Sector and AuSAE News

  • 09 Sep 2021 6:06 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    In traditional professional associations, rules, protocols, and procedures are determined by a central governing body: the board. But what if associations no longer relied on a central board to run their organizations, and instead, their members made the decisions? With an anticipated rise of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) coming, this could be a potential reality. As such, it’s important for association leaders to pay attention to this type of organization and the implications it may carry for their own. 

    What are DAOs?

    DAOs are fully automated systems whose code allows members of organizations to make decisions for their organization. Central governments and managers are not needed in these organizations as all rules are embedded into code. A DAO’s code is called its smart contract, which houses all rules of the organization and holds the group’s funds. Changes to the rules can only be made if voted on by members. When a rule is passed, the code is updated automatically to reflect the changes. Bitcoin is an example of a DAO. 

    Ethereum describes DAOs as “an internet-native business that’s collectively owned and managed by its members.” 

    Funding for DAOs is also autonomous, as it is based on crowdfunding and tokens for membership. As with other rules within the organization, all funding decisions are made by vote of its members. This eliminates the need to trust a central governing body or individual within the group to make decisions regarding its funds. Additionally, all decisions are recorded and encoded on a blockchain, creating visibility and transparency into all transactions and changes. 

    How might DAOs affect traditional associations?

    In traditional associations, membership policies and opportunities are typically set by the board, who holds the majority of power to make decisions for the group. But with any organization run by humans, there is room for error and disagreement within the group when decisions are made from the top down. 

    Enter DAOs. 

    Because DAOs rely on collective group governance instead of a traditional hierarchical structure, their members have more decision-making power, which could be preferable for many people. 

    Instead of joining a traditional association of like-minded industry colleagues, potential members could elect to organize their own, global interest-based DAO. Because they can regularly establish their own rules, members would have a more vested interest in the DAO and its operations. Members wouldn’t even need to know each other or create a centralized governing body. Further, all aspects of the new association would be fully transparent, including voting processes and funding decisions, so members may feel more secure in investing their time and funds into the organization.

    Aside from voting power, members may feel more in control of their membership in these DAO associations as their fee for entry not only grants them access to a group of like-minded individuals, but also partial ownership of the group. As DAOs are digitally run, membership fees and donations can be collected from anywhere in the world, and members would decide how to spend donations.

    Limitations and disadvantages of DAOs

    As with any new technology, DAOs face a number of limitations that will need to be resolved before widespread use is feasible. These include organizational, legal, and security issues. 

    Organizational issues

    Since DAOs rely on member voting for decisions, operations are slower because decisions take longer to make.

    Additionally, the token-based structure could also become problematic. It is possible for some members to invest more in the DAO and own the majority of tokens, giving them the majority of decision-making power within the organization. In these situations, DAOs would end up running similarly to traditional organizations with centralized governments. 

    Legal issues

    Though DAOs currently exist, they are not recognized legally by any government yet. This creates uncertainty as to how they would be treated by courts if they were to be sued by members or outside individuals. 

    Security issues

    If there are security holes in the initial coding of a DAO’s smart contract, they cannot be corrected until the majority of members vote on it, which could take a significant amount of time. The time it takes to recognize and patch a security gap could provide hackers with ample time to infiltrate the entire group. 

    While DAOs are still in the early stages of large-scale development, the many benefits of DAO membership could drastically impact how consumers and members interact with organizations in the future. It’s not time to completely restructure the traditional association model yet, but it’s important for association leaders to stay on top of trends like DAOs to understand the changing landscape of organizations.

    Emily Herrington

    Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.

    Why associations should pay attention to DAOs – Sidecar ( posted here

  • 08 Sep 2021 4:32 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    From negotiating contracts with suppliers, to buying the best insurance, and simply understanding terms such as force majeure, there is a lot to wrap your head around when planning events in the post-COVID era. The good news is, you don't have to figure it out on your own! In August 2021 MCI Australia and Melbourne Convention Bureau brought together an expert panel to delve into all of these topics, and help you understand not only the conversations you should be having, but also the questions you should be asking to prepare yourself and your organisation for your next business event.

