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Top 5 Questions to Ask Before Your Association Goes Global

man explaining information to four peoplr

Many association leaders may consider expanding internationally as a way to generate sustainable revenue, grow their membership, and expand their mission’s reach – but such expansions can be costly and complex.

Assuming you are considering internationalization as part of your organization’s growth strategy, what questions should you ask before going global?

Going global from Washington, DC, Chicago, Brussels, New York, Dallas, or another key Association hub? Our business consulting services and Association expertise will help you in going global, achieving growth, and broadening your organization’s impact in new arenas.

1. Who do I need to have on-board and committed to expansion?

Your Board of Directors represents the best interests of your members and its backing is essential when addressing the hurdles that may accompany the expansion process. Having your Board engaged in the expansion process from Day 1 can determine the success of the mission.

Once your Board is on-board, you also need people on your team who will embrace the internationalization mission. Association leaders must identify and engage “expansion champions” on the team to ensure things are implemented properly. You must ensure that these champions have the necessary information and training to carry on with the expansion.

2. Does my team need prior international experience to succeed working in a new market?

While having a team with international experience is certainly an advantage, it’s not necessarily a prerequisite to be successful internationally. Teams can take advantage of the knowledge acquired in their home market to apply when collaborating with stakeholders across the globe.

One way to prepare is to identify your team’s knowledge gaps for the new market you’re entering, and then offer tools to help – such as market research reports, regulatory and compliance education, cultural etiquette workshops and language training.

A team without international experience has a high likelihood of failure. If this is your organization, these tips are important:

  • Don’t go at it alone. Identify a partner that understands how to do business in the markets you are targeting;
  • Work with local experts who will help you understand cultural and business differences, political and regulatory dynamics, barriers of entry, and so on. Often, association members in other markets, sister organizations, or other associations with experience in the market may play a vital role in easing your entry into the market and reducing your risk of failure.

3. What type of staffing model should we use in the local market?

Associations have several different options for how they set up their international teams when expanding into new markets. Some organizations establish their initial presence in a new country through local member chapters of volunteers. Often times these chapters require on-the-ground support and many organizations use in-country staff members or strategic partners to support their efforts.

Other organizations decide to go all in and hire talent on the ground, while others use independent contractors as local representatives in roles such as sales or production. Depending on the association’s goals and the stage of the internationalization, you may decide to adopt a simpler model and adjust as each stage progresses.

Regardless of what model you choose, determining the staffing model that will yield the best outcome requires tactful engagement with local stakeholders and intimate knowledge of the market. We don’t advise entering an unfamiliar market. And, perhaps most obviously, it will be very difficult if not impossible to effectively serve a new market from headquarters, so local planning and some infrastructure is recommended.

4. Are our programs, products, and services strong and appealing enough to successfully transition to new international regions?

When moving into a new global region, it’s not enough to simply translate your association’s materials and website into a new language. In fact, translation is not always necessary! You must first gather data and assess the business needs of your target market to ensure those needs align with your association’s competitive advantage.

Your team should conduct market research to identify what is known about the existing offerings in the chosen market, and to assess whether or not your association’s benefits are competitive and add value in the new market.

Your association must also possess robust programs, products, and services before moving into any new global market. Well-established programs in your home country will allow you to use existing resources and expertise when entering the new region, instead of having to build new offerings from scratch.

5. Who should manage budgeting and strategic planning for our association’s expansion project?

When expanding internationally, associations are often required to reallocate their existing resources. You’ll have many different options for how your organization may be structured in the new market and how the project will be funded, all of which require careful consideration.

Additionally, you’ll need to evaluate your existing internal systems and determine whether or not they are appropriate for the requirements of the new market.

If your organization doesn’t have dedicated staff members or departments to implement expansion projects, you may consider strategic partnerships based within the local market to complement gap areas. Having the right advisory partners can make navigating the process smooth and seamless.

Association leaders should identify who will manage these different aspects of the project, as well as the challenging process of formulating an expansion strategy with clearly defined expectations and measurable outcomes.


Expanding your association into new markets can be a complex and overwhelming process that demands a compelling strategy and careful planning. Our global consulting services and expertise make the process of internationalization simple and sustainable for associations like yours.

We’ll lead you step-by-step through the process of:

  • Assessing organizational readiness
  • Getting buy-in from your Board of Directors and other stakeholders
  • Researching the business needs, cultural considerations and competitive environment of your target market
  • Assessing the strength of your association’s existing programs, products and services
  • Identifying which resources and expertise to leverage in the market
  • Determining your budget and desired return on investment
  • Creating and executing on your global expansion strategy
  • Selecting the right strategic partners to support your expansion in each market

Factum Global provides tools that let you assess how ready your organization is to go global, from self-assessments, market research and competitive analysis, to strategic consulting, coaching, and training.

May 9, 2022
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