The new normal is pushing associations to adapt and improve. Focusing on outcomes-based efficiencies, embracing transparency and value, and maximizing resources will help your organization succeed.
The past year has been uniquely disruptive for many associations, forcing them to pivot their operations in real time. While the transition to remote work and digital engagement is the most obvious change, the sector has experienced upheaval on many fronts.
According to one survey, nearly 60 percent of association leaders reported having to cancel or postpone events, along with reduced revenue and diminished user engagement. Meanwhile, associations play a pivotal role in helping organizations and employees navigate a post-pandemic landscape, providing essential connection, insight, and guidance at a critical time.
Even as the impact of the recent pandemic eventually recedes, it is evident that many of the challenges associations experienced are unlikely to abate soon. This new normal requires associations to update their capacity and enhance their approach to efficiency, transparency, member contributions, and personnel management. In other words, the pandemic is pushing associations to adapt and improve. For associations looking to thrive in a post-pandemic environment, here are three ways to begin that process today.
Focus on Outcomes-Based Efficiencies
Professional associations have differentiated their revenue streams in the past several years. In the 1950s, membership dues comprised nearly 96 percent of total revenue. Today, that number is closer to 45 percent as associations have built better business models based on seminars, training, studies, and other resources. Unfortunately, these efforts were no match for an unprecedented global pandemic.
While the implications of these assessments will look different for every association, realigning personnel resources with organizational goals and objectives is imperative.
With conferences and seminars cancelled and companies preserving professional development resources, many associations are making difficult decisions about their budgets. To remain competitive, associations should focus on what matters most, reviewing the mission and developing new efficiencies based on these priorities.
To be sure, calls for new efficiencies often mean reducing staff, services, or both. While associations will need to do more with less, better time and expense management practices can help curtail costs while maximizing resources for what matters most by focusing on:
- Spending. Everything from organizational drift to spending on services not provided can negatively impact associations’ financial outlook. Analyzing spending allows leaders to align financial resources and operational objectives.
- Personnel allocation. Time tracking and personnel allocation can produce critical insights into human capital allocation, ensuring that they are devoted to the most critical tasks.
- Resource management. Associations exist for a particular purpose. Time and expense management help leaders align resources and purpose.
In other words, efficiency doesn’t have to diminish organizational capacity. Instead, it can be an opportunity to realign resources and outcomes, allowing associations to best perform during the pandemic and after it passes.
Embrace Transparency and Demonstrate Value
When companies and professionals have limited resources allocated for association fees, they need to know that they are spending their money wisely. Professional associations can keep people invested by renewing their emphasis on transparency to demonstrate value at every level.
In the nonprofit space, which serves as a valuable litmus test for professional associations, 70 percent of contributors demand insights into an organization’s overhead costs before committing financial resources. In this way, professional associations can cater to these demands by updating their governance and oversight efforts through enhanced time and expense practices. In return, associations can clearly convey financial resource allocation, fiscal year overhead projections, staff and volunteer pay and equity, and proficiency and professionalism in financial literacy and stewardship.
Fiscal and operational transparency demonstrate value, positioning associations to retain members in an uncertain season.
Maximize Personnel Resources
In many ways, this is a reflective moment. It’s an opportunity for associations to review their products, processes, and personnel, while optimizing for a future that undoubtedly looks different than the past.
While the implications of these assessments will look different for every association, realigning personnel resources with organizational goals and objectives is imperative. It’s also impossible to achieve without the right insights. That’s why leaders will evaluate expense records, time and resource allocations, and other metrics to make data-driven decisions about the future. In doing so, associations can make sure that they are best meeting their goals and objectives.
As industries change and workers adjust to new norms, professional associations will play a crucial role in helping both navigate this disruptive and challenging time. Of course, they need to take care of their own affairs too, adapting and improving to meet the moment. By measuring their outcomes, demonstrating value, and maximizing personnel resources, associations can best support their constituents, allowing more people to thrive in the months and years ahead.
Alan Tyson is CEO of DATABASICS in Reston, Virginia.