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#Association Concerns – And What To Do About Them…

In the recently released 2014 Pulse Report, our research found that association executives are working hard to bring their association into the age of engagement.  With 178 responses, we discovered that some of their top concerns are:

  • Misalignment of staff around strategic initiatives;
  • Overuse of marketing lists;
  • Risk-averse, tunnelled organizational cultures;
  • Relevance of educational offerings;
  • Declining revenues or membership numbers.

Amongst others…

What can you, as an association executive consider (or, implement) to help combat these issues? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Regarding the misalignment of staff; is this a misalignment or a strategic plan issue?  When creating your plan, or deciding on the initiatives that you want to implement; were your front-line team members (those who are in contact with your members and other stakeholders regularly) involved in the decision-making process?  It may be time to re-group with your team to ensure that they fully understand the program, or the plan, and get them on board to achieving your organizational goals.  That way, they can properly communicate them to your stakeholders daily.

  2. Your marketing lists – are they overused?  Or over-emailed?  As an executive, you may need to determine the difference… with the Anti-Spam Legislation in full force here in Canada, it has made your job to communicate with prospect members, sponsors, exhibitors and other stakeholders more difficult; if they did not opt-in, you cannot email them.  Have a look at other marketing methods – phone, social media, and yes – direct mail (it will likely make a bit of a comeback)…

    If it is truly overused list – the answer is to research new potential companies and prospects to market to.

  3. If you believe you are working with a risk-averse team, you are certainly not alone.  But there are organizations who have moved beyond that…in a recent article in Association™ magazine (produced by CSAE), Beckie MacDonald, with the Ontario Library Association states “The best thing you can do is try it and fail, because you’re only going to learn how to do it better”.

  4. If you have concerns on the relevance of your educational offerings – take a look at your suite of programs.  You already know that something isn’t right – look at program purchase history and determine popularity.  Don’t forget to ask your members – it may not be the program at all – it could be timing, location, etc.  Ask them as members what programs they would like to see offered to enhance their professional lives; and determine if it is feasible to offer it to them.

  5. And of course, to complete many of the areas above, it takes time, members and money, which was also a concern listed.  To retain members, you have to be engaging ongoing, and delivering value (in a way that means something to the individual; not the organization).  Retention efforts could be an issue – and I suggest having a second look at your process to see if there is anything else you could be doing at renewal time.

    If these boxes are checked, and you still are not clear on why your membership is declining – then it is likely time to find out.  A comprehensive lapsed member survey to uncover reasons for departure, their experience as a member, etc. will not only give you a sense of why they left, but it may bring them back.  It will also provide you with some fantastic insights on what could be changed to help eliminate this issue in the future.

The 2014 Pulse Report is now available online for download.