What Is the Value and Importance of Associations Today?

Here, we break down what members want and how virtual member engagement is creating new paths for association growth.

Living in this era of the 10-second news cycle, your head is in a constant spin as headline after headline screams about social and political unrest, school closings and spiking COVID-19 numbers.

Amidst all of this noise, if you work at an association, you can’t help but wonder if all of your hard work is being utilized—or even noticed—by your members. Put more bluntly: in the face of a continuing global economic and health crisis, does anyone care about their memberships right now?

That is the question that Community Brands sought to answer with a groundbreaking study of more than 1,000 members of associations and nearly 400 professionals who work at those organizations. Our goal was to see how members’ opinions and needs have changed, and find out what, if any, benefits led to more member engagement and loyalty.

The first thing that we learned is that, no, associations are not as important to members as they were pre-pandemic. They are more important.

More than 50 percent of our respondents said that the value of their membership has increased since COVID-19, while 39 percent feel that the value has remained constant and only 7 percent said that they valued their association less. But these numbers don’t just reveal opinions and feelings, they reflect action. Across the board of all of the associations we studied, engagement numbers were way up. So what is driving these increases?

It goes without saying that “normal” ways of networking for business growth and career advancement have been put on hold, if not changed forever. And so members are hungry for any help that will lead to increased revenue for their businesses or to new job opportunities for themselves.

85 percent of members we surveyed cited virtual meetings/conferences as a top driver of membership, 65 percent said continuing education and 33 percent put a high value on training, certifications and credentialing. Again and again, we heard that while big, splashy annual events are great, but what many members really want are more frequent and more intimate virtual gatherings. They want more opportunities to grow on a more ongoing basis.

This is not to say that traditional tentpoles of association benefits like advocacy and industry awareness have disappeared. Members still want those things to be sure, but time and resources are limited for associations—you just can’t do everything you’d like and many association professionals are working harder than they ever have. But our findings show that if you concentrate on giving members the tools and resources to be successful or advance their careers, that investment will come back to your association in product purchases, renewals and membership growth.

In the initial days of the pandemic, organizations big and small had to think fast and act even faster to stay afloat. And as industry and community leaders continue to search for ways to safely move forward, associations should see this as a prime opportunity to differentiate themselves and grow. This is your moment. Pivot now and pivot often to meet the changing needs of your members. Loyalty, engagement and revenue will follow.

This article was brought to you by Community Brands, the leading provider of cloud-based software to associations. To learn more about association trends during this year of disruption, download the full survey findings here.

(Community Brands)