Glossary of Terms

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The situation of stewardship in which the steward must demonstrate results in the fulfillment of a given mandate and the wise use of resources put in his or her trust. The association is obliged to determine its strategic outcomes, demonstrate how the resources allocated are managed in achieving intended strategic outcomes, and report the results to stakeholders. Accountability resides with the governing body and staff. In effect, accountability is the obligation to answer for a responsibility conferred.


A process by which a national or other overarching body establishes criteria; evaluates other organizations or individuals to determine whether the criteria are being met; accredits those who meet these criteria in their governance and operations; and revokes accreditation for those who do not.

Activity Plans

Activity plans are linked to strategic and tactical plans and assigned to individuals and groups based on their terms of reference. Information in the activity plan includes assigned strategies, supportive action tasks, timeframes, participants, and performance measures. Activity plans support accountability and measurement activities.

Ad Hoc Groups

Ad hoc groups or task forces may be established to focus on specific short-term issues or needs periodically identified by the board of directors.


The act of speaking or of disseminating information intended to influence individual behaviour or opinion, corporate conduct or public policy and law and often works in concert with awareness efforts.

Affinity Programs

These are also referred to as member reward programs or as enticements to generate new members by offering discounts, rewards or other inducements to attract business. They generate revenues directly to an association or indirectly by a sponsor paying a portion of whatever sales are created by the association's membership or other referred consumers. The marketing programs are designed to enhance brand loyalty by cultivating an ongoing relationship between a marketer (association) and the customer (member). Most loyalty programs offer perks for membership in a club or program and reward purchases with discounts, dollar value of purchases made or on the frequency of purchases. These programs can include a wide array of products and services that associations need. Loyalty program tactics also include regular communication with customers encouraging them to buy more often and at increasing amounts, and they promote related product purchases exclusively through their program.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

ADR provides a variety of procedures for conflict resolution. Each ADR procedure is an alternative to court adjudication that must be entered into voluntarily by all parties. It often leads to a mutually satisfying resolution without incurring legal costs.


Articles can refer to articles of incorporation or articles of continuance. (See Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act)


Asynchronous is when the elements function at different times.

Asynchronous Training

Self-paced training that does not require the student and instructor to participate at the same time, such as participation in the CAE® Program.

Balanced Scorecards

Balanced Scorecards require organizations to address four basic questions:

  1. How do customers see us? - Customer perspective
  2. What must we excel at? - Internal perspective
  3. Can we continue to improve and create value? - Innovation & learning perspective
  4. How do we look to stakeholders? - Financial perspective

This tool is becoming a staple with many association strategy evaluation processes.


The continuous process of measuring products, services, and practices against competitive or similar associations or those of "best-in-class" organizations. Used properly, benchmarking will result in various process improvements and an understanding of changes needed to facilitate improvements. The process can be simple or complex, long or short, expensive or not, depending on the particular needs of an association.

Best Practices

Strategies, policies, programs, initiatives or activities which have been shown in practice to be the most effective and serve as exceptional models for others to follow. They must be continually re-assessed based on new research findings, external and internal benchmarking, and stakeholder expectations. Best practices can be found anywhere and applied anywhere (private, public, non-profit), with modifications suited to an association's unique needs.

Board of Directors

The group of volunteers with the responsibility for governance and management of the association. The Board ensures the association's mission, goals and values are fulfilled in a responsible, ethical, legal and fiscally prudent manner. The Board is obliged to implement programs and services for the benefit of the association's members and meet accountability requirements.


The specific identification of an organization through naming, packaging, marketing, and advertising, by which it becomes known and trusted and which usually leads to increased sales or membership. CSAE's branding is intended to attract association managers as members so their personal professional development and/or association needs are met.


Bylaws are generally the legal provisions an association lives by and they usually include: the association name, head office location, terms of membership, requirements for meetings, terms for board directors and other officers and committee members, the fiscal year, and the procedure for amendment. Bylaws can only be changed at an annual or special meeting called for that purpose and any proposed changes must be sent to members, in writing, a set number of days (as identified in the bylaws), in advance of the actual meeting.

Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act

The Canada Not-For-Profit Corporations Act which came into effect on October 17, 2011 means that all federally incorporated not-for-profit corporations must transition to the new Act before October 17, 2014 or be dissolved.

Capacity Building

A long-term enabling process that helps ensure continuous growth and improvement, usually including several key elements: human resource development; organizational development; legal framework development. The first element involves equipping individuals with the knowledge, skills, training and tools to enable them to perform their work effectively. The second involves the implementation of management processes (also known as policies and procedures), that permit effective interactions between internal stakeholders (members, board members, staff and volunteers) and external stakeholders (public, government, media, other associations).The third element involves the establishment of legal and regulatory practices that define what board and staff can and cannot do to ensure the association's mission, vision, values and goals are achieved.


Recognition that a product or service of an individual or a company complies with certain established standards such as the earning of the CSAE's CAE designation for association executives in Canada. The CAE indicates that the person certified has met or surpassed rigorous competency standards for association executives (as deemed appropriate by CSAE in consultation with association experts and other associations).

Change Management

An organized, systematic application of the knowledge, tools, and resources of change that provides associations with a key process to achieve goals and objectives. It can be an ad hoc or ongoing process that is either reactive (change due to some external stimulus that is or could be impacting the association) or proactive (change due to the desire to an internal stimulus, usually a result of a desire to reach an association goal).

Chief Staff Officer (CSO) / Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

The most senior paid staff person, (as opposed to the most senior volunteer), at an association. They are known by various titles such as Executive Director, President, Executive Vice-President etc. They hire, supervise and evaluate staff and serve as a liaison between staff and board. The Chief Staff Officer and the Board have assigned responsibilities and accountabilities which serve as checks and balances for the association.


A set of knowledge, skills and abilities obtained through formal or non-formal education, work experience, or other means required to perform a job. Competencies are underlying characteristics that distinguish between high and low performers, and are relevant to both the association and its employees.

Contingent Workers

Non-traditional work structures that include part-time employment, self-employment, contractual work, multiple job holders and job sharing.

Continuous Improvement

Identifies key processes the association wishes to improve. The continuous improvement philosophy is based on: knowing your stakeholders; their needs and expectations; designing programs and services to meet those needs and expectations; delivering those programs and services; monitoring the results; and making changes based on the feedback received.

Continuity Planning

A process that ensures the recovery or maintenance of an association's operations, control procedures in the event of some catastrophe, technical or human emergency or other critical event. The goal is to minimize financial or other losses, the negative impact on strategic plans, daily operations, reputation, and to ensure continuity of service to members and other stakeholders.

Core Competency

Fundamental knowledge, ability, or expertise in a specific subject area or skill set. A capability must be an essential part of an association's offerings and must describe a significant advantage in the marketplace to be considered a core competency.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

An analysis that compares present values of all benefits less those of related costs when benefits can be valued in dollars the same way as costs. A cost-benefit analysis is performed to select the alternative that maximizes the benefits of a program at the cost that best meets the association's financial resources, strategic priorities and the budget or investment strategy.


Programs designed to grant a credential signifying a level of skill or knowledge in a profession or area of practice.

Crisis Management

Effective communication in time of crisis when issues challenge an association's integrity or public image usually as part of a pre-set communications plan that identifies the following elements -- who, what, when, where, why and how -- thus ensuring a coordinated approach to action that limits the amount of risk to the association.

Critical Success Factors (CSFs)

Known as CSFs, these are the things that must go right for the association to achieve its vision and mission. CSFs are often translated into goals.

Directors and Officers Liability Insurance

Professional liability coverage for legal expenses and liability to shareholders, bondholders, creditors or others due to actions or omissions by a director or officer of a corporation or non profit organization. While having such insurance does not mean that a director or officer cannot be sued, such a suit will only be successful if negligence is found to exist on the part of the director or officer in question. Otherwise, no personal liability or cost will accrue.

Exit Interview

A young professional, aged 22 to 32, who is operating within the first 10 years of their career in the association / not-for-profit sector.


Presentation of financial data including balance sheets, income statements and statements of cash flow, or any supporting statement intended to communicate an entity's financial position at a point in time and its results of operations for a period then ended. Also termed as financial reports.