    Key learnings from this webinar include:

    • What to look out for in contracts
    • An overview of what force majeure is, and what it means for you
    • What conversations to have with your venue to ensure you’re hiring the right amount of space whilst considering COVID-safety requirements
    • How event insurance is changing, and what is available in the post-COVID world 

    To watch the recording, head to

  • 08 Sep 2021 12:22 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    It’s more than just hosting an online conference and supporting remote work. Through more than a year of pandemic disruption, associations have found that shifting their whole culture to a digital mindset can bring about the changes necessary to operate flexibly and virtually for the long term.

    The COVID-19 crisis prompted a lot of associations to become digital organizations in a hurry—or at least to think they did.

    No question, associations made lots of changes. Remote-work mandates forced staff to get comfortable with video chats. In-person training sessions became webinars. Annual conferences became virtual events blending recorded material and live presentations. But creating a patchwork of online replacements for in-person activities isn’t the same thing as becoming a digital-first association.

    “You can upgrade all of your software but not actually change how you do things,” says Maddie Grant, digital strategist at the consultancy Propel. “And there are so many associations that are sitting on technology that they literally don’t even know how to use.”

    Being “digital first” isn’t necessarily about those tools anyway. “Digital first is our approach, not because digital is the end goal, but because people are the end goal—the goal is creating value for the customer,” says Simona Rollinson, chief technology officer at ISACA, an association of IT governance professionals. “Sometimes a digital solution may actually take value away. It may be more impersonal.”

    Elizabeth Weaver Engel, MA, CAE, chief strategist at Spark Consulting and coauthor of a recent white paper with Grant on digital transformation in associations, says many organizations erred during the pandemic by failing to think holistically about staff and member needs in the rush to deliver digital conferences.

    “It’s about board support, it’s C-suite support, it may involve some hiring or shifting of responsibilities,” she says. “You need to devote additional resources behind cultural change and audience research. It’s not just, ‘Oh, we have to fund this platform.’”

    So rather than thinking about technological replacements for analog processes, products, or programs, think of being “digital first” as part of a cultural shift. What are your organization’s strategic goals, and how can digital tools satisfy them—or not? How will you ensure the shift is part of the whole organization, not just the new widget in the meetings department? Changing your organization’s mindset toward digital doesn’t necessarily mean losing all your in-person meetings or print publications. It means better equipping your association to handle the next disruption.

    Preparation Pays

    ISACA had been moving toward more online training before the pandemic, using a new hosting platform for its webinars. The goal was to better engage with a growing international membership. The one area where it remained old-school was its certification tests, which were held in person with proctors in the room.

    But because ISACA already had the grounding in online training, the shift to online proctoring during COVID-19 was less of a challenge than it might have been.

    “Our strong relationship with the testing vendor helped us to go to the front of the line,” says Nader Qaimari, chief product officer. “Things shut down at the end of March [2020], and by mid-April we were actually up and running with remote proctoring.”

    Similarly, the Infectious Diseases Society of America was equipped to go digital before the pandemic. In 2018 IDSA conducted a comprehensive digital audit of its activities, both for staff and members. That led to a variety of small changes, from new phone systems to online collaboration tools. Taken together, says David Moldavsky, vice president of digital and technology strategy at IDSA, they created a digital-first mindset that allowed the organization to adapt quickly during the pandemic—a crisis that cut to the heart of IDSA’s mission.

    “The digital channels that we set up over the last few years really helped us in communicating and supporting our members, and we ramped all that up around COVID,” he says. “Together with the CDC, we’ve run clinician calls that bring in at least 1,000 people. We also set up a COVID website and online communities for members, and that wouldn’t be possible if we hadn’t put that infrastructure in place.”

    Starting from Scratch

    But associations that didn’t think seriously about digital until the pandemic don’t have to be left behind. Before COVID-19, the International Ombudsman Association derived more than half its revenue from an introductory three-day, in-person course for new and aspiring ombuds. So the pandemic hit IOA hard: It forced the association to cancel all seven of its planned training courses for 2020.

    But IOA speedily invested in a learning management system and instructional design consultant, which allowed it to launch three virtual courses in late 2020, all of which sold out. The additional cash outlay deepened the deficit already created from lost course revenue, says Lindsay Jennings, vice president of business development at SBI Association Management, the AMC that operates IOA. But the investment gave IOA the footing to increase its offerings in 2021. It added eight virtual courses designed to meet a newfound international audience.

    “It’s definitely let the association gain confidence, knowing that they can produce a virtual program for such an intensive course,” Jennings says.

    Similarly, the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering was caught flat-footed by the pandemic. It held no member webinars, and its meetings were entirely in-person.

    “We were analog. There was nothing [digital],” says Christine Locke, director of marketing, membership, and education. As a stopgap, SAMPE made video of sessions from a previous conference available as members-only content. That became the seed that led to a larger retooling of the association’s online presence—a premium site called SAMPE 365 that’s a repository for video content, collaboration tools, research, and other digital assets.

    That move required some org-chart reshuffling, Locke says, as well as a cultural shift that reoriented the staff to focus on online training. “Our team had to quickly understand the value of digital education and delivering that content,” she says. “Creating content that’s now all-digital has been a culture shock because they never had to do that before. But now we’re doing it nearly every day.”

    Any shift to digital must be managed carefully, says Dan Stevens, president of, Inc., an association digital consultancy.

    “People forget that as soon as you go digital, you have a whole new set of competitors—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,” he says. But he notes that associations have the benefit of unique content, which can be repurposed in a variety of digital forms. Presentations, for example, can be broken up for use in microlearning, podcasts, teaser videos, documentaries, and more.

    “It’s easier to start with a video to make a podcast or turn it into an article than it is to go the other way around,” Stevens says.

    No More Silos

    Making this strategy effective requires buy-in from leadership. “CEOs are used to implementing through departments, but that’s not the way to do digital transformation,” Stevens says. He recommends that associations create “transformation teams” that work across departments to “find the opportunities where friction for member engagement can be taken out and new media models can be implemented.”

    Maddie Grant concurs. “If all your innovative activity is siloed in one department, like the meetings department trying virtual conference software, none of those lessons learned about how people learn virtually gets translated to the other departments,” she says. “They’re all doing their stuff the same way they always did. That’s not digital transformation.”

    That kind of silo-busting was a key element of ISACA’s success with digital, says Qaimari.

    “We had a vertical structure—our direct-to-consumer product team, our enterprise business team, our membership team, all operating as little business units,” he says. “Being more of a functional organization forced us to be more dependent on each other. You had to be more deliberate about communication, but people realized it and did the work.”

    By Mark Athitakis. Article published by Associations Now.

  • 08 Sep 2021 12:18 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    We know that associations have been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways. In our survey about the effects in June 2020, you told us that the event cancellations, transition to online service delivery and increased demand for information and advocacy, had significant impacts on your association and staff. And I think that if we were asked in September last year what we thought the situation would be like in August 2021, I don't think many of us would have envisioned continued wide-spread outbreaks of the virus or the ongoing restrictions and border closures!

    So, to enable us to understand the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we want to re-examine the effects on the sector one year on, and we need your help to tell us what has happened in your association over the past twelve months. We invite you to take the Associations Matter 2021 State of the Sector COVID Impact Survey using your link below:

    Click here to enter the survey

    The survey will take 10 - 15 minutes, and the results will be held in strictest confidence. Results will be reported in aggregate, and no respondents will be identified. All completed responses will be eligible to enter a Prize Draw for Survey Matters to conduct research with your members, at no cost to your association (some conditions apply). Everyone who completes the survey can also choose to receive a free copy of the report with the full findings.

