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An environmental scan is one way to gather relevant information about your association during strategic planning.

Three key steps in the environmental scanning process:

  1. Gather information about the world in which your association operates, including information about the economy, government, laws, and demographic factors such as the population's size and distribution.
  2. Focus on your competitors; examine the research for trends, opportunities, and threats that might impact your business.
  3. Conduct an internal scan of your association; examine your strengths and weaknesses; consider where you are now and where you’d like to be in five or 10 years; interview or survey association leaders.

An environmental scan allows flexibility in your data gathering. For example, you may conduct focus groups composed of members, association leaders, or both. You may send a brief online survey to your membership, or a more extensive hard-copy survey. It’s up to you, depending on your human and financial resources.

The Organization Assessment Checklist, created by the AEC, can help generate a comprehensive look at your association operations. Reviewing this checklist can be a great first step in the environmental scanning process.

The Society for Human Resource Management website is another source to help get you on your way with the environmental scanning process: