The Preeminence of Mission for Membership Associations

It is very easy in life to replace the end with the means.  This happens when we focus our attention on best business practices, individual leaders, or our own projects as the goal instead of the mission of the organization that we serve.

That’s why a recent presentation by Mark J. Golden, FASAE, CAE, at the Association Chief Executives (ACE) Symposium this month serves as an important reminder for membership professionals. 

He made the point that “Membership is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It is a feature of our volunteer--‐based ecosystem, not an actual benefit. We have membership because it is a way to marshal the economic and intellectual capital necessary to achieve the mission.”

Putting mission first with membership says that our efforts to recruit, engage, and retain members should have the overarching goal of helping our organization achieve the mission for which it was founded.  Ideally excellence in any business practice whether it is marketing, publishing, customer service or technology supports the mission.  But when this excellence becomes the goal in and of itself, it can actually deter mission. 

And this principle applies to for profit organizations as well as non-profits.  John Coleman, coauthor of the book, Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders, shared this on the HBR Blog:  “A great culture starts with a vision or mission statement. These simple turns of phrase guide a company’s values and provide it with purpose. That purpose, in turn, orients every decision employees make. When they are deeply authentic and prominently displayed, good vision statements can even help orient customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.”

But as we come to the end of the year, it might be helpful to step back and apply these thoughts on mission to our own lives.  Putting mission first can also empower our own personal effectiveness and fulfillment in life.  I know that it is easy for me to get off track and off mission and to let competing everyday demands take me away from what is important.

The late Stephen Covey maintained that “personal mission statements based on correct principles are like a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives.”

So my wish for you as we come to the end of this year is not only success in achieving the mission of your organization, but that you will remember your personal mission and enjoy the year ahead in fulfilling your purpose.



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