I have always had a passion for planning – thinking longer term, envisioning the future, dreaming big. AMPED client associations are in the midst of their planning seasons as well. Each association approaches this planning in a unique way and, as staff, we share ideas and ultimately help the leadership define a process that will work for them. In each case, there are some common themes or contributions that help simplify the planning process and make it very doable for associations of any size.

Member input. However you decide to acquire this input, be sure you have a good sense of what members value -- not just from the association, but from outside the association as well – in their profession, business or industry.

Know your potential members and customers. Their perspective is important as well, and this group may represent an important market segment for non-dues revenue or engagement on another level.

Trends. What is happening in the marketplace of your members or in the broader economy? What about global trends? Factor these into your thinking and process.

History. While planning is about the future, looking at the recent past will help you determine potential areas of growth, contraction or expansion for your association.

Simple, achievable goals. Consider 3-5. I have seen many associations with strategic plans that have “VII, A, 5, iii” as a tactic for a certain committee to take on. They end up being charged with a very tedious to-do list. Empower staff to help implement broad goals as directed by the Board, with input from volunteer groups.

Thinking long term. Three years tends to be as far out as most associations think in the ever-changing high-tech world we live in. However, it is important to have a plan that transcends the leadership of the Board so that current initiatives keep their momentum.

Finances. Be sure your plan translates into the budget. An ill-funded plan will not be strong and is more likely to fail.

KPIs. Define your specific key performance indicators. How will you know you have been successful? What indicators will be apparent if you need to retool?

Lastly, be flexible and keep the plan alive. If is it simple, that will be easy to do.

Good luck and best wishes into 2015 and beyond!