ASAE’s Tenth Annual Volunteer Leadership Retreat

The purpose of ASAE’s annual Volunteer Leadership Retreat is to engage our full volunteer leadership in conversations about the future of ASAE and to gain insight on challenges facing associations. 

Each year, we invite the chair and vice chair of each volunteer group and committee; DELP scholars; strategic partners; past Board chairs; and other guests to join the Boards of ASAE, the ASAE Foundation, ASAE Business Services, and the ASAE Insurance Company. 

ASAE started hosting the Volunteer Leadership Retreat in 2007. For the past 10 years, attendees have provided feedback that has contributed to ASAE’s strategic initiatives. The retreat conversations focused on topics that now sound familiar – such as innovation, which came out of the first retreat.

  • In 2008, attendees talked about mobile technology.
  • In 2009, they talked about how ASAE members can “go global.”
  • In other years, they discussed advocacy; career development; diversity and inclusion; and organizational memberships.

All of this input has had an impact on ASAE’s strategic directions. That’s what this retreat is for: receiving feedback, acting on that feedback, and making ASAE smarter, stronger, and better.

At this year’s retreat in Boston, November 14-16, 160 volunteers and leaders focused on the needs of small, medium, and large associations, and how ASAE might meet those needs. Attendees were introduced to design-thinking methods, which they can potentially use in their own organizations, and used some of those methods to generate and evaluate product ideas for ASAE. The following day, the Board heard a report about key themes that emerged from those ideas.

Co-Creating Experience

Allison Linney, MBA, President of Allison Partners, facilitated the day-long workshop on November 15. Ms. Linney led groups through a variety of exercises designed to unleash attendees’ creative energy. Participants interviewed each other to provide insight on member needs; brainstormed ideas for products and services; and prioritized  myriad ideas to share with ASAE.

These ideas are still being reviewed by ASAE staff, who will report to the Board again in March. Some themes that emerged are:

Most Popular Product Categories

  • Talent Management and Organizational Development
  • Career Development
  • Governance: Volunteers need talent management, too
  • Models and Samples On Demand
  • Training/Curriculum/Learning/Case Studies
  • Advanced Content
  • Small/Micro Staff Support
  • Benchmarking and Assessments

Sample Questions and Advice for ASAE to Consider

  • How can associations participate in the sharing economy and share unused assets?
  • What short-term needs might one association help another association fulfill?
  • Could ASAE offer unlimited access for one price?
  • What if ASAE aggregated research that its member associations were conducting, thereby offering a central database of association-related research?
  • As ASAE expands its membership, how can it increase personalization rather than decrease it?
  • How might we promote association management in schools, internships, and master programs?
  • Please help members explain association management to their boards.
  • How can ASAE help association staff and associations’ members prepare for the impact of the administration (beyond public policy issues)?
  • Might ASAE help Alliance Partners strategize and facilitate business opportunities?
  • What if we created a new, fun feedback format (like Shark Tank) where members could test ideas?

After a full day of brainstorming and collaboration, members asked questions of ASAE’s Board Chair Scott Wiley, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs; ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham, IV, FASAE, CAE; and ASAE’s Executive Vice President and President, ASAE Foundation Susan Robertson, CAE.

Volunteer Leaders Meeting and ASAE Board Meeting

The following day, nearly 50 volunteer leaders were briefed on ASAE’s volunteer management research study by one of its lead investigators, Peggy Hoffman of Mariner Management LLC. The group discussed how the study’s findings regarding onboarding volunteers and evaluating volunteer performance would have implications for their respective associations as well as ASAE’s volunteer structure.

Simultaneously, ASAE’s Board discussed themes that had emerged at the retreat. They also held strategic conversations around the Associations Now strategy and the XDP pilot event in December. The board received an update on the Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 budgets. John Graham gave a membership update and upcoming public policy priorities for the community.

Here’s a link to photos from the event:

Here are some design thinking resources:

For more information about ASAE-Endorsed Business solutions, the event sponsor responsible for the tenth anniversary long-sleeve pullovers, visit: