Sector and AuSAE News

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  • 29 Feb 2024 4:26 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) announces changes to its Board of Directors following its recent meeting. As an association dedicated to fostering leadership and excellence within the association management profession, AuSAE takes pride in acknowledging the contributions of its board members and welcoming new leaders to guide its strategic direction. 

    Firstly, AuSAE bids farewell to directors, Holly Morchat Stanko and Elise Adams, who have served with distinction on the board.

    Holly Morchat Stanko, the General Manager of the Association of Consultants & Engineers New Zealand, has been a long-serving member of the board for the past six years. Holly's dedication, expertise, and commitment have significantly contributed to AuSAE’s success and growth. As Holly relocates to the United States with her family, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for her service and wish her the very best in her future endeavours.

    Elise Adams, Chief Executive Officer of the NZ School Trustees Association, has also been a valuable member of the board for the past two and half years. Elise's insightful contributions, passion for excellence, and tireless efforts have left an indelible mark on AuSAE.

    In light of changes, AuSAE is pleased to announce the election of Craig Young as the new Vice President of the Board. Craig Young CAE, the Chief Executive of the Technology Users Association New Zealand (TUANZ), brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective, which will undoubtedly enhance AuSAE's initiatives and objectives.

    Craig Young CAE joins the distinguished leadership team of AuSAE, which includes John Winter CAE, AuSAE President and Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA), Paul Nicolaou, Executive Director of Business Sydney, Alan McDonald, Head of Advocacy, Strategy and Finance for the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA), Lindsay McGrath CAE, Chief Executive Officer of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Australia and New Zealand (SPASA), and Nick Pilavidis CAE, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of Credit Management (AICM). Together, they will continue to steer AuSAE towards achieving its mission of empowering association executives and driving excellence in the sector.

    AuSAE President John Winter CAE expressed appreciation for Holly and Elise’s contributions, stating, "We are grateful for their dedicated service and invaluable contributions to the AuSAE Board of Directors. We extend our appreciation and best wishes to them. Additionally, we warmly welcome Craig Young to his new role as Vice President." “The retirement of both Elise and Holly from the Board also unfortunately negatively impacts our gender balance on the Board. The AuSAE Board is very mindful of this imbalance and for us to reflect our membership properly. As a result, we are proactively in discussions with acknowledged female leaders from amongst our membership with a view to making direct appointments to the Board that will both address this imbalance and also lift the capacity of our Board more generally. 

    “We are also quickly approaching our annual board elections and we urge female associations leaders to consider making themselves a candidate at those elections. These roles will be key to driving strategic initiatives the board has identified during its recent strategic planning session." added Winter

    For more information about AuSAE and its Board of Directors, please visit

    About AuSAE

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) is the leading association for association and not-for-profit professionals in Australia and New Zealand. AuSAE provides education, leadership development, advocacy, and networking opportunities to empower association executives and drive excellence in the association sector.

  • 29 Feb 2024 4:17 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    Associations play a critical role in representing and serving their members. However, as member demographics, expectations, and behaviours evolve, associations must continuously adapt to remain relevant. Understanding key benchmarks and trends is essential for associations to provide maximum value in our rapidly changing landscape. 

    The recent Association Benchmarks webinar, presented by Survey Matters offered invaluable insights into the top membership benchmarks trends that association executives should watch and take advantage of in 2024. 

    In the introductory remarks, Brenda Mainland, Co-Founder and Director at Survey Matters, emphasises the importance for associations to adapt to changing member expectations and behaviours. As younger generations comprise a growing share of members, associations must provide more personalised and on-demand experiences. 

    Here are five key benchmarks to consider: 

    1. Virtual and Hybrid Engagement 

    The pandemic accelerated the shift towards virtual and hybrid engagement models. Members now expect options to participate and network remotely. Successful associations will adopt tech tools to seamlessly integrate in-person and virtual experiences. For example, a survey revealed that 87% of association members want hybrid event options. 

    2. Data-Driven Insights 

    Leveraging the wealth of member data available, associations should tap into analytics to extract actionable insights. Monitoring metrics like member sentiment, engagement, and satisfaction enables to delivery of more tailored offerings. One association saw a 10% increase in renewal rates after implementing a data analytics platform. 

    3. Career-Focused Learning 

    Members increasingly seek professional development and skills training from associations. Providing career-focused education and networking caters to this demand while driving loyalty. Over two-thirds of millennial members identify learning opportunities as a top benefit. 

    4. Community Building 

    Members highly value networking and connecting with peers in their industry or profession. Associations should facilitate community building through forums, meetups, and social platforms. One association achieved a 20% increase in engagement by launching a members-only online community. 

    5. Personalised Experiences 

    Customisation is key. Associations should leverage data to provide targeted recommendations and tailored journeys based on each member's needs and interests. Personalised content generates about 14% higher member satisfaction on average. 

    In summary, associations must continuously evolve as member behaviours and expectations change. By embracing virtual engagement, data insights, career development, community building, and personalisation, associations can remain indispensable to their members in our digital-first world. 

    The Association Benchmarks webinar provides a wealth of practical advice and examples for implementing these trends. Make sure to watch the full webinar to equip your association for continued success in 2024 and beyond. 

    To watch the On-Demand Webinar on Association Benchmarks, visit, and sign in using your AuSAE membership credentials.

    If you need further details or assistance, reach out to AuSAE at

  • 13 Feb 2024 7:56 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The 28th Asian Seed Congress exceeded expectations, attracting more than 1,100 people from 45 countries to Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.

    It was the first time New Zealand had held the Asia and Pacific Seed Association’s (APSA) premier meeting, co-hosting with the New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association (NZGSTA) and with the support of New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries, ChristchurchNZ and Tourism New Zealand Business Events.

    Delivering value
    Visitors experienced New Zealand’s Māori culture with a traditional welcome, then it was down to business. Organisers believe close to 10,000 meetings were held during the event.

    APSA President Dr Manish Patel says: “We estimate that as much as US$150m to $200m of new business is generated from Congress directly, and upwards of $1bn indirectly.

    “Important collaborations were formed related to agricultural R&D and innovation.”

    Experiences around the conference

    Sold-out Post-Congress tours included visits to Plant & Food’s research centre and a new seed coating technology plant.

    Some 50 delegates also took part in a charity fun run, donating NZD$4,050 to Ronald McDonald House Canterbury Charities.

    The event also hosted its first ever Ladies Luncheon aimed at cultivating equity in the seed industry.

    Watch the 28Th Asian Seed Congress video here:

    Would you like to take your association event to New Zealand or partner with your New Zealand counterpart to hold a regional conference in New Zealand?

    Contact Tourism New Zealand’s Australia-based Business Development Manager, Helen Bambry, about the business-specific funding and support available:

    About Tourism New Zealand
    More than an extraordinary destination, New Zealand is where connections are made, new experiences are shared, and relationships are forged.

    Tourism New Zealand’s dedicated Business Events team is passionate about making every event a success. They offer personalised advice and flexible business-specific funding to help you host a successful conference in New Zealand. This includes proposal assistance, GST consultation, site inspection coordination and marketing resources. For more information, visit

  • 02 Feb 2024 11:16 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    AuSAE is thrilled to announce the addition of eight outstanding professionals to our esteemed cohort of Certified Association Executives (CAEs) in Australia and New Zealand.

    Warm Congratulations to Kylie Clarke (MBA), Matt Connor, Danielle Kacmar CAE, Neil Haynes, Lauren Hunt, Eithne Irving CAE, MBA, RN, Grad Dip Neuro, MAICD MACN, Nicolas Pilavidis, FICM CCE, and Shirena Vasan (CAE) for achieving this distinguished global credential. The CAE designation represents the pinnacle of excellence within the association industry, representing unwavering dedication, expertise, and visionary leadership.

    The CAE credential sets a standard of professionalism that is recognised and respected worldwide. It signifies a commitment to advancing the association sector, fostering innovation, and driving positive change within our communities. As Certified Association Executives, these individuals have demonstrated a commitment to excellence, leadership, and continuous learning, reflecting the highest standards of competency, integrity and professionalism, serving as role models and leaders within their organisations and their respective fields.

    Elevating one's career to the status of a Certified Association Executive is a significant milestone that opens doors to unparalleled opportunities for professional growth and advancement. It demonstrates a profound understanding of the complexities of association management and a dedication to continuous learning and development.

    For those aspiring to excel in the association profession, the CAE credential serves as a beacon of achievement and a pathway to success. By pursuing this esteemed designation, individuals not only enhance their own careers but also contribute to the advancement of the association sector as a whole.

    To learn more about the CAE credential and its significance, visit the AuSAE website. Explore the resources available to support your professional development journey and discover how you can distinguish yourself as a leader in the association community.

    Once again, Congratulations to all our new CAEs! Your achievement is a testament to your dedication, expertise, and passion for advancing the association profession. We look forward to celebrating your continued success and contributions to our vibrant community.

  • 08 Dec 2023 5:39 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    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

  • 06 Dec 2023 6:59 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    Nestled in the heart of Australia's capital city, the National Convention Centre Canberra transformed into a hub of collaboration and inspiration throughout the AuSAE ACE 2023 Conference & Exhibition. This annual gathering seamlessly united industry leaders, innovators, and association executives from diverse sectors, providing them with a platform to explore cutting-edge trends, gain insights, share stories, and cultivate connections poised to influence the realms of leadership and innovation.

    Embracing Modern Leadership & Innovation with Jess Wilson:
    Setting the stage for the conference, Jess Wilson took centre stage with a compelling exploration of modern leadership and innovation. Her session ignited collective enthusiasm for embracing forward-thinking strategies in navigating the complexities of contemporary leadership.

    ACE 2023 Experiences: Rain or Shine, Spirits Soared:
    Despite the rain that descended upon Canberra during ACE 2023, the participants' enthusiasm remained undampened. The afternoon was filled with engaging conversations, immersive activities, and unforgettable experiences. From a glassmaking workshop to exploring behind the scenes of the Australian Parliament House, participants also enjoyed activities like golf, cocktail making, Barefoot Bowls, a visit to Clonkilla Winery, and paying homage to the badass women of Canberra.

    Networking Extravaganza and ACE Supper Club:
    Verity Lane set the stage for an evening of networking and camaraderie as attendees connected over shared passions and goals. Following dinner, the ACE Supper Club, sponsored by Higher Logic, added an extra layer of sophistication to the night, creating an atmosphere conducive to building lasting professional relationships.

    Michael McQueen's Keynote: Mindstuck! Mastering the Art of Changing Minds:
    Michael McQueen's keynote address was a highlight of ACE 2023, as he masterfully unravelled the secrets behind changing minds. His insights into the psychology of persuasion and adaptability left the audience with practical takeaways to implement in their professional and personal lives.

    Diverse Sessions Covering Membership, Governance, Strategy, and Leadership:
    The conference offered a diverse range of sessions catering to various aspects of organizational development. From discussions on membership engagement to exploring effective governance models, attendees had the opportunity to delve into strategic planning and leadership principles that could reshape their approach to management.

    An In-Depth Conversation with Shane Fitzsimmons:
    Formerly Commissioner of Resilience NSW and Commissioner NSW Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons led in-depth conversations about leadership and resilience. His experiences and wisdom resonated with the audience, providing valuable insights into overcoming challenges and leading with unwavering determination.

    Closing Keynote with James Begley:
    As ACE 2023 drew to a close, James Begley took the stage with his impactful closing keynote, "Lead with Intent." His words inspired attendees to embrace intentional leadership, emphasising the importance of purpose-driven actions and decision-making in achieving lasting success.

    "The ACE 2023 Conference & Exhibition in Canberra was a resounding success, offering a platform for learning, networking, and inspiration. From thought-provoking keynotes to immersive experiences, attendees left with a renewed sense of purpose and a wealth of knowledge to apply in their associations. As we look back on this extraordinary event, the impact of ACE 2023 continues to resonate, shaping the future of leadership and innovation in the association sector in Australia and New Zealand." - Toni Brearley, AuSAE Chief Executive Officer.


  • 09 Nov 2023 10:10 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) together with the Adelaide Convention Centre are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Emerging Leaders Scholarship program. This program is dedicated to fostering leadership qualities within the association sector, nurturing emerging leaders, and creating a network of dedicated individuals to take their association management careers to new heights, contributing to the future success of the Association sector.

    The 2023 Emerging Leaders program bring together a group of diverse professionals working within associations and not-for-profit organisations to engage with current and relevant themes that will shape the industry's future at the 2023 AuSAE Conference & Exhibition (ACE) in Canberra.

    We are delighted to introduce the six (6) dynamic and highly skilled members of the association community who have been selected for the 2023 Emerging Leaders Scholarship program:

    Meet our 2023 Emerging Leaders:

    • Stephanie Carde – State Liaison Officer, Fundraising Institute Australia
    • Tuva Carli – Communications Coordinator, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia
    • Blake Cugley – Marketing Coordinator, Australian Cabinet & Furniture Association
    • Alex Gorford - Marketing Manager, Cancer Nurses Society of Australia
    • Jenny Nicol - Manager Professional Education, Speech Pathology Australia
    • Mikaela Stewart – Policy Officer, Australasian Railway Association

    AuSAE would like to acknowledge all the nominees for their submissions and dedication to the sector and congratulate the 2023 Emerging Leaders. Toni Brearley, AuSAE’s Chief Executive Officer, says, "We are delighted with the high calibre of applicants for the 2023 Emerging Leaders program; this year’s applications were outstanding. We look forward to connecting and collaborating with our Emerging Leaders and are excited to see our rising stars' future progress."

    Toni further emphasised the diversity and representation among the successful applicants, with professionals from different industry representing the association sector. The collaboration between emerging leaders from across the industry promises to yield innovative solutions and strategies for the association sector's future.

    Martin Radcliffe, General Manager - Adelaide Convention Centre, noted the significance of this partnership, saying, “Adelaide Convention Centre was delighted to once again partner with AuSAE on this important initiative designed to support and empower the next generation of association industry leaders. The successful recipients came from a highly competitive field, and we warmly congratulate each of them, along with all participants in the 2023 Emerging Leader Program.

    By supporting the next generation of association leaders today, we hope to inspire a bright future for the association sector. We invite you to learn more about the 2023 Emerging Leaders Scholarship Program recipients by visiting our website at

    The 2023 Emerging Leaders promise to be a driving force in shaping the future of the association sector, and we can't wait to witness their remarkable journey.

  • 26 Oct 2023 7:43 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    Developing an engaging value proposition: education and support drives membership of associations, with perceptions of high cost and lack of value the main barriers

    The October Associations Matter Poll looked at the main reasons individuals belong to an association and the barriers they face in joining. The survey also explored associations’ perceptions of their value proposition and what they need in order to enhance the value they offer.

    The October Poll found that over a third of associations believe the main reasons members join the association are access to continuing professional development (38%) and support, resources, and advice (38%). A similar proportion (34%) say members join for collective representation of the profession or industry, and to support the advocacy work of the association. Enhancing their professional reputation and credibility, access to up-to-date information about the profession or industry, and the opportunity to attend events and conferences are also seen as important drivers of membership by nearly three in ten associations.

    According to Poll respondents, the most significant barrier to membership is the perceived lack of value in membership, followed by what is seen as the high cost of membership. Over three quarters of associations believe that factors relating to either cost or value are a significant drag on membership growth. Belonging to competing associations and other priorities or professional commitments are believed to inhibit further acquisition by three in ten associations.

    A quarter of associations also indicated that they have difficulty articulating their association’s value proposition, and that this reduces their ability to attract new members. Nearly 30% of respondents indicated that potential members do not see the association's value proposition as relevant to either their career or professional needs (17%) or their interests or demographics (13%).

    Despite this, three in five associations believe they have a strong value proposition. When outlining the factors that contribute to the strength of their value proposition, some respondents emphasised the importance of providing members with tangible benefits and value, such as “exclusive data sources, reduced cost access to resources and free support”. Others mentioned the value of industry training, including education that offers “international accreditation and recognition” and allows members to “demonstrate expertise and professionalism “.

    Others highlighted the intangible benefits of their membership offer. Advocacy is a vital piece of an association’s value proposition and the importance of a strong “leader of advocacy and voice to government” and “collective bargaining” was mentioned by several associations. Trustworthiness and credibility were also emphasised, with respondents suggesting that members value associations with a strong reputation that enables them to “demonstrate trust to their markets”. Facilitating active engagement and involvement are also seen as important, with some respondents offering opportunities for their members to participate in various activities like “member only roundtables and discussions” that help shape industry direction.

    Finally, customisation and relevance emerged as a key focus of associations with a compelling value proposition.  Providing tailored content and personalised experiences that are relevant to the interests and needs of different member segments were highlighted as essential to membership growth by some respondents. Several others emphasised the importance their value proposition being “relevant to the needs of members and demonstrating an understanding of their day-to-day challenges”.

