Information management and government activities are among the most critical factors that will shape association strategies over the next year, according to a new environmental scan of the industry.
Maybe it was foreshadowing when, over the summer, an Associations Now news article on email open rates became one of the most-read articles in this website’s brief history, because a new survey of association executives found that information management—specifically, members’ ability to manage the amount of information they receive—is the top concern for associations in 2014.
In a survey that provides the basis for its “Looking Forward 2014” environmental scan whitepaper, Association Laboratory, Inc., asked 195 association CEOs and other C-suite executives to identify what they believed to be their members’ biggest concerns for the coming year. Five of the top nine concerns were related to information management, according to the report.
“[T]his drip, drip, drip of information over time has become this deluge, and so members are building dams to protect themselves from this overwhelming flow of information.”
Other factors affecting strategy identified by respondents included government activities, workforce issues, economic conditions, and global forces.
“The most surprising finding was how broad-based association members are concerned about information management,” said Dean West, president of Association Laboratory. “For me, what really stood out is how this drip, drip, drip of information over time has become this deluge, and so members are building dams to protect themselves from this overwhelming flow of information.”
If associations get caught on the wrong side of that dam, the impact will be felt throughout the entire organization—in everything from conference attendance to membership engagement and retention to advocacy effectiveness, West said.
Government relations was another area that received a lot of attention in the survey.
“The number one issue with government affairs was making yourself heard,” said West. “Organizations that have a long history of attempting to make change through Congress are now facing an environment where you have the exact same number of [representatives], the same number of senators, and still only one president, but the number of organizations attempting to advocate for change is substantially higher, and it is continuous.”
This is the first year that Association Laboratory attempted to quantify the findings of its annual environmental scan through a survey. West said he is already looking forward to making some changes to the process.
“Now that we have a sense of what the top-of-the-list concerns are, we’ll be able to refine the list of factors to those that have the most strategic impact, and that will give a more effective prioritization to those things,” he said. “Then we’ll be able to start comparing the findings to the previous year to see if there are differences. The first thing, though, next year, we’re going to make a more broad-based effort to build the response and get a more-detailed look at the industry.”
How is your association addressing information overload for your members? What other trends will affect your strategy this year? Let us know in the comments.