Confidence, Stablity Improve For Association Executives

A new study by McKinley Advisors found that 87 percent of association leaders are either somewhat or very optimistic about their associations’ economic future in 2013.

Despite the unpredictability of the economy over the last several years, association executives are optimistic about the future, according to McKinley Advisors’ 2013 “Economic Impact on Associations Study.”

There’s a lot more program expansion and fewer budget cuts, so they’re investing in the future instead of making severe cuts to make up for the economic downturn.

In the latest installment of the survey, which polled 215 executives from trade, professional, philanthropic, and hybrid-model associations, 57 percent of respondents said overall economic conditions matched their predictions for the economy’s impact on their associations in 2012.

“This finding could point to greater stability and certainty when it comes to the impact of economic conditions on associations,” the study said. “It may also be an encouragement to many association executives who are experiencing a favorable economic impact and may be more comfortable in their ability to anticipate and plan for the impact of external economic factors on their organizations.”

Eighty-seven percent of respondents also reported they are either somewhat or very optimistic about 2013.

“Association executives seem more confident in their predictions for the economic future,” said Samantha Dina, one of the study’s lead researchers. “There’s a lot more program expansion and fewer budget cuts, so they’re investing in the future instead of making severe cuts to make up for the economic downturn.”

This year’s confidence is down, however, from the 88 percent of association executives who reported they were somewhat or very optimistic in 2012.

“People are a little bit more realistic for 2013,” said Jodie Slaughter, FASAE, president of McKinley Advisors. “In 2012, everybody was breathing a huge sigh of relief that they had survived to 2012, so by 2013 I think some of that exuberance began to wear off a little bit.”

Even with the slight decline in positive outlook, the majority of association executives are confident about the future. That sentiment is backed up by other industry data, including the 2012 ASAE Foundation study “Associations in an Uncertain Economy: Attitudes and Behaviors Among CEOs and Members,” which identified growing optimism concerning revenue growth among association executives between 2009 and 2012.

The McKinley Advisors survey identified eight additional key findings, including a slight increase from 2012 in the amount of associations experiencing membership growth (up to 39 percent from 34 percent), a shift from membership recruitment and retention to member engagement strategies, and a willingness to change membership structures and benefits.

Overall, the longitudinal study supports many of the trends happening in the industry, Slaughter said. “We see this data as confirming the signs of recovery that we’ve been hearing about in a more specific way.”

Are you feeling more optimistic in 2013? Let us know in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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