Even though the NCAA is large and complex, plenty of lessons from its restructuring are valid for all associations and their volunteer leaders.
- Understand what it means to be a membership organization. The NCAA gained this perspective by defining staff and member roles and developing processes for listening to members and stakeholders.
- Establish a true leadership partnership. The NCAA has embraced the need for a partnership between volunteers and staff. Decision making must be collaborative, and accountability must be shared.
- Include all the right voices in the room. The new NCAA structure gives more representation to student-athletes, faculty athletics representatives, athletic directors, and other stakeholders who are directly affected by NCAA decisions on a day-to-day-basis.
- Pay attention to stakeholders’ multiple cultures. Every industry and profession has its own subcultures, and they need to understand one another and share some common goals.
- Set the agenda for your association—or someone else will. Every organization must be both proactive and responsive. The NCAA has learned that if it isn’t, Congress and the courts will set the agenda for it.
- Be transparent. Every association intersects with the public in some important way. If volunteer leaders always assume that they will be subject to scrutiny, they will be more likely to focus on the public impact and ethics of their decisions.
- Stay focused on your mission. Association mission statements aren’t just aspirational. The mission should inform every decision volunteer leaders make.