How Often Should You Update Your Strategic Plan?

How will history remember this past decade?  Never in our lifetime (or some may argue in human history) has so much changed in such as short period of time. For many associations, three and five-year strategic planning cycles are no longer practical given the volatility facing their organization and their members. New approaches to strategy focus on adapting, innovating and experimenting an organization’s way to success. To be effective, today’s strategic plans need to be living documents that evolve continuously over time.

Five Key Elements to Succession Planning for Associations

Succession planning is not about replacing an existing employee. The purpose is to prepare the organization and develop its "bench strength" for future organizational requirements. This article shares five elements to managing a succession process in associations and not-for-profit organizations.

Association Membership Model Development for Tomorrow, a PDX Workshop


Is your membership model designed for the future environment and realities of your profession or industry?

This hands-on workshop leads participants through a discussion on better understanding the different components, key considerations, as well as emerging and better practices on membership model development.

Who should your members be? How much access and influence should they have? How much should they pay? Expect to roll up your sleeves to work on these questions  and more through real-world case studies and activities that will allow you to apply session learnings to your own association.                     

 Learning Outcomes:

Understand key elements and considerations in developing an association membership model.

Learn what are the key steps in evaluating and redeveloping your membership model.

Apply key learnings to your own association and learn from your peers through interactive activities and case studies.



Carol-Anne Moutinho, Senior Consultant, The Portage and brings over a decade of research and planning experience working with dozens of associations in areas that include strategy, organizational and   membership model development. A skilled researcher and facilitator, Carol-Anne’s sessions include real and relevant case studies and examples and focus on engaging participants in sharing their own experience of what works – and doesn’t work – in their organizations.



Tuesday, November 13, 2018    

8:00 am – Breakfast          

9:00 am – Workshop Begins          

12:00 pm – Workshop Ends                     



The Westin Prince, Toronto          

900 York Mills   Road          

Toronto, ON M3B 3H2                     


Register  Today :


Posted on October 11, 2018 .

2018 Association Trends Survey: Participate and Get a Free Copy of the Results - Hurry Survey Ends October 10th

If you are in an association leadership position in 2018, it is probable you feel like you are playing ongoing game of catch up.  Being nimble and adaptable.  Communicating effectively in method, frequency and content. Growing and seeking out new revenue. Where to begin? And even more importantly: What to do?

Please take a few minutes to participate in The Portage Group’s second annual Association Trends Survey. This survey looks at the current and anticipated trends and issues affecting associations in 2018....and what actions they are taking to address them. Please click on the link below to start the survey:


All your input will be kept confidential.

As a thank you for your participation, you will receive a complimentary PDF copy of the Highlight Summary in early April. 

2018 Association Trends Survey.png
Posted on September 28, 2018 .

If you'd like your copy of Customizing the Membership Experience white paper, send us an email at #AssnChat #Membership #MembershipExperience #WhitePaper #Customization #HappyHolidays

Posted on December 20, 2017 .

Customizing the Membership Experience white paper is available.

The Association Trends In-Focus by The Portage Group

is a research series summarizing the top trends facing

Canadian associations today. It also explores some of

what is being done to address these challenges and

opportunities so that associations like yours can be

better positioned to survive – and thrive – well into

the future.

To get your copy, send us an email at

Posted on December 18, 2017 .

"Make Your Data Work For You" Session on November 14th

"Make Your Data Work For You" a Trillium Chapter PDX Workshop will take place on November 14th, led by Jack Shand, CAE & Geoff Thacker, Partners with The Portage Group. Did you ever think you would live in a time when data was “sexy”? Welcome to 2017 where data powers some of the most highly successful & powerful organizations in the world. In this session, learn how to make better use of the data in your association

In this PDX session, learn about the ins and outs of how to make better use of the data in your association, specifically:

1.  What data you should be collecting (or already have!) that can help your organization be more effective
2.  Some tools and techniques you can use to collect good data
3.  What types of data can provide which kinds of insights
4.  How to use data to drive innovation and decision-making
5.  Using data to evaluate progress and measure success
6.  How to use data to segment your members

During this interactive session, led by Jack Shand, CAE and Geoff Thacker, Partners with The Portage Group, you will balance sharing better practices with group activities and case studies to learn and engage with peers from associations across the province. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and be prepared to leave with some tangible ideas you can take back to the office!

Details here -

Posted on November 2, 2017 .

Congratulations Geoff Thacker, CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau Business Member of the Year!

Sean Kelly, CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau President and Geoff Thacker, Executive Partner - Research and Strategy with The Portage Group

Sean Kelly, CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau President and Geoff Thacker, Executive Partner - Research and Strategy with The Portage Group

TPG Executive Partner - Research and Strategy, Geoff Thacker was honoured this week by his colleagues at the Canadian Society of Association Executives Ottawa-Gatineau with the Business Member of the Year Award.

