The 7 Key Success Factors for European Associations

Mark Dober, recently authored a new report on European associations for the specialist recruitment firm Ellwood Atfield.

The report found that associations are big business in Belgium. In and around Brussels there are 2,265 European associations, employing 13,400 people and generating €2.9 billion

The report uncovered the wealthiest associations, and the following seven key factors that sustain their success over time:

  1. DEMONSTRABLE ADDED VALUE for membership according to clear criteria.
  2. ROBUST LEADERSHIP from the Director General and the Board.
  3. HIGH PERFORMING SECRETARIAT supporting an association’s leadership and its members.
  4. PROACTIVE PUBLIC AFFAIRS with members and secretariat working together as a team.
  5. INTEGRATED COMMUNICATIONS led by a Director of Communications who is part of the management team.
  6. LEGAL INSIGHT & COMPLIANCE in critical areas of EU and Belgian law.
  7. SMOOTH FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION to support income streams, cost control and tax management.

According to the research, EU influence and improving industry reputation are the most important expectations of members for their European associations.  However, many associations underperform against their potential costing their members hundreds of millions of euros in harmful legislation, lost reputation and anti-trust fines.

We based our findings on over 100 face-to-face interviews and two online polls of over 300 experts, combined with our own insights and experience. 

Brian Ager, Secretary General of the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) commented in the report that “Brussels-based associations are better placed to lobby the EU for their industry than any other organisation, however, their ability to add value in Member States is often hampered by turf battles. The most successful associations have figured out how to harness the combined potential of companies working with European and national associations together in harmony.” 

The report confirms that the single most distinguishing factor between a good and underperforming association is its leadership, or simply put the qualities of the Director General in charge on a daily basis.  The potential for association leaders to achieve favourable policy and reputation outcomes for their respective industries are enormous. Hence, the competition for talent is intense, and we even found some exceptional association leaders earning as much as €700,000 per annum.”

For further information download the report for free here.

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