Must-Read: A Post-Pandemic Playbook for Association Leaders

A new edition of ASAE’s popular Race for Relevance offers case studies, worksheets and other tools to help associations move forward after COVID-19.

A pile of books

Earlier this month, the Center for Association Leadership (ASAE)—a membership organization of more than 48,000 association executives and industry partners representing 7,400 organizations—released a special 10th-anniversary edition of the popular book Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes For Associations

When it originally debuted, the book made a splash in the association world by calling for extensive changes to the way organizations govern and operate, based on authors Mary Byers, CAE, CSP, and Harrison Coerver’s combined 60 years of experience working with more than 1,500 associations. In the second edition, the pair offers an expanded playbook for how these organizations can move forward in a post-pandemic world, with updated case studies and tools relevant to today’s business environment.

“The challenges facing associations have continued to accelerate—even more so with the pandemic—and the strategies we recommend are all still sound, which is why we chose to tackle an anniversary edition,” explains Byers, a former association executive and longtime consultant, speaker and advisor. “A large portion of the book is new, however, as we wanted the opportunity to update our research, data and statistics, and to include new case studies.”

Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations
Photo: Courtesy of ASAE


In the book, the authors explore five key areas where traditional approaches should be altered: governance, personnel empowerment, member focus, programs and service, and technology. It’s also chock-full of worksheets, checklists and case studies geared towards helping association leaders, staff and volunteers become more effective in their roles. The pair outlines the actions they see as essential for a successful future, including ways to effectively shape association boards, how to focus on products and services that can reflect an association’s mission, and ways to take a digital-first approach. 

Byers also notes that in today’s technology-filled world, association members expect greater value and return for membership due to demands on their time—and she hopes that the book offers a blueprint for how to be successful at adjusting to today’s climate while keeping what worked in the past.

When asked what he thinks is the key thing association leaders need to keep in mind in the years ahead, Harrison cited the importance of board composition and leadership. “Associations need to be more intentional about the size and composition of their boards,” he says. “What knowledge, experience or other competencies do we need on the board to capitalize on opportunities and deal with challenges? Who in the membership can bring those qualities to the board as it directs the association? Boards are critical for the kind of change and innovation called for today.”

The 192-page book can be purchased here; it costs $22.95 for ASAE members or $27.95 for non-members. Byers and Coerver are also the authors of Road to Relevance: 5 Strategies for Competitive Associations, which was released in 2013.