    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0416 103130 or

    Thank you for your participation.

  • 03 Sep 2021 1:49 PM | Sarah Gamble (Administrator)

    Alexandria, VA USA (August 31, 2021) — Advanced Solutions International (ASI), the provider of iMIS the world’s #1 SaaS solution for associations and non-profits — and AuSAE Premium Alliance Partner announced today CIOReview magazine named the company one of the “Most Promising Microsoft Solution Providers” for 2021 and featured ASI on the cover of its August issue.  Read the article here.   

    The cover story — Advanced Solutions International (ASI):  Improving Member Engagement Through Innovation — is part of the magazine’s Microsoft Partner Edition and delves into the company’s 30-year history of helping associations and non-profits increase operational efficiency, member engagement, and financial performance. 

    ASI’s Chairman & CEO Bob Alves and Chief Technology Officer Don Robertson describe how their flagship product — the iMIS Engagement Management System (EMS)™ — harnesses the power of Microsoft Azure and is purpose-built to address the needs of non-profit organisations of all kinds.  iMIS EMS fuses database management and web publishing into a single, cloud-based system with a 360-degree view of all relevant information.

    The article includes input from the Centre for Veterinary Education (CVE) at the University of Sydney, a client that leveraged the real-time reporting capabilities and easy access to data to enhance the information and resources available to its members.  The piece also described how many organisations accelerated their cloud migration to facilitate remote work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, using iMIS EMS to achieve their goals.

    About ASI

    Advanced Solutions International (ASI) is a leading global provider of subscription (SaaS) products and related programs and services — including iMIS EMS, the world’s #1 web-based software solution for associations and non-profits of all kinds.  Since 1991, thousands of ASI clients have grown revenue and reduced expenses by applying industry expertise, best-practice advice, and high-quality solutions. ASI’s unique global network of nearly 100 partners offers clients a full range of services to implement and support the iMIS EMS platform, along with a curated abundance of ASI and third-party add-ons meaningful to the non-profit world.

    ASI is proud to be an AuSAE Premium Alliance Partner.  Learn more at

    Also published at:

  • 03 Sep 2021 6:09 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Sponsored social media content is often poorly done and can result in alienated followers. The National Student Speech Language Hearing Association figured out a way to bring in revenue from sponsored posts while also maintaining content that was authentic to their audience.

    As 2020 progressed, we at the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) acknowledged that our membership numbers for the year would most likely be lower than previous years. That was primarily due to 20 percent of our membership coming from student attendance at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) annual convention, which was canceled due to COVID-19. With that loss of dues revenue, we needed to find new opportunities to increase our nondues revenue.

    Previously, we had dipped our toes into sponsored social media content as part of promo packages for our in-person events at ASHA conventions. So, it was a no-brainer for us to expand upon these types of opportunities. Our primary goal was to create sponsored social media content that not only remained authentic to our audience and highlighted our sponsors but also kept an increase in staff workload to a minimum.

    We used two approaches to incorporate sponsorship opportunities into our social media strategy:

    1. Add sponsorships to content we were already creating.
    2. Create new content opportunities.

    Adding Sponsors to Existing Content

    The expansion of our sponsored social media opportunities started with low-hanging fruit: content we were already posting. But we needed to be careful. We didn’t want to sponsor all of our current content because it would make the NSSLHA brand feel inauthentic. We knew our members would be turned off and might disengage if they felt NSSLHA was overly commercialized. And frankly, people can spot sponsored content a mile away. Instead, we found content that could be sponsored authentically.

    Each week, NSSLHA shares “What’s This Wednesday” posts on Instagram. These Praxis prep-style questions relate to the audiology and speech-language pathology topics our student members are currently studying. To keep this content authentic, we approached potential sponsors who have expertise in these topics and found a natural fit. To acknowledge a sponsor, we added its logo to the image and tagged their Instagram account in the caption.

