Never has digital technology development and innovation for associations accelerated than during the Covid-19 global pandemic. New and enhanced video-conferencing platforms, learning-management systems, association-management software, online communities and the like proliferated in the association world in such a short time.
Digital technology, though, is only a part of the solution as associations seek ways to engage with their members, organize online events, be more efficient in their operations and generate new sources of revenue. While technology is the enabler of these activities, relevant content, member experience and organizational culture are essential ingredients that make associations even closer to their members and stand out from the rest.
So how can an association achieve providing value and uniqueness on one hand and gaining much-needed resources to sustain its mission on the other? Perhaps the following five “Gs” can help association executives in search for ideas and a guidepost going forward:
- Gravitate to purpose. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) defines an association as an organization or group of individuals affiliated with one another who share a common purpose, interest, or mission and exist for the mutual enrichment and advancement of their membership. In essence, the purpose of an association is to serve its members.
In ASAE’s multi-year research done a decade ago and titled “7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do That Others Don’t,” one of the attributes of success is the alignment of member services to purpose. The study cites that service offerings of successful associations have been consistent with their purpose and have remained central and unchanging even in the midst of changes in the external environment.
- Give value. There are at least four value propositions an association provides its members: (1) learning, e.g., education and certification programs; (2) knowledge, e.g., publications, website and research studies; (3) community, e.g., special interest groups, online and offline networking, benchmarking and best practices and volunteering opportunities; and, (4) advocacy, e.g., lobbying, formulating policy positions, providing testimonies and specialized information. Delivering these values with exceptional content and experiences provide impetus to the sustainability of an association.
- Generate relationships. Partnering and working with others do not only provide economies of scale but also transfer of knowledge, creativity and innovation. Collaboration has been the new currency associations have used at this time to leverage their resources in offering new services to members.
- Grow the staff. The association is only as good as its people. The pandemic, with all its disruptive effects, has nonetheless spawned new skills and talents for the association staff as well as new ways of working amidst different settings. Balancing staff re-skilling and up-skilling with understanding and care for wellness is an imperative for associations to grow and prosper.
- Go digital. There is no way and nowhere to go but digital. This has been the case during the pandemic and will be the case post-pandemic. Leaders in the use of technology will remain relevant, attuned with the times and emerge flourishing into the future.
The “5G association” may not be the fifth-generation version of what an association is supposed to be in the future but, for me, it is a technology-propelled, back-to-basics thinking and mixed with lessons learned from the pandemic.
This article was published by the Business Mirror on November 25, 2022 and may not be reproduced without prior consent from the writer and Business Mirror.