The Challenges Facing Associations Today
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Society of Association Executives National Conference and Tradeshow in Quebec City. At INM, we’ve worked with associations now for a number of years, providing a variety of services, including online and CD-based membership directories, Interactive publishing solutions, abstract management solutions for large meetings, and recently, design and development for website revamps. However, we haven’t really spent time with this audience disucssing broadly the challenges that this market is facing. Associations are unique organizations, funded primarily through membership revenue and sponsorships. In this recession economy, both of these sources are frequently cut from budgets.
Associations are reaching out and looking for new ways to generate non-dues revenue while simultaneously reaching out to enhance the value of membership and increase retention. Associations are trying new engagement techniques and are building up social media channels to increase their presence. They’re turning to mobile as a way to reach members when and how they want to engage, and they’re creating and distributing interactive content to deepen the engagement level.
Another dynamic that’s creating real challenge for associations, is the generational divide happening between the senior executives from the Baby Boomer generation and the younger Generation Y professionals that are quickly joining the ranks. Delivering content and communications that meet the needs of both groups is challenging. The younger generation is web savvy and is constantly connected. They already have networking channels in place, and can find and share info easily. They often don’t value the services and channels provided by the associations. The Baby Boomers are more reluctant to change and are mostly happy with status quo. Building websites, and other communications channels that address the needs of both groups is a difficult task in itself but combining this feat with tighter budgets and fewer resources and it is very challenging.
The conference provided some excellent opportunities to chat with association leaders and really understand their perspective so we are better equipped to help guide them through these challenges. It was also the perfect venue for the launch of our new Web Design service for associations.