    We also developed a robust promo package as part of our new virtual event opportunities. Sponsor logos and website links are included in event-specific webpages; email broadcasts; monthly e-newsletters; Zoom registration and confirmation pages; social media posts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; and within presentation materials. While executing virtual events was new for NSSLHA, the promo packages were not. We could easily incorporate them into our workflow, which allowed us to increase the value of our virtual event opportunities.

    Developing New Social Media Content Opportunities

    Instagram is where we see our highest engagement rate, so we created a new set of sponsorship opportunities on this platform with a monthly Instagram sweepstakes. These sweepstakes allowed us and our sponsors to interact with students in a fun and engaging way when they were really struggling during the pandemic. Both NSSLHA and our sponsors saw an increase in followers and engagement. During one sweepstakes, a sponsor offered a $250 Uber Eats gift card to five winners.

    The best part? We only create Instagram sweepstakes when we have a sponsor. There’s no expectation to continue them without sponsorships, which means it’s ad hoc and there’s no overall increase in staff time on a regular basis.

    After a year and a half of incorporating more sponsored content into our social media strategy, NSSLHA was able to offset our 2020 membership dues loss. We’ve developed strong relationships with several sponsors who are ready to continue (and even increase) their financial investment in NSSLHA. Not only were we able to excel during the pandemic, but we’ve also set ourselves up for continued success for years to come.

    5 Ways to Add Sponsored Content Into Your Social Media Strategy

    • Stay authentic. Create content that stays true to your brand voice and organization’s mission and vision. Find sponsors who are a natural fit for stronger collaborations.

    • Maintain control of your content. Don’t rely on premade cookie cutter sponsor ads. You know what your audience wants. Trust your gut and provide engaging content your audience engages with.

    • Stay true to your brand. Don’t be afraid to turn down sponsorship ideas if they don’t fit your goals or brand.

    • Incorporate sponsorships into your pre-existing workflow. Look for opportunities to add sponsored content or promo packages into events or programs you’re already executing.

    • Build trusting relationships. Building trust—with sponsors and your audience—opens opportunities to experiment with new and exciting content.

    Originally posted here

  • 03 Sep 2021 6:06 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Boards interact differently now, but they can still easily get lost in the weeds. Two strategy experts share tips for adjusting volunteers’ perspectives.

    Volunteers may be getting better at handling remote meetings—research suggests board members are showing up more often—but some of the old challenges still apply. Chief among them are board members who have a habit of getting fixated on the operational business of the association. Are we sure that mailer for the upcoming conference doesn’t have too much blue in it? What kind of snacks are we going to have between sessions? And more, or sillier, or worse.

    In their 2021 ASAE Annual Meeting session “Stay at 50,000 Feet! Keeping Your Volunteer Leaders Focused on the Big Picture,” Nikki Golden, CAE, and Nikki Haton Shanks, CAE, strategists at Association Laboratory, will discuss some of the ways volunteer groups go astray, and offer a few possible solutions. But as they pointed out in a conversation before the session, many of the potential problems can be addressed before they reach the board. Here are five of their suggestions:

    Look at your overall volunteer structure. Unnecessary volunteer groups with no clear strategic purpose can create a culture where strategy and tactics can get tangled. “Take a look at what committees you have, and do some level of evaluation of whether or not those are the things you need volunteers for,” says Golden. “Make sure that you’re aligning your committees with your strategic goals, and they’re actually able to provide strategic direction on something.”

    Assume everybody can use a refresher. Shanks and Golden agree that orientation is too often overlooked throughout an association’s network of volunteers; staff may incorrectly assume that just because somebody has served in a volunteer role before that they grasp the distinctions between strategy and operations. Don’t make that mistake. “You really have to set in place what the board will do, what the staff will do, and how they’ll work together,” Shanks says. “I think that’s often not stressed enough. And that can be what leads the board into focusing on tactical issues if it’s not covered as part of that orientation conversation.”