Geoff has been a long-time supporter and volunteer for the Chapter.  "I am very honoured to have been chosen to recieve this award from my colleagues," he shared. "I have found volunteering with CSAE to be an extremely rewarding experience. I’ve connected with and strengthened relationships with colleagues and clients and made some great friends in the process. Most importantly, I've learned firsthand that good volunteers really spell the difference between good and great in terms of the value organizations like CSAE provides to its stakeholders."

Congratulations Geoff on this well-deserved honour!

Replacing the Engine While Flying the Plane: The Association Executive’s Guide to 21st Century Change


Leading Your Association Over Uncharted Territory

Association executives and directors have been hearing for years now that change is coming. Membership apathy and decline. Decreasing revenues. Industry consolidation. Competition for education, other programs and services.  Governance paralysis.  All of these are symptoms of the much larger issue of relevance, value, and member service, that are pushing many associations closer to the brink. For a growing number, the time to change is now…or perhaps never.

One association executive we’ve spoken to described this process as “replacing the engine while flying the plane.”  Whether it is a new membership, governance, revenue or wholesale organizational model that is needed, the change at hand represents largely uncharted territory in the association space.

Research, Strategy, Engagement and Communication: 4 Pillars of Successful Association Change

During the CSAE Trillium Winter Summit a few weeks ago, TPG Partner Jack Shand acknowledged that while association leaders understand that change is needed, it can be very hard to know how to first identify what change is needed, and second, make the change a reality:

Keep One Eye on the Flight Instruments and the other on the Horizon  

As CSO, your role is to execute the strategic direction set by the board of directors and to manage the day-to-day operations of the association…but it is also to think strategically and be future-focused. Keep one eye on operations and one eye on the changes and trends that will be factors in your organization now – and in the future.

Explain Why You are Changing Course

I was on a plane once that had to turn back to the airport just as the flight attendants were about to come by with the snack cart. When the captain announced the reason – smoke coming out of one of the panels in the cockpit (!) - you’d better believe everyone was on board with the new plan. The case for change must be made. What is the sector, membership, or board most concerned about? People will ask – even if they do not say it out loud – ‘what’s in it for me?’ Make sure you have the answer(s) ready.

Use Evidence to Drive Decision-Making

Have you ever seen inside the cockpit of an Airbus A380? Countless pieces of data and information measuring altitude, speed, fuel levels, navigation equipment, as well as monitoring the various elements of the plane itself (cabin temperature and pressure, electrical system etc.).  Information and research must drive what you do. You need evidence, not assumptions. Research should be internal (consultation with members, staff, directors and other constituents) and external (sector better practices and research, case studies and literature). Use qualitative research to uncover issues and add context, and quantitative research to validate potential directions and options.

Understand and Assess Your Options

Avoid the temptation to rush a decision and apply a ‘quick fix.’ Develop and assess alternatives and options based on your research and end goals.  Particularly if your board of directors or other stakeholder body is involved, this approach allows constituents to make their mark in shaping change. Giving constituents some ownership makes it far more likely that the change will be implemented successfully than if it is seen to be thrust upon them from a small group of executive decision-makers.

Chart the Course

Like any other kind of planning, you need an actionable strategy to achieve success tied to your desired outcome(s) for change. Lay out what needs to change and how. Understand what are the critical success factors needed for the plan to be successful, such as informed and engaged members, the right data, and resources.  Be clear about who is accountable for different elements of the plan. Make it measurable by making your plan SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound).

Recruit Change Ambassadors

Grassroots stakeholders are much more likely to get on board with change if people at different levels of the organization have bought in and are visibly engaged - like this flight attendant, for example.  You can help draw attention to the need for change but it needs champions and leadership from the board and, if possible, other influential members. Mobilizing members as change champions and/or using a “train-the-trainer” approach to consistently facilitate and communicate change across the organization can be extremely effective at generating wide-spread support.

Be Open to Mid-Course Correction   

Once underway, people may tend to be excessively optimistic in self-assessing their own decisions, even when there are storm clouds on the horizon. Continually seeking feedback – and acting on it if necessary – is critical.   Make sure when asking for feedback that you are seen to be acting on it through frequent stakeholder communications that clearly make this link.  Implementing change gradually rather than trying to change everything at once is one way to reduce turbulence enroute, even if you need to change direction.

Keep People Informed

Keep members and stakeholders in the loop throughout the process with regular updates on progress toward stated goals and changes to your plan if it evolves. Be honest and transparent and continually tie what you are doing back to the value it is providing to your end-user. Importantly, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn when your change begins to take root and has positive results. It is important to celebrate success!

If you are interested in learning about and continuing the dialogue on association change, we hope you'll consider joining the TPG team at these upcoming events in Toronto and Vancouver!

  • Big Association Trends – From Identification to Innovation. A CSAE Trillium Chapter PDX Event. Wednesday, March 29, 2017 9:00 am – Noon in Toronto. REGISTER
  • Associations 2025: High Performing Associations of Tomorrow. A CSAE National Event. April 03, 2017. 8:30-4:30 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel. REGISTER
  • Associations Trend Talk. CSAEBC Lunch 'n Learn Session. May 4, 2017. Sheraton Wall Centre. REGISTER