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Occupy Wall Street: What Will It Mean for Associations?

99% Occupy Wall Street Protest SignTwo weeks ago, I wrote a post regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement and how it could affect the hospitality and meetings industry.   While the media have decreased its coverage of demonstrations, it would appear this social phenomenon is not going away.

On, Dave Kovaleski describes how Occupy protester targeted two Chicago meetings of the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Futures Industry Association and how the American Bankers Association was preparing for demonstrations at their annual convention in San Antonio, TX.

So what could this mean to membership driven organizations?
  • With this movement targeting corporate greed, any association with well-known corporate members could become a target, as evidenced above.  This could curtail attendance as some members stay away for fear of exposure.  Sponsorship revenues may be negatively affected as some associations’ stakeholders become more sensitive to the financial relationships between their professional association and for-profit entities, or sponsors themselves grow afraid of bad press.
  • But the Occupy Wall Street movement may not be bad for all associations.  Earlier in October delegates from Massachusetts Nurses’ Association convention actually joined an Occupy demonstration in Boston and reportedly garnered great media coverage.
  • Some associations may be called upon to take a greater advocacy role to protect the interests of individuals and the public at large.  Members may be looking more closely at their professional association’s involvement in corporate social responsibility programs.
  • With the general public's increased mistrust of larger organizations, associations may face increased scrutiny of their financial affairs.  Proposed increases in membership dues may be more closely scrutinized.  The allure of alternative revenue streams from affinity programs may need to be weighed against the negative views held by some members about these relationships.
  • Finally this movement may force groups to use social media whereas they previously would not have been inclined to do so.  This may not only be as a means to communicate with their audiences; using Twitter and other social media to listen to relevant conversations may also help associations maintain their relevance.
So, Association Executives, what do YOU think this #OWS movement will mean to you and your organization?