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Associations Addressing Social & Environmental Challenges


It is becoming increasingly critical for associations to broaden their activities to incorporate initiatives that address the social and environmental challenges facing the world today. Associations are uniquely positioned to accelerate the mainstreaming of sustainability in a way that can enhance member value – opening opportunities for innovation, revenue generation, and the motivation and retention of talent.

While numerous associations are keen to start sustainability programs, many struggle to get them off the ground due to the very real challenges surrounding funding. From our experience here are a few strategies you can employ to tackle these hurdles and amass the resources needed to fuel these much needed passions:

  • Have a clear purpose

It’s back to basics – but if the associations does not have a clear social vision and a well-documented purpose statement, then it will struggle to get the attention of funders.

  • Align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

If the association lacks the vocabulary to articulate its purpose or wants to tweak its messaging for greater impact, there exists a clear opportunity for alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) – a set of 17 inspirational “Global Goals” with 169 targets between them, including ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change, and protecting our forests and oceans.

  • Collaborate

Instead of going it alone, it would be worthwhile for the association to explore how it can partner with a dedicated sustainability NGO. In exchange the NGO can provide legitimacy and credibility for your initiative – a key enabler to getting funding.

  • Sponsorships

Perhaps the easiest way to raise funds is to find a corporate member of the association keen on championing the organisation’s sustainability initiatives. It is worth noting however that corporations are becoming increasingly selective and strategic in their sustainability sponsoring, so bringing on sponsors as partners and co-owners of a project is often a better way to get long-term financing.

  • Foundations

There are numerous corporate-run or independent foundations that support sustainability initiatives. The key to effectively engaging them however is to take the time to identify those whose purpose aligns with yours and to build up a relationship with them before asking for financial support.

  • Create services

Perhaps the most sustainable of the options for fund raising is to integrate sustainability into the association’s business model. For example, one could partner with an NGO to develop industry specific sustainability standards together with a certification and education program. Practical initiatives that generate value for members as well as income for the association.

In conclusion, it should be noted that historically, associations haven’t been seen as being very progressive, or known for promoting the interests of specific member groups. When associations rise to the occasion, however, they advocate for addressing the social and environmental challenges of today and can reap the benefits of their involvement as they evidently offer more value to their members.

This article was contributed by Guy Bigwood, MCI Group Sustainability Director. Click here to read the full article.
For more information on our sustainability services please contact us on or contact the author of the article at

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