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Emerging Trends in Strategic Planning for Associations
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By: Brian Riggs,Vice President of Business Development and Innovation, AMR Management Services


Strategic planning sessions have been a staple in the for-profit and nonprofit arena since the dawn of time. While some question their usefulness -- often referring to their current plan as a ‘document collecting dust on the shelf -- others fully embrace the process and use it to guide actions, decisions and work throughout the year. Whichever side of the fence you fall on theres no denying the presence of plans and planning sessions in a nonprofits lifecycle.

Fortunately for all of us, strategic planning sessions continue to evolve, engaging leaders differently while still providing industry professionals the opportunity to discuss pressing issues, generate thoughtful ideas, set targets and pave the way for an organization by identifying both short and long term goals.

Last year our consultative team facilitated several strategic planning sessions, some of which included our clients while others were on behalf of organizations not managed by us. These organizations were as diverse in their organizational models as they were in the respective professions.


Before we get into the outcomes we thought it would be important to provide an overview of our process. Our strategic planning methodology included independent research, pre-session surveys to leadership, membership and key stakeholders, interviews with board members, members and additional stakeholders, and interviews with staff when possible. The culmination of this work provided the foundation for two and three-day planning sessions and relatively consistent engagement across all six sessions.

Client Mix

For this analysis we chose six different organizations representing a wide-range of professions. They included the following:

  • Two professional medical / surgical societies;
  • One inter-professional healthcare organization. Members of this group represent 14 different subspecialty practices;
  • One federated model consisting of 62 member societies;
  • One relatively large state chapter with members representing the insurance industry; and
  • One professional trade association whose members represent engineers, architects and urban designers.

These groups also came from a variety of organizational and management models. They included four AMC managed organizations, one by an affiliated “mothership” nonprofit organization, and one stand-alone. In terms of client mix, they could not have been more diverse in practice or structure.

As our team took a closer look at the results we couldn’t help but notice some interesting emerging trends.

Next month Brian will examine the first of the six key themes that emerged from this process and why associations of all sizes should integrate action around these themes into their organizational plans. 


About AMR Management Services
AMR Management Services provides professional services to a variety of local, regional, national and international non-profit trade associations, professional societies and foundations. 

AMR’s core services include association management, conference and event management, marketing and creative services and technology management. More than 20 regional, national and international organizations rely on AMR for association management expertise. AMR is one of only 19 AMCs to receive the Charter Accredited designation by the AMC Institute and is active in the American Society of Association Executives.


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