Association CPR – Commitment, Performance and Results

Bob Harris, CAE

CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a procedure to support and maintain breathing and circulation on an individual when breathing or the heart has stopped.  Performed promptly it can support life until medical professionals arrive. 

In an association, CPR may restore life to an under-performing organization. In this case CPR represents a renewal of Commitment, Performance and Results.


Commitment is behavioral.  It is influenced by the dedication and work of volunteer leaders and staff.    

Commitment may decline for many reasons.  An unclear mission or one that is too broad and does not motivate.  The governing body, its processes or structure may be dysfunctional.  The organization may suffer from a lack of resources. Staffing may not be adequate to meet the needs of members.

In the life cycle of an organization, the greatest commitment comes from the original founders.  With organizational age it can be difficult to find dedicated leaders, external factors may compete, and the interest by stakeholders may wane. 

Try these steps to improve commitment:

  1. Mission and Brand Promise– Discuss if the mission still has meaning.  Is the message clear?  Does it excite anyone that reads it? Do newer organizations (non-profit and for-profit) compete, drawing away members, interest, resources and purpose?   Update the purpose of the association.  If nobody is committed, refer to the dissolution clause in the bylaws. 
  • People– Are the right people involved?   Do the volunteers and staff represent a sincere commitment to the association?    Do any changes or enhancements need to be made in board, committees or staffing?  Support mechanisms are in place such as orientation, documents, technology and resources. 
  • Communication– Is it time for a brand update?   Do communications, logos and image have strength or looks like a hodgepodge of ideas?  Are documents and resources available that support an easy to understand and consistent message?
  • Strategic Planning – Regardless of how many committed people your organization may have, the resources that are present, or even the strength of the brand, without a strategic plan, success is hard to measure and a roadmap is difficult to establish. Does a strategic plan exist and does it drive every part of the overall direction of the organization?
  • Stakeholders – Does the organization have the support and buy-in of key stakeholders? Do your stakeholders derive benefit and value from a relationship with your organization? Is the strategic plan broad enough to satisfy stakeholder needs?


Performance represents processes and systems.   Systems in an association range from leadership identification and crafting a long-term strategic plan.   Performance includes measures and metrics to monitor progress. 

Books have been written about business performance.  Start by considering these three factors.

  1. Accountability– Do people hold themselves accountable for their actions and obligations?   Transparency should be a guiding principle so there are no personal agendas but rather a focus on mission and members.   From preparing for meetings to connecting with members there must be accountability, the same that would be expected in any successful business. 
  • Metrics– Volunteer organization often make decisions based on group-think or the whim of the meeting.   From the mission statement to committee charges, everything can be measured.   Decide on the most important metrics for the year, monitor them and demonstrate them through easy to read dashboards.   Results should be measured against the strategic plan to promote successful processes and activities, in turn weeding out the weaker or useless ones.  
  • Strategy– The opposite of strategic is tactical.   An association wants to engage strategic thinkers and avoid the small-minded people.   A strategist has a handle on environmental opportunities and challenges, adjusting support success.   A well-developed strategic, multi-year strategic plan guides the team. 


Results may be the most important of the CPR.  It is about producing and delivering outcomes.   What impact does the association have?  Do stakeholders (members) realize the significant value of the organization or do they waffle on whether or not membership is worthwhile?

  1. Vision– It would be hard to achieve significant results without having a vision of success.   It should be developed by the team and remain as a goal or goals to achieve.   Without an agreed upon vision of it will be difficult to recognize if results have been achieved.   
  • Consensus– It takes a team to achieve results.  The associations serves members that expect impact and value. The leadership must agree on what much be achieved to produce results.     
  • Stakeholder Awareness– “We are the best kept secret” should not be the common mantra.  Celebrate successes of the association. Share with members and stakeholders what the association intends to achieve and let them know accomplishments along the way.
  • Trends– Being on top of trends affecting the members and industry is important. Successful businesses and associations know that they need to monitor the pulse of their customers (members) to ensure that they are continuously relevant and valuable to their needs. Also, being on top of trends helps to stay on top of what the competition is doing and continuously evolving. 

To initiate CPR, convene the strategic members of the board and staff for an honest discussion.   Ask what works and what needs attention.  Consider if CPR is needed on any of the processes, systems and structure of the association. 

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Note:  Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at  Bill Pawlucy, CAE, provides tips and tools