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January 30, 2024

A Guide to Approaching AI with Your Board


How do you engage your board on the topic and opportunity of artificial intelligence (AI)?

Around half (51%) of association executives who participated in a survey through ASAE’s Association Insights Center (AIC) say they have had conversations with their board about AI. Some association executives expressed feeling overwhelmed with navigating this topic with their board.

Even though there can be trepidation around these conversations, 68% of these leaders feel AI will significantly impact their association’s programs, activities and operations within the next two to four years. Seventy-three percent (73%) feel AI will similarly impact the field their association represents in the same time period.

Planning your approach to AI at your association is essential to prepare for this shift.

Set the stage for AI at your association

One approach is to focus your board of directors' input on the direction, strategy and evaluation of AI and your staff on the tactical/operations, sequencing and resource management aspects of AI.

You can dedicate time to AI discussions at a board meeting to explore and create awareness about the impact of AI on your association and your field, map your association’s strategy for AI, and hold insightful discussions.

Here are three key potential outcomes of your board’s AI meeting:

Outcome 1: Understand the Impact of AI

Effective AI conversations require the board to be clear and aligned on what lies ahead. It is a time to ask and solve big questions and revisit long-held assumptions about your impact on the field you represent.

To prepare these discussions about the direction of AI at your association, you can:

Outcome 2: Discuss how your association should engage in AI

After going through the potential impact of AI with your board, you can facilitate a discussion with your board about your association’s approach to AI.

Our team at McKinley created a reflection guide that can help lead your board of directors through this discussion. You can give the guide to them as a pre-read before your board meeting and then allow time throughout the discussion for them to fill out their thoughts. After providing time for individual reflection, you can discuss the answers as a group.

The guiding questions include:

  1. What are the biggest areas of disruption in our field and how will AI play a role?
  2. What role does AI have in supporting the association’s top areas of activities (e.g., benefits, services)?
  3. What initial reactions and thoughts do you have on artificial intelligence, and why do you feel that way?
  4. How fast does the association need to move on AI, and what are the risks of action and the costs of inaction?
  5. How can we evaluate the impact of AI and its use?

Download McKinley's Artificial Intelligence Board Reflection Guide.

Association leaders who are clear on their approach to AI can help their board navigate the expected impact of AI on their association and the field their organization represents.

Outcome 3: Plan an AI Strategy

You will have to consider the existing organization culture, staff and organizational receptivity to the necessary change management, enabling technologies, as well as talent acquisition and development when creating your holistic AI strategy.

Communicating this high-level overview to your board about the different aspects involved in the implementation and execution of AI will help them understand the strategy involved with AI. Allow time for them to give input about your approach so that you can stay agile as new AI opportunities arise.

The steps of the process include:

  • Process 1: Assess the opportunity. Collaborate with staff leaders to discuss how AI can play a role in the programs, products and services the association offers - prioritizing opportunities and threats that connect to your most important service lines. When assessing opportunities for the field your association represents, ensure you talk with members, experts and technologists about the trajectory of AI to understand the possibilities and the role the association can play in supporting, directing and developing AI for the field.
  • Process 2: Prioritize the response: Understand that AI technologies will advance and change rapidly over the coming years. Although investing heavily in AI today brings significant upside, it also presents a much greater risk of failure. Be certain to weigh your organization's culture and the dynamics of your field when determining how you'll respond - whether that is to wait and monitor technology as it develops or to dive in and be an early adopter or developer.
  • Process 3: Plan, organize and execute: Once your strategy and priorities are set, develop your implementation plan. Remember, AI technology is developing rapidly and new technologies bring innovation and efficiencies while also presenting challenges/misfires - change management will be key to keeping progress on track.

We have partnered with leading association executives to facilitate these AI discussions with their boards. If you would like to work with us, please fill out this form and we’ll schedule a time to connect!



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