Financial Statements

Presentation of financial data including balance sheets, income statements and statements of cash flow, or any supporting statement intended to communicate an entity's financial position at a point in time and its results of operations for a period then ended. Also termed as financial reports.


The act or manner of conducting the policy and affairs of an organization; the control or influence of people; constituting a rule, standard or principle. Many different forms of governance exist and no particular form will suit every association; each must find what works best for their circumstances, keeping in mind that the latter can change at any time which can cause an ensuing change in the former.

Government Relations

Influencing governments on behalf of the collective interests of members. Sometimes referred to as "lobbying," in reality government affairs encompasses a broad range of activities, including Issues Scanning, Policy/Regulatory Analysis, Relationship Building, Political Advocacy, Policy and Regulatory Development, and Alliance Building.

Human Capital

A collection of human capacities or skill sets that can be applied to maintain or grow an association. Investments in developing staff and volunteers enhance their abilities which, in turn, can lead to improved value for the association.

In-Kind Contribution

A non-cash gift given or received by a not-for-profit organization.

Intellectual Property

The work, creation or invention of an individual's mind or intellect. Modern copyright law protects the work of developing an idea, but not the idea itself. A patent is awarded to one who can demonstrate that he or she has invented something not previously known.

Knowledge Management (KM)

The explicit and systematic management of vital knowledge and its associated processes of creating, gathering, organizing, diffusion, use and exploitation. It is the process through which associations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Generating value from such assets usually involves sharing them among stakeholders to devise best practices.


Efforts to influence legislation by influencing the opinion of legislators, legislative staff, and government administrators directly involved in drafting legislative proposals. A synonym for government relations. Lobbyists must often register with the government and are required to follow strict guidelines regarding their professional conduct.

Mission Statement

Defines an association's core purpose: why it exists. It recognizes stakeholders, indicates services offered and the association's desired image. Effective missions are inspiring, long-term in nature, and easily understood and communicated.

Needs Assessment

An analysis that identifies a specific group's needs and presents the results in a written statement and outlines the actions required to fulfill these needs for the purpose of program development and implementation


The exchange of information for mutual benefit.


Takes a project from in-house (staff) management to an outside supplier and is often done due to a lack of competency or lack of time internally. Smaller associations often contract out specific projects due to their lack of time or management expertise.

Performance Indicator

Measures that relate to the process of establishing and implementing the strategic directions. Indicators relate to results. Indicators can be established for cost and stakeholder satisfaction, professional standards, and legislative activity. Indicators are monitored to identify opportunities for improvement. One of the most important association indicators is member satisfaction. Measurement involves feedback from members based on what you told them you were going to do, what you did and how it related to them, and their impression of whether or not they received value for their money.

Process Evaluation

Identifies the procedures undertaken and the decisions made in developing a program, describes how the program operates, the services it delivers, and the functions it carries out.

Product (Service) Abandonment

Established criteria used to decide when to discontinue a particular product or service in the face of waning member interest or support.

Public Relations

A strategic function which evaluates attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with the public interest, and plans and executes an action program to earn public understanding and acceptance. A component may include the process of obtaining and managing publicity to support image and awareness activities.

Quality Management Systems

Processes to help organizations address their quality management challenges and opportunities for improvement. These are continually monitored and evaluated to ensure quality of service or product is of a consistently high value.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

An RFP is sent by a potential buyer of a product or service to potential suppliers or vendors soliciting price quotes. The RFP includes all needed product or service requirements, as well as a description of the required format, timing and content of the price quotes to be submitted. RFP's enable the buyer to ensure that all vendors have an equal understanding of the requirements, an equal opportunity to bid, and that the bids can easily be compared and judged. (also RFQ- Request for Quotation)


Amounts set aside for specific future expenditures or emergencies. Many associations typically aim to have a four to six-month financial reserve which will provide time to make necessary organizational adjustments to ensure operations continue smoothly in the event of a disruption to revenues.