    Keep the agenda strategic. Opening the floor to operational issues can swallow up precious board-meeting time in a hurry. To that end, Shanks says, board members should know from the schedule what they’re focusing on. “You’re setting up your agenda strategically so that you are able to cover the things that will lead to strategic decision making and that you have appropriate data to back up whatever decision making needs to take place. Having a good structure in place does help.” Or as Golden puts it: “Your leaders will look where you point.”

    Give boards enough operational detail to help them feel informed. Boards don’t need to know every detail about technology procurement or membership marketing. But if they feel like they’re out of the loop, they’re more inclined to obsess over those details, says Golden. So staff needs to share enough information to inform them. “A breakdown of trust is often the reason that volunteer leaders get into the tactical weeds,” Golden says. “It’s easier for them to think about tactical issues if they don’t trust that the staff has the operations under control and there’s not that discussion [from staff] of ‘Operationally, here’s what we’re doing.’”

    When in doubt, point to the strategic plan. Knowing how much information to share can be tricky. Golden suggests that the association’s strategic plan should provide the compass for what kinds of operational details need to be shared. “Use that as a guideline,” she says. “Look at what it says about what you’re trying to achieve as an organization. When you start getting further away from your overarching goals and objectives, that means you’re getting more tactical. Or just off-topic.”


    Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. 

    Originally posted here

  • 03 Sep 2021 5:51 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Incentives and services can bring people in the door, but they can threaten the long-term stability of the community you’ve built. Here’s what the head of a for-profit community platform suggests for striking a balance.

    Associations hope to grow their membership and strengthen their bottom line. But that’s not all they exist to do.

    As nonprofits, their missions are intended to serve a broader group of people. Financial success can help serve that mission, making it a key performance indicator worthy of focus. But if the transactional nature of an association’s business endeavors takes precedence over building a strong community, it can threaten both.

    For-profit communities, which face more direct ROI requirements, also have to deal with these issues—so associations can learn by watching how they balance community and commerce. David Spinks, the founder of CMX, an online platform for community managers owned by the virtual event platform Bevy, says that for-profit communities often lean toward transactional interactions just by nature of needing to support themselves.

    “I think that all communities ultimately have to figure out how to become financially sustainable,” he says.

    Spinks, the author of the book The Business of Belonging, adds that communities of all kinds need to be built with a return on investment in mind—even within associations.

    “The key learning that community teams at for-profit organizations can teach us is that there are countless ways to build community,” says Spinks, who also serves as Bevy’s vice president of community. “But if it doesn’t ultimately drive a return for the organization, then it’s going to struggle to justify getting more buy-in and budget.”

    As a result, he says, building community around revenue growth can strengthen a community over time. But just because community and revenue can directly influence one another doesn’t mean you should simply prioritize making money, he adds.

    “It’s not about choosing profit over people,” he says. “It’s about finding the right balance.”


    It’s often said that the difference between subscription services and membership-based services is the approach to incentives and discounts. For example, think of how services such as Netflix and Disney+ handle subscriber acquisition, and the churn challenges they face when those offerings don’t look so hot anymore.

    This issue applies to communities as well. Community organizers might try to push potential members through the door by offering a one-off incentive in exchange for joining the organization. This can set up incentives—rather than the rewards of being part of the community—as the main benefit.

    Spinks suggests that how an association frames incentives is important.

    “It’s a subtle but important difference between saying, ‘If you do this, you’ll get that’ and ‘As a thank you for doing this, we’re giving you that,’” he says. “Use incentives as a form of gratitude rather than the core motivation that moves people to participate.”


    When people come to your community, do they get value from it? Or are they likelier to feel like it’s extracting value from them?

    Without a clear value proposition, it can turn even the most community-minded endeavor into work. For example, volunteer opportunities can be a handy melange of skill development, goodwill, and community-building—or they can simply be uncompensated labor.

    “There’s a fine line between empowering volunteers and taking advantage of someone’s time,” Spinks says.

