What’s Out, What’s In for 2014

Here’s our second annual take on what’s waxing and waning in the association world as the year ends and a new one begins. What’s on your list?

The fiscal cliff is a distant memory, but we didn’t escape a government shutdown. We said goodbye to remarkable leaders and gained new ones. We watched as associations joined others in responding to tragedies from Boston to the Phillippines. And that barely scratches the surface of 2013.

In the ebb and flow of the news this past year, we saw some patterns emerge—enough to suggest a few things that may be on their way out, making room for new ideas and trends likely to gain steam in 2014.

What did we learn in our first full year of daily coverage of the association community? That there’s so much going on in so many different spaces—politics, business, technology, pop culture—that it’s all we can do to keep up. Still, in the ebb and flow of the news this past year, we saw some patterns emerge—enough to suggest a few things that may be on their way out, making room for new ideas and trends likely to gain steam in 2014.

So, to share the view from where we sit, we offer the second annual “What’s Out, What’s In: Association Edition.”



Out: Aging brands
In: New names, fresh logos

Globalization, digital technology, shifting markets, regulatory change—with so many disruptions in the business environment, it’s no wonder that a slew of associations remade their brands and aimed to broaden their reach in 2013. Cases in point: Lobbyists became government relations professionals; recording merchandisers became Music Biz. Associations in the fashion, mobile, supply chain, marketing, and recycling industries hopped on the rebranding bandwagon as well. We’ll be watching for who’s up next in 2014.



Out:  Lavish meetings and events
In: Slim federal conference and travel budgets

There’s a new reality for associations serving industries that interact heavily with the federal workforce: Government meeting attendance isn’t what it used to be. The wave of scrutiny that started in 2012 with revelations about a lavish General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas grew higher this year as reports of excessive spending on meetings by the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs came to light. With slimmer conference and travel budgets now written into law, association events will continue to take a hit. Associations will need to drive home the value of face-to-face meetings to government agencies that will be footing the bill with fewer dollars and congressional watchdogs looking over their shoulders.


Workplace Culture

Out: Constant collaboration
In: Time and space for solitude

This was the year when a “whole world of secret introverts” was exposed, and being quiet was suddenly cool. Thanks largely to Susan Cain, author of the bestselling Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, momentum is building for greater understanding of different personalities and work styles to leverage every staffer’s strengths in pursuit of business goals. It was an eye-opening message for associations, where collaboration is king. Remember the buzz around open workspaces to promote teamwork? Now, not so much.



Out: Long-term commitments
In: Micro-volunteering

Plenty of dedicated association volunteers share their time and talents in abundance year in and year out—but that’s probably a small group of your hard-core enthusiasts. Micro-volunteering is emerging as a smart way to expand your volunteer pool and build engagement among your less connected members. Got people who can’t commit to helping plan your annual meeting, but can spend a few hours being a conference greeter? This is for them.



Out: Bemoaning congressional gridlock (was this ever in?)
In: Putting pressure on Washington

The government shutdown in October highlighted the power of associations to show policymakers the consequences of their actions—or inaction. From air traffic controllers to businesses to Head Start and Meals on Wheels, nonprofits sent volunteers, activists, and cold, hard data to DC about the effects of the shutdown. Their collective message: This hurts everyone. Fix it.



Out: Expert-driven education
In: Peer-to-peer learning

With competition heating up from for-profit providers offering free or low-cost alternatives to association education programs, pressure to innovate in association learning mounted in 2013. While we don’t expect to see the traditional keynote address fall by the wayside anytime soon, associations are experimenting with decentralized learning formats where peers interact in smaller groups and more casual settings. Is a “learning village” right for you? Or if you need to beef up your online offerings, digital credentialing may be the ticket. You might be surprised at how motivating a digital badge can be.

You probably have other “ins” and “outs” on your list—please share them in the comments. We’re ready and eager to report to you whatever 2014 brings. In the meantime, from the entire Associations Now team: Happy new year!

(all photos via iStock/Thinkstock)

Julie Shoop

By Julie Shoop

Julie Shoop is the Editor-in-Chief of Associations Now. MORE

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