NCRA and You
Measures of Success
BY MARK J. GOLDEN
After more than 25 years in association management, I still ask myself, “What is it that makes associations tick?” I have worked for a variety of associations, representing an eclectic bunch of trades and professions. The nature of the work is the same: a group of individuals, united by a common professional identity, working collectively to get things accomplished. Some associations do a better job than others. So, what exactly is it that great organizations do? That question was the focus of a multiyear research project by the Center for Association Leadership.
As chairman of the Center’s Research Committee and a member of the research team, I was privileged to work under the personal guidance of Jim Collins, author of Built to Last and Good to Great. We applied the same research methodology to associations that he used in those business bestsellers. We first collected, then dissected, 15 years’ worth of data on nine matched pairs of associations. This past August, those findings were published in the book Seven Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t.
For this month’s column, let me touch on just three research findings that struck me as particularly relevant to NCRA.
• Members and mission are at the heart of remarkable associations — and member value is the blood that keeps that heart pumping. That means understanding their mission, and always seeking ways to serve that mission in new and better ways.
Certification is certainly one of the things at the core of NCRA’s hundred-plus year mission. Ever since I’ve been at NCRA, testing candidates have requested that NCRA offer more opportunities each year to test, and at more accessible locations. After a thorough review process, NCRA will begin offering online testing for the Written Knowledge Exam in October 2007. Members will be able to take the WKT four times a year at more than 200 locations across the country. And we hope to have the Skills exam online some time in 2008.
At the 2005 Convention in Phoenix, business meeting attendees requested that the Constitution and Bylaws Committee explore the issue of online voting. After delivering that report this past July in New York, the C&B Committee has continued with its work, researching Member preferences in conducting online voting and determing how such a process might be implemented.
Our core mission — NCRA’s reason for being — hasn’t changed, but times have. These are just two examples of never being satisfied with the status quo and, instead, constantly seeking new ways to continue serving members and mission, using the best tools available to us.
• Remarkable associations deliver. They continually research member needs; relate those needs to the mission; and then develop and refine products and services to serve those needs.
NCRA continues to move forward with the recommendations of the Reporter Education Commission to improve the system for recruiting, training, and producing highly skilled professionals. We remain focused on adjusting our relationship with schools, shifting from a position of ensuring that Certified Programs meet general requirements and minimum standards (though adhering to those standards remains absolutely essential) to building closer ties so that NCRA can assist all schools. We’ve been even more successful than we ever could have hoped to be in beginning to establish closer ties to non-Certified Programs through NCRA’s Participating Program status. (I’m pleased to report that we already have five schools that have joined as Participating Programs.)
Education doesn’t end when you finish your formal schooling. Continuing education and constant improvement is the hallmark of the best professionals. Year after year, NCRA receives extremely high marks for the educational content of its major conferences.
• All organizations must deal with setbacks, failures, and crises, but not all of them learn from these events. The remarkable ones don’t become frozen in place or time. They acknowledge their failures, learn from their experiences, make changes or adaptations, and move on.
If anything qualifies as a professional crisis, Engate does. For five years, NCRA has been working with the remaining defendants (Esquire and Atkinson-Baker) in the litigation to prove that Engate’s patent claims are invalid and that members should not have to pay a royalty in order to provide realtime to their clients. The defendants have won at every stage. (See page 15 for more information.)
NCRA was very successful during the past year in working with reporter training programs to obtain federal funding through individual earmarks which could be used to create or expand realtime training. In fact, if the proposed FY2007 budget passes, five schools could receive approximately $3.275 million. Unfortunately, we’re at the mercy of the partisan politics that continued after the November elections. If Congress does not pass a new budget when the continuing resolution ends February 15, instead choosing for a second year in a row to fund the federal government based on the previous year’s budget, we’ll redouble our efforts in the coming year. I would not be so bold as to say that NCRA is a remarkable association. But I would say that NCRA is continually striving to become a remarkable association through these and other programs and services.
Mark J. Golden, CAE, is NCRA’s Executive Director and CEO.