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Professional Associations Trends in 2012 and beyond

Revenue GenerationIn September, I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) National Conference & Tradeshow in Saskatoon.  During the educational sessions, I attended “Ready or Not! Association Trends for 2012 and Beyond”, presented by the Association Resource Centre Inc.

After conducting their own research, they focused on 5 trends affecting Associations – Volunteerism, Revenue Generation, Board Structure, Social Media and Succession Planning.

Leaving the session, I walked away with tons of information.  Two areas stood out for me:

Revenue Generation
As many professional associations are already aware, members are feeling squeezed, non-members are not spending as much, governments are cutting back on their funding, and membership models are changing.  So, how do you generate more revenue for your association?
  • If you can offer a professional certification, start working on a program.  Members and non-members alike will be interested in furthering their career by obtaining a designation.  This may mean additional monetary compensation by employers, or finding a better job. 
  • Produce and promote research papers in your industry.  People will pay for expert opinions – give them a taste of the research paper by making some of the key points available for a free download, and advise them that the rest is available for purchase.  Geoff Thacker & Carol-Anne Moutinho (the presenters) spoke of one association currently seeing some success when they produce research papers and offer it to members for one price, and non-members for another price (the price increase being the cost of a membership with the organization).  Some savvy downloader’s will realize this and may become members instead for additional value-added services…
  • Have speakers pay you – one of the most amazing things I walked away with was not from the presenter, it was from an attendee.  He indicated that they do their research on who would be most interested in speaking to a room full of professionals in a particular field – and charges a per minute fee to do it!  When looking for presentations to your members in a niche market, this can provide a lot of revenue!
Social Media
Thacker & Moutinho reported that using social media was going to be associations’ biggest challenge – as all are encouraged to use it, but few have been able to measure that ROI.

Associations are finding that they do not have the staff, expertise, and time to focus on social media the way they think they should.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn are the top sites that associations should be focusing on. These sites should be where associations communicate, network, fundraise and market both to their members and to the general public.

Thacker & Moutinho encouraged delegates to find the time, the staff, etc in order to create the knowledge base within your team to be active on social media sites.  Should the association not have that person currently on-staff, outsourcing may be the next step in the process.

In the end, marketing to existing members & new members will keep your association from being left in the dust… and it will increase your associations’ presence as industry experts and thought leaders.  Do what you can to keep them thinking of you!