Caliber
Client: Professional Association
Established in 1922
Operating Budget of ~$100,000
State Wide Reach
Strategic Planning, Organizational Management, Board and Committee Development, Volunteer Development, Executive Coaching, Administrative Support and Database Management, Membership Development, Financial Administration, Fund Raising Counsel, Program and Meeting Coordination, and Marketing and Communications
“We are not performing at the level we would like and our membership numbers are going down. We want to increase the caliber of our organization all the way around.”
Established in 1922, this Association is a long-standing and proud organization serving a select group of Pennsylvania companies. When the incoming president approached us, she shared her vision for the organization, which included an Association that was supported by skilled staff, posted stronger membership numbers, and was able to provide a high caliber program. Up until this point, the organization was run largely by volunteers with limited administrative assistance and no strategic direction. It was time to move the organization to the next level.
Every non-profit organization should have a strategic plan to drive that organization’s mission. As part of the strategic planning process for this Association, the Burkhart Group worked with the leadership to understand the value of the organization, where the challenges had been in the past, and what we could do to support them in achieving their goals for the future.
The strategic plan’s major themes included:
- Achieve a Balanced Budget
- Continue to Enhance Programs
- Increase Membership
- Enhance Member Value
- Strengthen Board Development
Once the major themes were identified, the individual committees established goals for themselves that would support these objectives. The board left this process with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for their organization’s potential and a plan to move them forward.
Many members of the board had served well past their original terms, and at the same time, the pipeline for new members was not being tended. The president had just come into office and was looking to strengthen the leadership on the board for the benefit of the whole.
We worked closely with the president and the executive committee to strategically realign the volunteer structure that supports the organization. Committee members were moved into roles that were best suited to their strengths, and committee time was refocused on developing the substance of the programs, rather than on the logistical details. In addition, the Burkhart Group provided advice on the development of a board pipeline and a targeted, intentional recruitment process to bring new skills, ideas and contacts to the table.
Vicki continues to spend time meeting one on one with the president. This time is spent talking strategically about the organization, assessing the next moves to successfully achieve the goals of the strategic plan, and helping to hone and develop the president’s skills as a leader. “I have learned so much from you through this process,” shares the president. These meetings provide the president with the individualized guidance needed to effectively lead the organization.
Lack of resources led to a search for skilled support. This Association had historically relied on volunteers to drive the organization with minimal administrative support. Given the aspirations of the new leadership team, they knew that this would not be sufficient.
The Burkhart Group started by building a database for current membership and prospects. This has allowed for better outreach and more accurate record keeping. We also assisted with developing a structured and cohesive membership program, which was not something the organization currently had to implement.
In addition, we provided financial support and fundraising counsel. The Burkhart Group worked in conjunction with the board and finance committee to develop a budget, as this was a major theme in the strategic planning process. Having a budget allowed fundraising goals to be set accordingly, and dependence on their investment fund to be reduced. The fundraising support we provide largely focuses on sponsorship programs for the Association’s feature events.
From an administrative perspective, the Burkhart Group supports and coordinates all of this Association’s meetings and events, handling the coordination and distribution of meeting materials as well as the logistics and onsite implementation of events.
Finally, we were able to expand into supporting this Association’s marketing efforts. This included directing their email marketing campaigns in conjunction with their membership campaign and event promotions, as well as creating any collateral needed to support these efforts. The Burkhart Group also handled a large segment of their copywriting, and all of their graphic design, website, and photography needs. This allowed this Association to reduce the resources spent on marketing while leveraging marketing support that integrates with their program support team, providing more efficient and effective management.
The Next Level
“I barely recognize this organization anymore. I look at our Annual Meeting and ask, ‘Is this us? This is so professional.’ I couldn’t be more excited,” shared the current President, as we went into their Annual Meeting, the biggest event the Association offers annually.
With less than a full year under the current strategic plan, the results are evident. Each goal has been advanced; some have exceeded expectations:
Achieve a Balanced Budget: This Association now has a clear and thorough budget that reflects an accurate picture of their accounts receivable and accounts payable. The budget was also approved unanimously by the board. Achieving this goal has allowed this Association to make strategic choices on where it allocates resources, and what target levels it should have for membership and sponsorship so that revenue remains on point. It has also dramatically lessened the dependence on the organization’s investment fund, which will continue to lessen with every passing year.
Continue to Enhance Programs: The Burkhart Group has helped this Association in reviving its Regional Meetings. The attendance for the first year was strong with the second year looking even more promising, and the process provided insight into how to best support the organization’s program committee.
The Annual Meeting is the premier event, and this year’s conference exceeded the board’s expectations all the way around, with attendance at a record high. The committee was able to secure high-caliber speakers, including some that are nationally recognized. “This year’s innovative program was designed to provide a global perspective to our members,” added one board member. Said another participant, “It’s been spectacular!”
In addition to the content of the program, the logistical support elevated the event as well. All of the materials created were at a high professional level; the venue was well received and completely handled by the Burkhart Group team; and all sponsors were properly supported, including the twenty- two exhibitors who were in attendance, more than this Association has ever secured for an annual meeting.
The sponsorship program for this event was further developed and more ambitious than anything done in previous years. The organization was able to get support from both state wide and national companies, and the event came in under budget.
Increase Membership: The development of a database, the creation of a membership campaign, the enhancement of member value, and the consistent logistical support has led to a more streamlined membership program with not only improved membership numbers, but a higher level member profile. This Association secured several new members on their target list and look forward to closing more.
Enhance Member Value: The Burkhart Group has helped this Association implement programs and benefits that they had struggled to maintain in the past. Most importantly, this included an improved quarterly newsletter and a strong legislative voice. The newsletter has a high level of readership, as well as an increased number of requests to author articles, while being produced on a consistent basis. The legislative task force has put its focus on a legislative agenda that with gain great visibility for this Association while creating a strong platform from which the Association can maneuver on behalf of its members. We look forward to helping to implement webinars and potentially a listserv in the near future.
Strengthen Board Development: The board is now largely active and productive, with a strong executive committee and president leading the way. The committees are all functioning and adequately addressing the goals outlined in the strategic planning process. In particular, the realignment of volunteers has allowed for a more even distribution of long-time and new members as well of skills and perspective. Most importantly, this Association has found a healthy balance of volunteer support and staff support, allowing the volunteers to make the most impact with their efforts while having complete confidence all of the loops will be closed and the details will be handled.
The leadership was strengthened through the formation of task forces to meet specific goals. We have found that the old model for committees, which requires numerous meetings in person or by phone and thus a large time commitment from volunteers, was not producing results for this particular Association. Vicki suggested that they pull together key groups of people to take action on specific items. They would meet only when needed, and then disband when the initiative was complete. This system has proved fruitful for the organization.
Are you ready to move your organization to the next level?
Recognizing that most non-profits are comprised of volunteers with great vision and enthusiasm, but very little time, the Burkhart Group creates a plan to move your organization to the next level in a sustainable manner. We maintain your office and become your staff, and we do it efficiently and effectively. We provide professional collaboration, creative design, and strategic thinking to help you reach new benchmarks and meet the unique needs of the non-profit communities you serve. At the Burkhart Group, we grow organizations side by side with your leadership and volunteers, as dedicated to your mission as you are. Contact us today to get started on your move to the next level.