Over the course of 2020 we all had to make hard choices for ourselves, our loved ones and the uncertain future: do you opt to live normally or commit to quarantine? Can you return to the office? Do you send your kids to school or move to homeschool? Is moving or buying a home or starting that new business even possible? These questions were unexpected and challenged all of us. Navigating them we all had to get to our core, look internal, and remember our personal “why” … And then make our best choice.
The business world and associations are no different. As we all reconcile 2020 and begin 2021, it is time to remember our “why”. Because chances are for the association the “why” is one of the only certain thing in this uncertain time. Events: not sure when they will return…. Board and committee meetings: to be continued….. membership renewals: will we see a delay or even loss? These questions and the lack of answers are concerning, but none of them should sway the reason the association exists, the purpose for the mission, and the goal of serving members and supporting an industry. In fact, staying true to the why may even help to discover improvements.
My family is heavily involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because my husband was born with CF. The Foundation always offered a place for families to come for community, education, and to support research for finding a cure. However, in the late 90s early 2000s they learned that CF patients could no longer attend events themselves because they were spreading dangerous infections from patient to patient. Suddenly in an era before Zoom or Facetime, social distance and staying home was required – the challenge was in how to still serve the patients. In the interim, the foundation focused a lot on supporting family members in person, patients from afar and utilizing the latest technology of that time – conference calls and webpages.
But because the “why” of serving those living with CF never truly left their primary vision, they were one of the first groups to embrace online events, utilize chat rooms, and take advantage of cyber socialization. Being some of the early adopters of this there were certainly challenges, but as the technology got better so did the CF Foundation’s impact. Over the last decade the services they have been able to provide to the patients directly has increased dramatically and in fact they are more true to the “why” now, by having to be creative in their approach. In fact, we see more patients involved as volunteers, employees, and content creators then ever before. The community has grown and is more impactful, all because the Foundation never lost sight of the true why.
Over the course of 2020 I have worked with clients that have tried a variety of new ways to stay true to their “why”. Some solutions have worked great and some have been a challenge and honestly missed the boat. But I think one of the patrons of a virtual tradeshow summarized it best: maybe this event was not a homerun, but the association made it clear they were willing to try something new, if it meant the industry felt their support. Their “why”, to serve an industry – that effort did not fail.
As we wonder about what the future holds and consider turning the creativity born in 2020 up instead of off in 2021, don’t forever the strongest foundation that has never changed: the “why”.