    That might mean focusing on mutually beneficial approaches to community, such as mentoring programs. A one-sided transaction, however, isn’t always antithetical to community-building. Spinks cites the example of tech support forums, which are not intended to actively build togetherness but provide community support in another way.

    “The significant majority of people are just there to get answers to their questions, not to form relationships,” he says. “So in that case, it’s about getting them the right answer to their question as efficiently as possible, rather than driving more social interaction.”

    It’s about knowing how people get their value from a given community, and what the purpose of that community is.


    Of course, an incentive too many can eventually dampen engagement within any community, as people choose not to stick around because they already received their incentive—and don’t see enough value in the community surrounding it.

    If that seems like a problem for your organization, Spinks says, it’s important to take a back-to-basics approach, led by your strongest community members.

    “Identify the people in the community who are interested in something more than the transactional value of the community and focus on building community amongst them,” he says. “It might be a small group of people who are the most engaged in the community. Organize special events for them. Bring them together in intimate groups. Deepen the sense of community at the core of your community, and that culture and tone will spread throughout the rest of the network.”

    With the right touch, this micro-community might just push you out of the trap of transactional relationships.


    Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun.

    Originally posted here

  • 27 Aug 2021 6:20 AM | Brett Jeffery, CAE (Administrator)

    Member engagement weathered the storm of the pandemic, but retention did not fare as well. Revamping stagnant membership models that are more responsive to the changing needs of your members should be a priority, according to an association expert.

    Member engagement is up, which should be good news, right? After all, 45 percent of associations showed an increase in membership and 71 percent said the level of member engagement increased this year, according to Marketing General Incorporated’s latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

    The flip side is, 47 percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw a renewal rate drop, compared to only a 24 percent drop last year. Members turned to their associations during the pandemic to get immediate help and information to navigate the crisis, which was a main factor in increased engagement. But the situation is more complicated: Engagement isn’t enough, and there has to be a focus on retention and renewal.

    “The pandemic was globally disruptive across sectors, relationships, organizations, and professions, and any business assumptions you had prior to the pandemic have to be reinvestigated and revalidated,” said Dean West, FASAE, president and founder of Association Laboratory.

    He goes further: “I call it the end of history,” West said.


    It sounds ominous, but maybe not. West sees it as a “tremendous opportunity” because now that traditional boundaries and relationships have been disrupted, associations have the freedom to reinvent themselves in ways no one could have imagined. First up? Membership models.

    Associations Laboratory’s latest study, Looking Forward Solutions 2021 [registration required], shows that membership is the most serious area of concern for the global association leaders who participated in the report.

    Before the pandemic, 81 percent of CEOs said that younger members were not interested in traditional membership models, according to the group’s Looking Forward 2020 report. Between 2019 and 2021, most associations did not substantively change their membership models, West said.

    That means the membership model that was a problem before the pandemic hasn’t changed, but members’ needs are changing. That’s why, when they came back to their associations after the pandemic subsided, West said they found an old model that was not relevant to their needs, which is why retention is going down.


    “Most membership models are designed around an offer that doesn’t take the pandemic into account,” he said. One of the most important themes that emerged from Looking Forward Solutions 2021 is that associations are going to have to invest in understanding—or re-understanding—their members and other stakeholders.

    “Associations have to invest time, money, and energy on understanding how members’ lives are different and what the implications of those differences are on their relationship with the association,” West said.

    And how do you do that? “Simply by putting a group of diverse people around a coffee table and asking them how their world is different,” he said. Or you can go a more sophisticated route through integrated qualitative and quantitative research.

    “But at the end of the day, it’s a market-facing strategy,” he said, which should be designed to discover how the personal and professional lives of members have changed. Members want benefits and services that are directly relevant to them based on their changing needs.

    “Membership as an offer is suffering because, overwhelmingly, most associations don’t have a different model now than they had a year ago, but their members’ needs are different,” West said.

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