    As a result, respondents believe that associations can enhance their membership value proposition by focusing on improved communication, with 49% of respondents emphasising the need for targeted updates and collaboration opportunities as the top priority. This is followed by a call for better brand recognition (35%), more tailored and industry-specific content and member input (30%), and advancements in digital platforms (23%) for broader reach. Additionally, associations indicate a belief that members want stronger representation in policy development and advocacy (23%) and expanded professional development opportunities (12%).

    To attract new members, the Associations Matter October Poll underscores the importance of providing access to tangible services such as professional development, support, and resources for members, as well as cultivating a credible brand and reputation as an effective industry advocate. However, to address barriers to joining associations must also clearly articulate their unique value proposition and counter perceptions of high costs. Addressing these challenges, along with cultivating a deep understanding of members needs and offering tailored experiences, will be essential for associations to thrive and grow their membership.

    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 October 2023 Poll. You can register to receive future polls here

  • 12 Oct 2023 2:28 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) is thrilled to announce that applications are now open for the 2023 Emerging Leaders Scholarships, an opportunity for aspiring association professionals to advance their careers and contribute to the future of the industry.

    In partnership with the Adelaide Convention Centre, AuSAE is committed to nurturing the next generation of association leaders. The Emerging Leaders Scholarship program provides fantastic education opportunities for association professionals to enhance their leadership skills, expand their knowledge, and engage in collaborative learning alongside peers from diverse backgrounds and industries.

    The program brings together a dynamic group of emerging association executives to explore contemporary topics and challenges shaping the association sector today and, in the years, to come.

    AuSAE's CEO, Toni Brearley, says, "We are proudly investing in a new generation of future association leaders to challenge, explore, and set new benchmarks in innovation and association management.”

    “Our program is designed to encourage education and professional growth among emerging association executives, contributing to a strong and robust association sector for the future."

    Martin Radcliffe, General Manager, Adelaide Convention Centre adds, “Adelaide Convention Centre is proud to continue our partnership with AuSAE on this important initiative. As our past support has demonstrated, we’re committed to advancing professional development within the association sector, and proud to support and empower the next generation of association industry leaders.

    The Association sector is a major contributor to the business events industry. Association conferences and exhibitions provide a critical platform for knowledge transfer and collaboration, helping elevate and imagine the future of their respective industries.”

    The scholarships are open to current employees of non-for-profit organisations and associations with less than three years of association management experience, who reside and work in Australia and have demonstrated attributes of a future leader in the association sector. Further eligibility details can be found in the application process.

    Applications for the 2023 Emerging Leaders Scholarships are now being accepted and will close at 5:00 PM on Friday, 27 October 2023.

    To apply and for more information about the Emerging Leaders Scholarships, please visit our website or contact us at

    This is your chance to be a part of the future of association leadership. Apply now and join us in Canberra for the 2023 ACE Conference and Exhibition, where you will gain valuable insights, build lasting connections, and contribute to the growth and innovation of the association sector.

    About AuSAE:

    The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) is a leading organisation dedicated to empowering professionals in the association sector. Its mission is to foster excellence and innovation in association management by providing education, networking opportunities, and resources to association executives and industry leaders across Australia and New Zealand. AuSAE plays a pivotal role in the association sector by serving as a hub for knowledge sharing, best practices, and collaboration among professionals working in non-profit organisations and associations.

    About Adelaide Convention Centre:

    Adelaide Convention Centre is South Australia’s home of business events and enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s most modern, versatile and technologically advanced meetings and events venues. With a strong dedication to fostering knowledge exchange and collaboration, the Centre has consistently hosted events, conferences and initiatives aimed at empowering association professionals. Through strategic partnerships and a focus on delivering high-quality educational content, Adelaide Convention Centre has become a hub for innovation and skill enhancement in the association industry. Its unwavering commitment to supporting professional development and education reflects its belief in the critical role that well-trained and informed professionals play in shaping the future of associations and their impact on various sectors and communities.

  • 10 Oct 2023 9:35 AM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    Associations have a vital role in shaping public opinion and influencing societal change. However, the choice to take a stance on social issues isn't always straightforward. In light of the current Australian referendum, this has become a concern for many association executives.

    To contribute to this dialogue, the September 2023 Associations Matter Monthly Polll examined how association executives in Australia evaluate and respond to social issues, along with the factors that drive their decisions to speak out.

