Association executives are facing multiple challenges, largely centred around membership dynamics, financial sustainability, and staffing and resource constraints.
The November Associations Matter Poll sought to understand the current challenges facing associations, and your strategies to deal with these issues.
The results show that association executives are facing multiple challenges, largely centred around member growth and retention, financial pressures, and staffing and resource issues. Half (55%) of respondents indicate membership growth and attracting new members is the biggest concern, with member retention and proving opportunities that are engaging, valuable, and relevant to members the primary issue for 52% of respondents. Verbatim comments reflect this, with mentions “limited growth in membership/decline in membership” and “retention, recruitment of early career and student members” are impacting associations.
Economic pressures, including the costs of business, inflation and the impacts of the cost of living is also a challenge for around six in ten (58%) respondents, while others are concerned about revenue diversification through non-member fees like attendance at events and professional development. Respondents comment that “adjusting to price increases” and “finding new revenue streams, diversifying” are issues for them, with “generating more revenue” top of mind for many.
Human resources issues round out the biggest challenges facing associations, with talent acquisition and retaining skilled employees a concern. “Attracting good resources”, “finding good staff” and “retaining skilled staff on association-level salaries” are frequently mentioned as issues in the verbatim comments.
To counter these issues, specific understanding of member requirements across the membership life-cycle, and creating value based on these, is a key part of associations’ strategic focus.
Associations are aiming to better understand member needs through member segmentation and research to allow them to understand differences across the membership life-cycle to provide specific focus and offer more personalised value, saying “we’re mapping member journey's; surveying members; listening to members; improving our membership model”. Some are also adapting their strategic plans to reach beyond the current membership base, focusing on developing new professional development models and diversifying income streams.
Recognising the importance of financial health, association executives are also revisiting pricing strategies and exploring new income-generating programs. This includes introducing flexible membership fee models and implementing cost-control measures by “reviewing pricing strategies and models, reducing operating expenditure to improve bottom line before new revenue streams are active”. These actions are aimed at improving the financial situation in the face of economic pressures and to ensure long-term sustainability.
Recruiting and training staff with specific skill sets, such as business development and communication expertise to help improve the focus on membership, is the third area associations are targeting to overcome the workforce issues. Respondents comment they are “focusing resource(s) on membership-building” and “contracting expertise for better communications”. Flexible working conditions and other employee benefits are also being offered by some respondents to attract and retain talent, with one mention their organisation offers “100% flexible working location, $50 per month for internet expenses, 4 paid Recharge days annually, access to LinkedIn Learning and Smiling Mind, bonus based on whole of organisation success.”
About the Associations Matter Monthly Poll
The Associations Matter Monthly Poll is an initiative by AuSAE and Survey Matters. To stay up to date with the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities facing associations the Associations Matter Monthly Poll aims to provide insights into the thoughts and opinions of association leaders, giving them a better understanding of how others are responding to current situations and developments. The Associations Matter Monthly Poll is conducted by Survey Matters, experts in association and membership research.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Associations Matter November 2023 Poll. You can register to receive future polls here.