Change can be tough for organizations of every shape and size

Oftentimes associations understand the importance of change and adaptation in order to stay relevant to their communities, but that doesn’t mean that they have the cultural foundation or structural bandwidth to plan and implement these adaptations.

Large (and even small) organizations can be slow to implement new processes and technologies, which can lead to negative implications for membership renewals and revenue generation. Challenges to implementing new technologies can range from board-member opposition to resistance against abandoning ‘business as usual’ comforts.

Every change management project is its own beast. But there are some recurring challenges that lead to their failure. Below are some common obstacles we see our customers facing, along with suggestions for combating those challenges.

Challenge 1: Colleagues not understanding why change is needed in the first place

The familiar is comfortable. Your team not understanding why things need to change in the first place is difficult to overcome – it is a resistance that can be rooted in the organizational culture.

In order to combat this mindset, you need to consider adapting your culture from the top down. This means being brutally honest with yourself and asking, “Who are we and how do we ultimately achieve our organization’s overarching purpose?”

When you start to look in the mirror at who you are, how you operate, and the purpose that your association’s brand ultimately stands for, you’ll start to see where you’re coming up short. Then the hard work of identifying who you want to become and how you want to get there can begin. Your organization’s purpose should guide the change management project you want to take on.  

Challenge 2: Team members feeling left out of the decision process

Employees who are going to have the responsibility to implement the change you seek need to feel bought into that change. You should give them a sense of responsibility and ownership throughout the lifecycle of the project.

One great strategy is to have your team’s first exposure to your change project be a sincere request for their input and opinions from the beginning. Involving them in the construction of a plan – as opposed to keeping everything behind closed doors until you are ready to unveil some sweeping new change project – can breed skepticism. You can gather opinions through workshops, meetings, surveys, or whatever data gathering process your organization prefers.

You should be mining your association members’ and team members’ thoughts and opinions on a continual basis. They are integral to change-implementation succeeding, and it is imperative for you to know what they think of your performance, culture, and operations.

Challenge 3: Team skepticism due to history of change management failures

Cynicism towards sweeping change is entrenched in many association cultures, and it can come from all parts of the association, from front line team members, to more tenured members of the board and c-suite, who are settled into old routines. Swallowing new strategies can be difficult if there are memories of past project failures and experimentation is not embraced in the culture.

For this reason, you will need to come prepared for those difficult conversations. Research is your most powerful tool. Make your case with data and real world case studies to appeal to both pathos and ethos. And once you get people on board, if you’ve truly convinced them, then the change will need to come from the inside out.

Acting on your approach to change

The “start small, think big” approach absolutely applies here. Starting with a small seed of change and culture readjustment can have ripple effects throughout the association. And in order for this to happen, you need to begin by getting everyone in your smaller circle of influence on board.

Even if “starting small” is appropriate for your association, you’re eventually going to need to have 100% of your people on board. Everyone should be invested in the success of this change, from the most senior board member to the newest hire. Another department that might require special attention for education and influence is human resources. It may seem obvious, but they can be overlooked when focusing on other employees, and their buy-in is absolutely critical.

Attitude and behavior are intertwined. With the help of change-makers taking action and holding people accountable, you can make broad strides. Being cognizant of these 3 challenges, and how to avoid them at your particular association, is key to reinforcing change that is purpose-driven and resilient.

Just start to experiment

At, we are constantly encouraging our customers to just take the first step. Try something new. We try to make the implementation of the newsbrief as easy as possible. It takes very little time to begin to send your members personalized news, and risk is low. Learn about how you can begin to experiment with our technology today.

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