December 9, 2019

Dear Santa: Our Wish List for Associations in 2020

Dear Santa: Our Wish List for Associations in 2020

Dear Santa:

Before your sleigh leaves the North Pole, please consider this wish list for associations and membership organizations. Here’s what we’d like to see under the tree for associations in 2020.

P.S. Please give our best regards to Mrs. Claus. Her ideas for reducing holiday stress were a big hit this year.

A Jolly Good Strategy for Member Engagement

Doesn’t every association professional go to sleep on Christmas Eve dreaming of sugarplums and member engagement? Or is that just us?

Here’s the tricky thing about engagement: it means something different for every member. You might think a member isn’t engaged because they don’t volunteer or attend events. However, they might feel extremely engaged with your association. They have a daily habit of reading online community discussions as they drink their morning coffee. Every week, they read your newsletter to keep up on industry developments. Those two activities alone are well worth the price of dues for them.

Another member fits the traditional engagement pattern: they volunteer for committees and attend events. Along the way, they’ve met informal mentors who gave great advice, peers who supported them during tough work challenges, and a fellow attendee who gave them the inside scoop on the perfect job opening.

Members choose different engagement paths due to their different habits, schedules, budgets, interests, and needs. You must meet them where they are and move them along in a way that makes the most sense for them.

Here at MemberSuite, we’ll do our part to help make your engagement wish come true: next year, we’re launching an engagement dashboard that will help you identify and learn more about your most (and least) engaged members.

To help associations with engagement, we’re also counting on you, Santa, to deliver two special gifts: data savvy and a new member onboarding plan.

‘Tis the Season for Data Savvy

To better understand different types of members and their preferences, needs, and interests, you have to collect the right data—data you actually use. By segmenting members based on their data, you can deliver relevant content and information to them, and lead them to the resources and activities that most interest them. You must keep their data updated since their needs and interests will change over the years.

With the gift of data savvy, you can see where members are on the engagement spectrum, keep them educated about opportunities, and move them along the engagement path when appropriate. You can identify at-risk members and help them take advantage of member benefits. You can also spot members who would make good leadership prospects or membership ambassadors.

Yuletide Cheer: A New Member Onboarding Plan

Along with data savvy, we also hope associations find a new member onboarding plan under the tree, one that introduces members to the most relevant engagement paths and opportunities. Membership ambassadors provide the personal touch by checking in with new members and providing guidance on membership resources.

Walking In an Events Wonderland

Despite the cold, association events are feeling the heat. Because members and other prospective attendees have more events to choose from, you can’t assume they’ll keep returning to yours. They may find a better value elsewhere. Value is always top of mind for attendees because they need to make a case for spending the money and time away from work.

‘Tis the season to get creative and shake things up if your events have been following the same ho-hum pattern for the last several years. “Experience creation” is more important now than it was five years ago, according to 85% of the event planners participating in the IACC Meeting Room of the Future survey. Distinguish your events from your competitors’ by providing an experience that attendees will fly across the country or drive across the state to attend—an event they’ll talk about.

Events must provide the right combination of education, connecting, participating, and fun. One of the trends in Event MB’s report 10 Event Trends for 2020 is “more collaboration, less presentation.” Experiment with learning formats that allow attendees to interact with each other while digesting and applying new information. Networking is another one of Event MB’s trends. Give attendees more opportunities to connect throughout the event, not just at receptions.

Another 2020 trend: all-in-one software. Event MB said, “All-in-one software offers enough data points to give the kind of event vitals that planners need to make educated decisions about their event ROI.” It’s time to get efficient with technology that both helps you streamline event management and enhances the attendee’s event experience.

Ho Ho Ho, ‘Tis the Season for Non-Dues Revenue

Taking engagement and events to the next level requires money—more money than Santa is probably going to leave in your stocking. Associations know it’s smart to diversify non-dues revenue streams—many of you learned that lesson during the last recession.

But, unfortunately, some associations are still stuck in the old way of doing things. Membership discount and affinity programs for products that members can find elsewhere—for example, from AAA or AARP—are not differentiators. These programs are usually not worth the administrative cost (staff time) for associations.

However, exhibitors and sponsors are still a sustainable source of revenue as long as you stop doing things the way you’ve always done them. Businesses are seeking a high return on their marketing investment in your association. You can’t take their support for granted.

Businesses seek partnerships, not signage and logo placement. The good news is more associations are shifting how they work with revenue partners. One sign of this shift is the popularity of the Partnership Professionals Network that regularly meets in DC and Chicago to discuss strategies to establish relationships with non-dues revenue partners.

Think about new ways you can partner with sponsors to develop online content, online educational programs, virtual conferences, benchmarking reports, scholarships, leadership programs, and innovation incubators.

2020 always seemed so far off in the future, but now it’s just around the corner. Add a sprinkle of creativity and a dash of forward-thinking to your holiday spirit this year. Get inspired by reading our white paper, Growing Your Association, to find out how technology can help your association meet or exceed your revenue goals for the New Year.