Risk Management

A general term describing the process of analyzing risk in all aspects of management and operations and the development of strategies to reduce the exposure to such risks. All activities come with a certain amount of risk. Understanding, preparing and reacting to this risk and developing the best strategies to deal with it is Risk Management.

Shared Services

An internal or external arrangement that permits an organization to be as streamlined and efficient as possible. Internally, it can mean that several areas of an association share a particular function, such as HR, to create economies of scale that can lead to greater efficiencies, cost savings, or improved quality of work life for staff. Externally, several associations may share some services to realize the benefits just described for an internally shared process.


Stakeholders are persons or organizations with an interest, (or stake), in what an association does. Association stakeholders may include employees, management, volunteer leaders, suppliers, members, union leadership, governments, banks, and other associations.

Standing Committees

Standing Committees may be described in the bylaws and focus on the association's long-term needs, plans and policies. Common examples include executive, finance or budget, nominating, membership, education, and government affairs committees. Depending on the size and type of association, standing committees may differ in number and function. Ultimately, the committee structure must meet the needs of the association. Standing committees may have sub-committees, with board approval.

Strategic Management

A model or formal planning process that allows an association to pursue proactive strategies and consists of three stages -- strategy formulation, implementation and evaluation.

Strategic Planning

A process involving key stakeholders in assessing the current external and internal environment that helps determine the association's strategic intent and formulation of strategy, usually for a time period of two or more years.

Strategic Partnerships

An alliance (permanent, temporary or fixed term) between two or more parties or associations to achieve a mutual benefit. Usually, much thought, discussion and evaluation goes into a decision of this nature and the relationship is often clearly defined in a legal document.

Strategic Thinking

Promotes innovative approaches to closing the gap between unlimited need and limited resources. It helps determine what action to take and/or not take to address issues or opportunities. Strategic thinking is a critical element of strategy formulation.


An approach that integrates goals, polices, supportive actions and resources, and external and internal realities into a common thread to produce specific outcomes.

Succession Planning

An ongoing strategic process to identify and meet the future staffing or volunteer requirements of an organization by preparing candidates who have the necessary competencies to excel in a role.


An acronym for - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. It describes a mechanism or tool that assesses what an organization can and cannot do as well as its potential opportunities and threats. A SWOT analysis compares the internal issues (strengths and weaknesses) with the external issues (opportunities and threats) to help the association achieve its goals and objectives and also identifies what challenges, obstacles or hurdles must be overcome or minimized to achieve the intended results.


The opposite of asynchronous, and something is said to be synchronous when its elements function at the same time.

Task Force

A task force is a group (can consist of volunteers and staff) created to perform a specific, unique, defined task. Task forces usually exist for a predefined period of time or until the task is complete. Terms of Reference (see definition) are a critical tool for Task Force Effectiveness


An arrangement where an employee works either part or all of their work week from a location other than the standard place of work (office). With today's technology, staff have the flexibility to work from their home and still be linked to the office. When applied properly, it can have significant benefits to the association and staff by increasing productivity and morale.

Technology Audit

An independent review and examination of system capacity, records, and other activities to test the adequacy and effectiveness of operational control related to data collection, data security and applications and to ensure compliance with established policy procedures, and to recommend any necessary changes.

Terms of Reference

A document defining the role, accountability and authority of a Task Force or Committee.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

A systematic approach to quality improvement that marries product and service specifications to customer performance. TQM then aims to produce these specifications with zero defects. This creates a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement that boosts production and customer satisfaction.


Sharing information and acting in an open manner. Transparency allows stakeholders to gather information that may be critical to defending their interests. Transparent systems have clear procedures for public decision making and open channels of communication between stakeholders and officials, and make a range of information accessible. Transparency is a key element of accountability.

Value Proposition

A statement that outlines the key difference that differentiates an association's products or service from that of competitors. It answers the question: "Why should I buy this product or service? It is simply stated and is an easily understood statement about the tangible benefits of what is being offered.

Value Statements

The core beliefs that shape the vision, mission and goals of an association and guide its day-to-day actions.

Vision Statement

The ultimate dream situation for the association based on current and anticipated needs of stakeholders, trends, and issues in the environment and reflects a desired position by the association. The mission statement supports the vision statement.


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