The Business Case for Community-Enabling Tech

Digital transformation isn't about investing in technology for technology's sake—it's about using innovation to drive business outcomes.

By Beth Arritt, Higher Logic Association Evangelist

Association leaders, take heart: If your group emerged from the pandemic a little light in the wallet, you’re not alone.

The financial impacts of the past few years left most organizations in a rough financial spot. Respondents to a 2021 survey distributed by the ASAE Research Foundation ranked “COVID-19’s impact on non-dues driven revenue streams” as the top challenge faced by their associations, followed by “managing the COVID-19 impact on dues-driven revenue streams.”

The causes behind these impacts are numerous. In the same study, nearly half of associations reported issues with member recruitment (45.7 percent), membership renewals (42.6 percent), and sponsorship solicitation and donor funding (43.1 percent).

Between the Great Resignation, inflation, and economic uncertainty, today’s financial landscape isn’t looking much better. As of August 2022, the total U.S. quit rate held steady at 2.7 percent as employees continued to resign en masse. In addition, finding and training new association staff can be difficult and expensive, so existing employees are often asked to take on additional responsibilities—leading to burnout.

Adding to that stress is the expectation for association staff to win back lost members. There are many reasons membership numbers are trending downward—some people receive association memberships through their jobs; after quitting, they lose that benefit. Others may have intended to renew their membership but were never contacted by their association —because the staff member responsible for renewals quit.

Meanwhile, inflation is causing higher costs to run and attend in-person conferences. That, coupled with fears of a recession, is putting numerous events on potential chopping blocks.

Amid all these challenges, associations should focus on giving members reasons to keep coming back—and online communities play a considerable role in doing just that.

A Valuable, Always-On Resource

Online community software is about driving meaningful, around-the-clock engagement and learning opportunities, strengthening member acquisition and retention, and offering personalized resources—all of which keep associations in a healthier financial state.

The business case is clear. Members who quit their jobs during the Great Resignation are more likely to return to an association that offers ample networking opportunities. Tools that automate the renewal process help retain members regardless of staff availability.

Additionally, those looking to make a jump into a new industry will be more attracted to your association if it offers online resources and insights they can’t get elsewhere. And the more online advertising opportunities available, the more likely sponsors will want to support your association.

The key is to get creative with your community-enabling software: Try using it to host and distribute vendor-sponsored podcasts or package educational and training videos and sell them as online “events.” Create a rich library of audio, video, and PDF resources members can access on-demand without requiring association employees to lift a finger.

Or, consider offering such resources free to members and charging a fee for non-member access. Then, pair non-member access with a membership fee discount, and you might just turn a visitor into a member.

Instead of working with a third party to produce a vendor directory, set one up through your community software. Using automation, you can put the right vendors in front of the right people at the right time while keeping revenue in house.

Don’t Go It Alone

If your creative well runs dry, find out if your technology provider has a user community. The best ones are made up of active, forward-thinking peers and experts who provide tactics that aren’t yet on everyone’s radar.

Remember, as member expectations evolve, your association isn’t competing only with other associations. Instead, you’re competing with the technology members are accustomed to in their personal and professional lives.

To that end, resources like the Higher Logic Users Group (HUG) offer regular marketing and automation training, which essentially serves as free ongoing education to keep your association ahead of the game.

A common misconception about community-building technology is that it’s cost-prohibitive. In reality, all of these benefits can help associations recoup the technology investments they make. And the best ones are designed to help you retain members for life.

Higher Logic Thrive is a member experience solution that provides a powerful but simple approach to community, marketing, and member engagement. For more information on how Higher Logic’s years of experience, research, and feedback can solve your challenges, visit

(Handout photo)