    Formal Decision-Making Processes
    Surprisingly, more than half of the associations (55%) surveyed do not have a formal process or protocol in place for deciding whether to take a position on social issues. Only 27% have established a formal process, while 6% are in the process of developing one.

    Nevertheless, associations do follow various protocols when tackling this conundrum. These typically involve senior leadership discussions, CEO briefings, and board evaluations and approvals. Some organisations mention involving committees or advisory groups, while others rely on their association's Code of Conduct.

    Regardless of the method, most associations contemplate whether the issue aligns with their core values, objectives, and if they possess the necessary expertise to contribute meaningfully. Often, they also gauge their members' perspectives on the matter.

    Alignment with Organisational Values and Goals
    When deciding which social issues to comment on, more than seven in ten associations (71%) consider the issue's relevance to their mission and values. They assess how it aligns with their strategy and how applicable it is to their business and their members.

    These associations also consider how it may impact their credibility and reputation. If the issue fits within their strategic framework and carries significant implications, associations may take a leadership role. Conversely, if the issue doesn't align with their goals, they may choose to remain silent or let other organisations lead the way. By aligning their positions with their values and strategic goals, associations ensure their advocacy efforts remain consistent and purpose driven.

    Consideration of Expertise and Credibility
    Approximately 28% of associations base their decision on an assessment of their expertise and credibility before taking a position. They evaluate whether they possess the necessary knowledge about the issue and whether their stance would carry weight.

    Associations may also scrutinise their capacity to genuinely influence the issue and drive positive change. Some mention that they only comment on issues where their members have expertise, or so they can be considered credible thought leaders.

    If associations have the needed expertise and credibility, they craft a plan and execute it accordingly. However, if they lack the expertise or if the issue doesn't pertain to their field, they refrain from taking a position. This approach ensures associations focus their efforts where they can have the most significant impact.

    A recent example of this approach is the joint statement in support of the proposed Voice to Parliament referendum, signed by over 50 Victorian and national health organizations, including the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP), and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

    Consultation with Members
    It's pleasing to note that many associations recognise the importance of engaging their members in the decision-making process. Overall, 16% of associations report that member feedback often shapes their stance on social issues, with 35% stating that member input is one of several factors considered, and an additional 28% reporting that member feedback is considered, though not always essential to the decision-making process. Only 9% of responding associations say decisions are typically made without significant member input.

    When deciding whether to take a position on a social issue, many associations conduct membership polls or surveys to gather opinions and perspectives. The executive board then drafts a position statement based on the survey results, which is circulated to the board of directors for further input and amendments. Once a majority approves, the statement is shared with the members. This process ensures associations make informed decisions that resonate with the interests and values of their members.

    A Policy of Non-Engagement
    At the other end of the spectrum, some associations maintain a clear non-engagement policy when it comes to commenting on social issues. Several explicitly indicated they "do not comment on social issues." Their reasons vary, with some citing it's not within their remit, others pointing to their constitution prohibiting commentary on political matters, and some noting a lack of authorisation from their Board of Directors. Additionally, some associations avoid involvement because they believe that taking a position that supports some members may lead to antagonising others.

    The decision to take a stance on social issues remains a multifaceted challenge for associations. To navigate this complexity, many consider the alignment of the issue with their organisational values and strategic goals, along with their expertise and credibility to make a meaningful impact. Other associations engage with their members to ensure their positions align with the broader community's values and interests.

    In this dynamic landscape, associations must balance their responsibilities as advocates with their commitment to representing their members' diverse perspectives. By doing so, they can continue to play a pivotal role in shaping Australia's social discourse and contributing to meaningful societal change.

    The Association Matters Monthly Poll is supported by AuSAE and conducted by Survey Matters.  The September Poll received responses from association executives across various sectors. 

    Rebecca Sullivan is the Co-Founder and Research Director at Survey Matters, the only research agency in Australia exclusively focused on providing services to associations, membership and for purpose organisations.  Survey Matters provide associations and for purpose organisations with evidence-based insights that deliver change that matters.

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The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

Australian Office:
Address: Unit 6, 26 Navigator Place, Hendra QLD 4011 Australia
Free Call: +61 1300 764 576
Phone: +61 7 3268 7955

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Address: 159 Otonga Rd, Rotorua 3015 New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 249 8677

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