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December 9, 2019

25 Years of McKinley

As we near the conclusion of another year, the team at McKinley decided to take advantage of the firm’s 25th anniversary with a bit of a retrospective. Each day we are humbled and privileged to serve a community of organizations that put their missions and members at the center of their activity, and in doing so leave lasting positive impacts on society.

We asked a handful of our longest-term clients to reflect on the years dating back to 1994, the year of our founding, and consider the major advancements and transformations they’ve experienced throughout our journey together. The insights were striking and serve as a strong reaffirmation of our need to stay agile as we navigate the road ahead.

Profound marketplace shifts

Deborah Bowen, FACHE, CAE, the president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), recently shared some of the dramatic shifts she has seen in the healthcare industry and the association landscape as a whole.

She noted the need to operate both strategically and operationally while staying aware of the elevated expectations around customer service today — remembering that at the end of the day, members want associations to answer their questions and guide them. “It’s about finding a balance in a world where you have to operate in a dual transformation, like running the business and changing the business all at the same time.”

While reflecting on our partnership, Deborah remarked on McKinley’s passion for immersion in ACHE’s culture.

“In our business, relationships do matter. It was the passion that we felt McKinley shared for the work that we do and the difference we can make to improving the lives and health of people. It isn’t easy to find an expert in all arenas, especially not one that is an equal partner in the work itself …That’s the secret sauce that makes us turn to McKinley and why the board feels that the work we do with you is a great investment for the organization.”

Embracing complexity

Our experience with hundreds of mission-driven organizations has shown that as associations and the environment become more complex, it is important to work toward solutions that are as feasible, straight-forward and actionable as possible.

Susan Robertson, CAE, our longtime partner and the executive vice president of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and president of ASAE Foundation, noted the complexity required to respond to changes in the industry over the years and credited McKinley for its help in setting the direction for ASAE. “The association role is becoming more profound,” She explained. “I’ve found that McKinley is an honest broker… You aren’t afraid of complexity. You’re not afraid to tell us where we’re weak and where we’re strong.”

“It’s McKinley’s ability to look at complexities and make them comprehensible and actionable and slice it in a way that provides a new vision for an organization like ASAE. That’s what McKinley is very good at. You dive deeper and come up with the right outcomes or solutions that allow us to do our work better.”

Susan Robertson, CAE, executive vice president of ASAE

For over a decade, McKinley has partnered with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – who just celebrated their sesquicentennial anniversary. Susan Blodgett, the director of marketing at ASCE, reflected on the advancements she’s seen in associations’ core operations — from relying on fax machines to printing out mailing metrics daily to monitor results. “It’s fun to think back and realize how it’s been a race for new processes and systems,” she said, noting the effort the team used to have to put toward areas that now feel seamless.

Preparing for the future

The transformations of the past and the opportunities on the horizon guarantee a complex and exciting future for associations. Deborah shared her vision for the future of ACHE, highlighting the importance of innovation. “[Innovation] is central to how we deliver care and reinvent ourselves. The number one thing leaders I work with want to know about is how to stay agile, stay relevant.”

She believes with the right focus and commitment, associations can be powerful agents in building momentum and making meaningful change in the fields and industries they serve — as well as in broader society. “It will take the collective power of multi-generations. We are only scraping the surface of what that impact will be and if harnessed correctly, what we can do with that.”

Curtis Nunley, CAE, director of membership at ASCE says associations are at a critical juncture. “We have a lot of opportunity to focus more on how we provide services to the industry and less on competing against each other.” He says when he looks ahead to the next 25 years, he envisions the need to tackle the challenge of expanding ASCE’s relevance while continuing to engage and support their active volunteers who are instrumental to the association’s success. “I think over time, we will be expanding more broadly. Our volunteers are looking to do that through greater inclusivity. We are just getting started and there are obstacles ahead, but this will be a big and necessary change.”

Here’s to the next 25 years

When McKinley began our work with associations in 1994, we had no idea that we would become a trusted advisor to hundreds of organizations around the world. We were inspired by the simple premise that associations are a unique and essential part of our society, and that we could play a small part in advancing their success. This concept continues to resonate as strongly today as it did then, and in the words of our founder, Jodie Slaughter, we strive to always remember the essential ingredient of our work: service.

The McKinley of today is vastly different from the McKinley of 1994, both in the focus of the organization as well as the size and the business model. But one thing has never changed, and that’s the deep and abiding commitment to always be doing the best possible work for our team, our clients, and the association community.

– Jodie Slaughter, Founder of McKinley Advisors

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