Professionalising Association Management

At a two-day workshop in September 2017, to which the association’s management members including chairwoman Rania Oraby and other committed members of the EGAA – Egyptian Alumni Association of the MP – met with the German expert Karen Konopka from 2K-verbandsberatung, the focus was on central questions regarding association management.

At a two-day workshop in September 2017, to which the association’s management members including chairwoman Rania Oraby and other committed members of the EGAA – Egyptian Alumni Association of the MP – met with the German expert Karen Konopka from 2K-verbandsberatung, the focus was on central questions regarding association management.

Cairo. The path to establishing the Egyptian MP alumni association EGAA remains difficult. Currently, the association is still unofficial as state registration has been applied for but has not yet taken place. Nevertheless, the alumni association is already carrying out its activities as far as possible.
Hence, the management committee has set itself the goal of giving the EGAA's activities a strategic orientation as well as identifying and tackling core topics. In an analysis of the current state of the association’s development and the mutual commitment, the Egyptian executives defined five fields for action: activities, recruitment of new members, services, financing and organisational structure.

Activities and Recruitment of New Members
The activities concerned aspects which the EGAA urgently needs to tackle in order to become functional. The recruitment of members was also a central issue for the Egyptian MP alumni as associations define themselves through their members. Who is eligible for membership? The workshop participants had a lively discussion on the possible rights and obligations of the respective member groups and the corresponding membership fees. It was clear to everyone that the definition of a member group also means making a decision on self-image, the culture of the association and on financing. The EGAA must be supported by a broad membership base in order to fulfil its intended role within the MP and become a competent contact point on the Egyptian side for GIZ, Egyptian governmental bodies, the German business sector and also participants.

Right from the start, public relations have also been important for the Egyptian alumni association in order to become better known and expand networks with other stakeholders and institutes. Moreover, active PR work will make potential members more aware of the association’s presence and activities and ensure continued interest in an alumni association.

The EGAA cannot define itself solely through the provision of services, although this does play a large role in associations’ work. Then there are social and economic aspects as defined by the participants. Imparting skills in business administration to a larger target group within the Egyptian economy and promoting the German-Egyptian dialogue as a whole are central objectives of the EGAA, which go beyond the individual benefit for each Programme alumnus.
The EGAA will give further thought to these association activities, define them and develop measures for putting them into practice. Members and interested parties will be closely involved in this process to ensure a broad consensus.

Services
With regard to services, the EGAA members discussed the question of whether to concentrate on core competencies and only offer services relating to the MP or expand the portfolio to neighbouring topics and offer complementary services for firms, managers and institutions. Besides the consideration of the association’s own self-image, the question arose as to whether the identified services could be provided in an adequate quantity and with a high standard of quality. Here the following applies: especially in the initial stage, associations should focus on providing a few selected, excellent services for which there is strong demand so that they do not take on too much in their first vigour and then fail in the long term. A demand analysis among (potential) members of the EGAA will form the basis for all services.

Financing
The question of financing is a difficult one for most alumni associations. The Egyptian executives analysed various financing possibilities in detail and realised that the association’s basic needs cannot be covered through membership fees alone. Thus, the alumni association will have to find other additional sources of financing, e.g. sponsoring and the sale of services. Here too the following generally applies: do not be overly optimistic and count on unrealistically high earnings as many financing instruments have to establish themselves before becoming effective.

Organisational Structure
With regard to the organisational structure, the EGAA members mainly dealt with the advantages and disadvantages of various organisational structures. It was not just a question of which committees should be established, but was also about filling these committees. Here it is important to create lean and flat hierarchical structures. Committees should not be too large as this makes targeted discussions and decision-making difficult. Reliable and binding communication structures must be established for committees, and competencies, rights and obligations must be determined to ensure the flow of information and smooth work processes without losses at interfaces. The EGAA faces the problem of activating volunteers, just as most other associations all over the world do. Making tasks attractive can help here. For example, instead of electing someone into a committee for a long period of time, which entails an unforeseeable volume of work, tasks should be split up into small units and then grouped to projects. This means that voluntary workers are able to estimate for themselves how much time they will need. Furthermore, tasks can be better matched to individual interests.

Finally, it is irrelevant which topic an association chooses as the starting point for its activities. It is more important not just to have discussions but to start clarifying questions and communicating this to members and other possible partners. The workshop was the first step on the path to developing an awareness for the most important issues and showing possible prospects. The alumni jointly defined some central aspects and discussed approaches to shaping them. Now it is up to them to continue this process together with the member base.
Karen Konopka

2K-verbandsberatung, Hamburg