How to prepare your association for 2022 and beyond

As an association leader, preparing for an uncertain future can seem like a big challenge. 

These ideas from a recent association trends study can help you prepare your organization for whatever comes next. As an association leader, you might look at 2022 stretched out before you and wonder how to prepare for what’s to come. After all, the past two years have given us all twists and turns.  

How do you plan for an unpredictable future? 

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have some association trends data that can help. The 2021 Association Trends Study by Community Brands offers multiple findings that point the way for associations to better serve their members in uncertain times. 

Here are five ideas from the association trends study to help you prepare your association for 2022 and beyond:

1. Provide greater value to your members.Chart

First of all, results from the study suggest that your staff of association professionals (Pros) are working harder than they were a year ago, with time and member engagement being the biggest challenges to achieving organizational priorities. So, how do you provide greater value with less time?

One way to address these challenges is to focus on the return on member value from your programs. This means putting more of your staff’s effort on those areas that will drive the greatest impact with today’s members like: individual benefits such as training and certifications, and industry-focused benefits such as industry news and information, advocacy, and raising awareness. 

The study also indicates that to keep members around long-term, it’s important to show members that you understand their needs. The top three reasons members in the study give for allowing their membership to lapse are that: 

  • The membership became too costly. 
  • They have other priorities now. 
  • The organization was providing little value

While members might fail to renew for a combination of reasons, there are ways to win them back and avoid losing more of them in the future by focusing on what’s important to them.  For example:  

  • Cost – To avoid members leaving due to financial reasons, offer budget-friendly installment payment options or create a membership tier for those who are in-between jobs.
  • Value – The study shows that lapsed members’ priorities are slightly different from those of current members. They place significantly higher value on job opportunities and help with career advancement. Here’s a ranking from the study of the importance of benefits for lapsed members compared with current members. 

In this case, you can give your members more of the value they seek by making sure you’re investing in your online career center. For instance, if you think about your organization’s online career center as simply a place for job postings, you’re missing an opportunity to engage more with members by offering them valuable career advancement opportunities and resources.

  • Personalization – The study shows that organizations with poor member retention in the past year tend to report worse member data. Meanwhile, lapsed members in the study are much less likely than current members to say they feel their organization understands their needs.  

Get a handle on your member data by keeping it updated, de-duplicating, and managing it in one place. This will help you use it to communicate with your members in a more personalized way and send them more targeted content that delivers greater value and shows you understand them and their needs.  

TIP: A modern association management software (AMS) system like Nimble AMS by Community Brands allows you to collect and manage member data in one central location. Moving to a modern AMS system will allow you to easily keep member data updated and secure as well as give you a complete view of your member data through reports and dashboards.

2. Step up your events and learning opportunities.

The study suggests that events and professional development (PD) courses are top revenue generators for associations. They’re also ideal channels to deliver what the study shows are top benefits for members, including industry news and information, training, certifications, and networking

Two ideas for strengthening your events and learning opportunities:

  • Look beyond in-person only events. Even during a time of mass disruption, more than half of members say they attended the same amount or more of their organization’s events in the past year than in years before. And while in-person events still have a valuable place in member engagement, nearly three quarters of members now expect their organization to offer all or most events in a hybrid format. Prepare to offer a great hybrid event experience for your members by putting the right tools and strategies in place to engage both in-person and virtual attendees. Your members will appreciate the ability to choose the option that best fits with their schedule, budget, health concerns, and expectations. 
  • Offer members more ways to learn. The study shows that training and certification continue to be two of the most important benefits to members. The study also indicates that members are looking for a greater variety of learning modalities, including online courses via live webinar, webcasts of a live event, course recommendations, and short videos. Revisit your professional education and certification programs and find new ways to offer a variety of learning options to address members’ schedules, educational and certification needs, and learning preferences. 

TIP: You can integrate Nimble AMS with Crowd Wisdom LMS by Community Brands to help you deliver an elevated learning experience for your members. 

3. Review your governance model.

Members in the study say the importance of their organization has grown. Loyalty metrics also remain strong, and younger and more diverse members are increasing their engagement. 

To capitalize on this momentum, make sure your governance model supports the future of your organization. Ensure your board:  

  • Is reflective of your membership 
  • Has foresight and creativity 
  • Operates within a model that focuses on strategy

4. Sharpen your use of data.

Survey responses from Pros suggest that the state of their member data has room to improve. Just over a third of Pros say their member data is excellent or very good. And, as mentioned previously, Pros with poor member retention in the past year tend to report worse member data. 

The top challenges that Pros say they face with member data include

  • Integrating data from various sources 
  • Collecting data 
  • Using data analytics to deliver member value 
  • Processing/using existing data 
  • Finding the right tools to analyze data 

To tackle these challenges: 

  • Use integrations to bring data together from your multiple systems into your association management software.
  • Ask members for their most recent information, and even allow them to update their own data through a member portal.
  • Regularly audit your data to keep it clean and organized.
  • Use dashboards and reporting tools in your AMS to set up and share key reports with your association’s various department leaders and your board members. 

TIP: A modern AMS system like Nimble AMS helps you collect and manage member data in one place so you can easily keep member data clean, updated, and secure. You can also allow members to update their own information through an online member portal.

5. Be technologically prepared.

In addition to having lackluster data, most Pros in the study say they’re working harder than they used to, and half of Pros feel technologically unprepared for the future.  

Add to that the member interest in hybrid event options and more variety in learning opportunities, and it’s clearly time to be more tech-ready. For example

  • An AMS system with modern tools, including process automation, artificial intelligence/predictive analytics, and data analytics, can help you manage member data efficiently, streamline work, and provide a modern digital member experience. 
  • A strong event software platform and professional audio/video services, like those from Pathable by Community Brands, can help ease the challenges of managing hybrid events while helping to deliver an outstanding attendee experience. 
  • The right learning management system (LMS) can help you provide the variety of learning options your members expect.   

For more insights to help plan for 2022, you should reference the 2021 Association Trends Study by Community Brands. Cheers to 2022 being your best year to date. Be sure to subscribe to the Nimble AMS blog below to receive our insights in your inbox.

Learn more about Nimble AMS.

The Association Leader’s Guide to Embracing Innovation and Modern Technology

This guide introduces a new way of thinking for association leaders like you. It provides helpful ideas about how to foster a culture of innovation that anticipates today’s member expectations and propels your organization into the future.

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