by Marie Smith
As an enterprise association, trade or labor union leader, how can you plan for 2022 and beyond when you don’t know what’s in store?
Here is some association trends data that can help point the way for your organization to better serve your members in uncertain times.
Planning for the future isn’t always easy. After the twists and turns from the past two years, who knows what’s to come? How can you prepare for this year and beyond?
While no one knows what tomorrow will bring, association trends data can help point the way. The 2021 Association Trends Study by Community Brands includes multiple findings that give professional membership organizations like yours insights into how to better serve their members – even in uncertain times.
Here are five ideas from the association trends study to help prepare your organization for the future:
1. Provide greater member value.
Findings from the study suggest that people who work at professional membership organizations (Pros) are working harder than they were a year ago. Pros list time and member engagement as the biggest challenges to achieving organizational goals.
An effective way to address these challenges is for your staff to focus more of their efforts on those areas that are most important to today’s members, including individual benefits such as training and certifications, and industry-focused benefits such as industry news and information, advocacy, and raising awareness.
TIP: Investing in technology is a highly effective way to help reduce your organization’s workload while doing more for your members and your industry. For example, Aptify membership management software by Community Brands helps large organizations like yours optimize operations, streamline processes, and gain efficiencies.
The study also reveals an effective way keep members around long-term: Show them that you understand their needs. For instance, the top three reasons lapsed members in the study give for failing to renew are that:
- The membership became too costly.
- They have other priorities now.
- The organization was providing little value.
With these data points in mind, there are ways to win members back and avoid more of them walking away in the future.
- Cost – Since some members leave due to financial reasons, offer budget-friendly installment payment options. Or, create a lower-cost membership tier for those who are in-between jobs.
- Value – The study shows that lapsed members have some different priorities than those of current members. They place significantly higher value on job opportunities and help with career advancement. Consider this chart from the study that shows the ranking of the importance of benefits of lapsed members compared with current members.
To address this, make sure you’re investing in your online career center. For instance, be sure to offer an online job board. And go a step further by providing them with an online career center that offers not only job postings, but also valuable career advancement opportunities and resources.
Use Personalization – Lapsed members in the study are much less likely than current members to say they feel their organization understands their needs. Meanwhile, the study shows that Pros with poor member retention in the past year tend to report worse member data.
Keep member data updated and de-duplicated, and manage it in one place. This will make it easier for you to communicate with your members in a more personalized way and send them more targeted content that shows you understand them and their needs.
TIP: A modern association management software (AMS) system like Aptify by Community Brands that’s built for large organizations allows you to collect and manage member data in one location. It helps you to keep member data updated and secure. It also gives you a more complete view of your member data through easy-to-use reports and dashboards.
2. Uplevel your events and learning opportunities.
The study indicates that events and professional development (PD) courses are top revenue generators for professional membership organizations. They’re also great channels for delivering top benefits for members (see the chart of most important benefits in item 1 above), including industry news and information, training, certifications, and networking.
Consider these ideas for stepping up your events and learning opportunities for today’s members:
- Go beyond in-person only events. Even with the challenges of the past two years, more than 50 percent 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 are still valuable for member engagement, nearly three quarters of members expect their organization to offer all or most events in a hybrid (in-person and online) format. Your members will appreciate being able to select an event option that fits their schedule, budget, health concerns, and expectations. So, plan to offer a great hybrid event for your members by using tools and strategies that help you engage both in-person and virtual attendees.
- Offer members more ways to learn. The study’s findings suggest that training and certification are two of the most important benefits to members. The study also indicates that members want more variety in learning modalities, including online courses via live webinar, webcasts of a live event, course recommendations, and short videos.Review your professional education and certification programs, and consider how you can offer more learning options to address members’ schedules, educational and certification needs, and learning preferences.
TIP: You can integrate Aptify with Crowd Wisdom LMS by Community Brands to help you deliver a great learning experience for your members.
3. Review your governance model.
In the study, members say the importance of their organization has grown. Loyalty metrics remain strong. And younger and more diverse members are increasing their engagement.
To keep up this momentum, make sure your governance model supports your organization’s future. For example, ensure your board:
- Is reflective of your membership
- Has creativity and foresight
- Operates within a strategy-focused model
4. Make better use of your member data.
Pros in the study indicate that the state of their member data could use improvement. Just over a third say their member data is excellent or very good. And, as mentioned before, Pros with poor member retention in the past year tend to report worse member data.
Top member data challenges that Pros say they face 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
You can address these challenges by:
- Bringing data together from your multiple systems into your AMS.
- Asking members for updated information. You can even allow them to update their own data through a member portal.
- Regularly auditing your data to keep it clean and organized.
- Using dashboards and reporting tools in your membership management software to create and share key reports with your board and department leaders across your organization.
TIP: In Aptify, even non-technical staff can run reports, create dashboards, and manage member data.
5. Be technologically prepared.
In addition to having data challenges, most Pros in the study say they’re working harder. And only half say they feel technologically prepared for the future.
Being more tech-ready can help you address these challenges. For example:
- An AMS system like Aptify that’s built for large organizations like yours can help you manage member data more efficiently, streamline work, and provide a modern digital member experience.
- The right learning management system (LMS) can make it easier to provide the range of learning options your members want.
- 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 a great attendee experience.