After Election, What’s Next for Associations?

President Obama has been elected to a second term, and Congress is still divided. Associations are sorting out what that means for them in 2013.

The results are in, and after more than $2 billion in campaign spending, Washington looks a lot like it did before election night.

But this election confirmed—if you needed any more evidence—that the nation’s demographics and culture are changing rapidly. And the shift is having a major effect on government and associations, according to panelists at a post-election installment of ASAE’s Executive Leadership Series today.

We hope that the alignment of our culture and our economics and our policies can come together. They’re out of sync right now.

“There’s a lot of change going on,” said Dave McCurdy, a former Oklahoma congressman and current president and CEO of the American Gas Association (AGA). “The outcome shows that there’s so much change occurring in society that has grounded us to a point where we’re at a tipping point. … We have to be an inclusive society. We hope that the alignment of our culture and our economics and our policies can come together. They’re out of sync right now.”

McCurdy’s fellow panelists—Steve Gunderson, a former congressman from Wisconsin and president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, and Gordon Smith, a former Oregon senator and president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters—and moderator John H. Graham, IV, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE, shared similar sentiments.

“I think associations tend not to be first to the party in many things, and I think we are really slow to the party on this particular issue,” said Graham. “It will have huge implications on, not only the makeup of associations, but issues around staffing, issues around volunteering. The way we’re going to grow up over the next 50 years is very different from the way we’ve grown up over that last 100.”

With the potential for continued legislative gridlock in Washington, associations will need to be vigilant about a trend toward greater regulation in different sectors of the economy, panelists said..

“Once [Congress and the administration] get done with [the fiscal cliff] there’s not going to be any money, any initiative, and any consensus on anything, and so it’s all going to be done by regulation,” said Gunderson. “This makes the role of associations very important. … There is a real tension between efforts to regulate sectors on federal level. More and more national associations have to focus on ramping up state associations to deal with these fights on that level.”

Added McCurdy: “In the association world, what we do is build consensus, and I think the people that are getting elected are not consensus builders. They’re fairly extreme, and that kind of politics can be destructive. We have to find ways to help them overcome that.”

(photo by Intel Photos/Flickr)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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