In a recent whitepaper, “Designing the Future of Associations,” produced by Digital Now, 81% of association executives stated that they expect data science and analytics to have a significant impact on their sector. As we look towards the last half of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 this stat is not surprising. As we’ve learned from many of you, your association is facing increased competition on the member front, due to the catapulted digital transformation of many industries. Pre-pandemic, many associations were the central hub of information and data for its members. As sponsors, vendors and associations alike in all industries ramped up their digital offerings, this created a new competitive threat that many associations simply had not faced before. In addition to having this increased competition, membership is decreasing as noted in the 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. 47% of associations reported a decrease in membership over the previous year. Yet, on average 43% of an association’s annual revenue is derived from dues. So, what can associations do to address these new concerns?
- Don't Ignore the Transformation: Having the mindset that this new "digital format" is going away is not an option. While we hope to move back to in-person events, the reality is that people are now accustomed to operating in digital format and we must as an industry continue to maintain and expand upon our digital offerings. A good example I recently heard was, do you think churches are going to all of a sudden stop offering their streaming services just because the pandemic is over? The answer is no. And it's the same with the association industry. The digital content that became a part of our world because of the pandemic, good or bad is here to stay.
- Don't Let the Financial Commitment Create a Stagnant Digital Experience for your Members: We've heard it over and over again, we don't have any money to spend on technology right now. Our reserves are dwindling. But the fact remains, that if you don't invest in digital your membership renewal is going to continue to decline. The associations that were most successful during the pandemic quickly pivoted to digital in the forms of content portals, specialized benchmarking and surveying, and virtual conferences. Many found innovative ways to pay for their new software investments through sponsorships and paid services that the members were happy to pay for.
- Don't forget to Focus on your Association's Biggest Asset: The entire reason a member joins your association is to network with people in their industry and share collective data that will help everyone succeed. It's true that other competitive threats have developed during the pandemic, but there is still one thing that associations offer that others can't. As the world continues to change, members will look more and more to their association for data points to drive their strategic decisions. Associations are the only true source for member contributed data that can be analyzed and disseminated back across the membership base. Let that drive your digital strategy and you will stand out from the rest.
The Dynamic Benchmarking team has been working hard to ensure that we do our part to help combat this new competitive threat and develop new revenue generators for your association. A few new things we’ve implemented are:
- Creative New Benchmarking Platforms: We’ve worked with associations to create non-traditional benchmarking platforms like Cultural Assessments, Technology Assessments, and Remote Work Assessments to expand their data offerings to their members.
- Payment Portal: Our payment portal allows your association to offer benchmarking data to members or non-members as a paid service creating an additional revenue stream for your association.
- Sponsorship Packages: We’ve helped clients create attractive sponsorship packages for their benchmarking platforms to assist with the costs of performing benchmarking studies for their members.
No matter what your association’s struggles are currently, it’s important for association management to remember that even though other sources of content have popped up, members will always look to the association as the truth of source and their main hub of member contributed data. Please reach out to our team with any ideas or just to explore how we can help with any data needs you have.