A Winning Turnaround Strategy

The power of combining good strategy with strategic capacity building is demonstrated in this case. The organization strategically moves from irrelevancy to relevancy.

The Challenge

A national trade association was experiencing steep membership, revenue, and program participation declines, and an erosion of its political influence for a number of years. Its reserves were also eroding from operating in the red. The association was quickly becoming irrelevant.


Robert Nelson guided the organization through a process that defined its core purpose and core values. Working with the volunteer leadership and other stakeholders, Nelson explored what was possible and painted a picture of the organization’s desired future; this vision provided clarity and relevance with regard to where the organization was going and gave reason for people to support the organization. A comprehensive and ongoing strategy development process was institutionalized that identified key strategic initiatives and succinctly framed the strategic issues. The strategy was integrated into the operating plan.


Within 12 months of developing a winning strategy, the organization began to see success in all measures. Almost two decades later, still using Nelson’s strategic advice and strategy design methodology, the association is a financially healthy, internationally influential, growing organization, successful at advocating for industry. The strategy resulted in a 155% increase in membership, a 129% increase in annual meeting/convention attendance, a 221% increase in revenue, and a 325% increase in reserve funds. In a nutshell, the association regained its relevancy and delivers on its value proposition.