Keeping Your Board Strategically Focused on Growth

When it comes to growth, making sure your board has practical steps and defined metrics will make the process more strategic.

Growth helps keep the lights on and, perhaps more important, it speaks to the relevance of your organization and industry in today’s changing marketplace. Yet, because it can mean a lot of things—from new members and additional revenue to increased net assets or reserves—using growth alone as a board directive can be risky. Growth goals must come with strategy, which includes tactical outlines, smart executions, and measurements of the result.

As association executives, we all strive for strategic board governance. We want board members who have a vision for the future of our industry and for the role of our association in it, based on our members. When you don’t have a strategic board established and want to tackle your growth goals, consider starting with these four steps.


First, have your board conduct a self-assessment. Chief executives rate boards that have done so as more effective (55 percent) than those that have not (38 percent), according to the 2007 Governance Index. After you let the board digest its assessment results, use that knowledge to create an environment of accountability. Work with consent agendas and give the overly detailed work, which can get in the way of larger strategy, to smaller committees.

Identify your future

Your board must work within your strategic pillars and the goals that define success for each pillar. When you have clear tactics for each pillar, you will be more prepared to lead board members in talks about what success means to you.

Define success

By creating tactics for each pillar, you’ll also be able to set up defined metrics for each pillar, which will lead to measurable results (e.g., X percent increase in net revenue over X years, X number of new strategic partnerships, X percent membership growth). Outline and document each tactic your committees will employ to stay focused on the designated goals. Be sure this is clear so the committee work is purposeful and driven by results.


The final step is the most important: Measure results against your defined metrics and deliver information to your board at the most strategic level. Keep board members’ focus on the pillars identified early in the process. Don’t let them evaluate the tactics. Keep them out of the weeds and focused on the long-term success of the organization and your strategic plan.

When we hear about associations experiencing year-over-year exponential growth, the common factor in every case is strategic board governance. When you employ these four steps, your board will be operating more strategically in no time.