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7 Strategies to Modernize Your Association

How does your association measure up to today’s digital world? Are you actively seeking innovative ways to engage with members? It’s time to start adapting to the future today.  

Here are seven strategies you can use to modernize your association. 

Make the following recommended changes all at once or incrementally over time – they’re all achievable, whether your organization and staff are large, small, or somewhere in between. 

1. Modernize on the move 

Your members should be able to engage with your online community, register and pay for events/dues, take learning courses, view job board and websites – all from their mobile devices. A mobile experience isn’t just for your members, either. It’s for your staff, too. They should have mobile access to member data and dashboards, and the ability to communicate via mobile device with members in your online community.  

Invest in association technology that supports a great, modern mobile experience. And make sure your website is ready with a design that’s optimized for viewing on a broad range of mobile devices, and operating systems. But keep in mind that mobile responsive design is not just for your association’s website. It also should be used for online communications including emails, online community pages, and webpages for educational courses. 

The Community Brands Digital Evolution Study shows a big gap between what’s offered on desktop versus mobile. Less than half of those working at professional membership organizations say they offer key benefits like job boards and training on mobile. 

mobile member engagement

2. Modernize your revenue generation 

Dues revenue: 

  • Offer auto-renewals – The Member Loyalty Study found that 13 percent of lapsed members simply forgot to renew. One of the best ways to address this issue is to offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card at renewal time. Your association management system (AMS) should allow you to set up this option, with corresponding automated emails that notify members when their membership has been renewed. 
  • Avoid failed transactions – Encourage member retention and loyalty with a seamless payment process. With account updater functionality, you can reduce member friction caused by payment disruptions or the need for manual updates when a member’s card is expired or replaced.  
  • Break down barriers – Price can be a barrier to joining and renewing. Consider offering a budget-friendly monthly payment option. Also, consider membership options that might be more appealing to certain members, such as student and first-year memberships, at a special price. 

Non-dues revenue: 

  • Career center – A well-executed career center drives non-dues revenue through paid job ads, sponsorships, and other fee-based products and services. 
  • E-commerce – Another way to diversify your association’s revenue stream is to promote various products via an online store. For example, offer everything from branded merchandise and publications to donations and other non-dues items.  
  • Online learning – Take the content you’ve already pulled together for in-person events and extend it online to provide a convenient, affordable option for members whose schedule, budget, learning preferences, or other factors prohibit them from attending an in-person event. 

3. Modernize your member engagement 

As your members’ expectations reach new highs, be sure you’re doing all you can to deliver a great member experience. Leverage your AMS, learning management system (LMS), career center, and other technologies, such as marketing automation tools, to collect useful data and use it to send targeted messages at the right time to deliver a better, more personalized member experience. 

As your association grows and collects personal information about your members, be sure your technology includes the following functionality to protect your member data and reduce risk. And, make sure your members know you have these precautions in place: 

  • Transparency into security and performance status  
  • Best practices for data security to prevent unauthorized access  
  • Comprehensive user permissions to restrict access to only those who should have it  
  • Data recovery to safeguard your data from storage errors, catastrophic failures, and everything in between 
  • Compliance certifications to validate security 

targeted content

4. Modernize your event 

Live interaction through a mobile event app makes your event immensely more valuable to participants. Giving them the opportunity to participate on their mobile device via instant voting and messaging means everyone gets a chance to contribute, comment, and share ideas.  

With a mobile event app, event organizers can understand event activity as it unfolds based on the digital footprints left behind by app users. During an event, the planner can watch what is going on through the app and adapt accordingly. This could mean finding bigger (or smaller) rooms for certain sessions, increasing internet access and bandwidth to support more users, and changing the location of buffet tables in response to complaints registered in the app. 

A mobile event app also brings value through post-event analytics. This includes a wide range of metrics on participants, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, and more. A strong analytics back end sheds light on what resonates with participants at your events: how they spend their time, what they like, conversations they’re having and with whom, etc. You can see which speakers were most popular, which booths had the most traffic, and which topics of conversation were the most captivating. These details will help you figure out what worked and what didn’t at your event – in ways never before possible. 

These additional modern technologies take your events to all new levels of engagement and excitement: 

  • If your association is working to build engagement, boost productivity, increase learning retention, or provide instant access to performance feedback at your annual meeting, gamification (using challenges, points, rewards) is the answer. 
  • Facial recognition is a fast and seamless way to check attendees into your event. It also provides a personal and delightful experience for attendees – right out of the gate. 
  • Digital destinations are places online where your attendees can interact and learn more about the event. This can be anything from touch screen stations on the exhibit floor to a webpage created specifically for your event. 

5. Modernize your operations 

Workflow automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can make associations more efficient and more in tune with what members want. Workflow automation refers to technology that allows you to automate processes. You set up business rules in the software that automatically route data and files between people and systems. AI is technology that simulates human intelligence. This technology essentially mimics human “thinking” using complex algorithms or sets of rules that are followed in calculations and other problem-solving operations. 

Here are a few examples of ways your association can use workflow automation technology: 

  • Automate email communications to members based on members’ actions, such as registering for an event or paying membership dues. For example, when members join your organization and pay their annual dues, you can send an automated email confirmation for joining that includes a receipt of payment. Or, for those who sign up to receive them, send job alerts automatically when a new job opportunity is posted to your job board. 
  • Offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card. Your technology should allow you to set up this option, with corresponding automated emails that notify members when their membership has been renewed. 
  • Schedule important, timely membership reports to send automatically via email to yourself or executive management. For example, set up a workflow to automatically send a monthly membership summary to your executive director and board of directors. 

Here are some examples of ways you could be using AI technology:  

  • Guide the member experience through intelligent chatbots, suggested next steps, and products. For example, recommend new purchases based on past behaviors and “what other members like you purchased” to increase non-dues revenues.  
  • Help members find answers through personalized content, predicting the answers that members are looking for, and providing that information proactively.  
  • Automate aspects of member service, such as answering/assisting with common questions or renewing a membership via a chat bot or digital assistant, to provide immediate responses 24/7 and free up staff time.  
  • Provide personalized learning experiences by recommending relevant learning courses to job board users based on their job search criteria or resume content. 
  • Use predictive analytics to determine which event location will bring in the highest number of registrations. 
  • Use data about past behaviors to predict if a member is unlikely to renew, and then intervene before losing the membership. 

6. Modernize your decisions 


Data analytics drives your association. Without it, your decisions are guesses and you lack visibility into how your membership is trending. Today’s reports and dashboard functionality give quick insight into member activities, community participation, and your organization’s health. 

For example, you may use your reports and dashboards to gain insights into how members engage with your association. Because member engagement fuels retention, you can better predict membership retention rates. This allows your marketing team to make better data-driven decisions and take appropriate corrective action when necessary. 

7. Modernize your organization 

Innovation plays an instrumental role in the long-term success of your organization. Two key factors that support innovation are insightful leadership and modern technology. Gaining the kind of insight that enables market anticipation requires:  

  • Intelligent predictive decisions. The expectations of today’s members are higher than ever. To meet those expectations, association leaders need confidence that the information they use to make decisions is accurate, comprehensive, and readily available. 
  • Future-focused governance. If associations are going to embrace innovation, they need to provide volunteer leaders (the board) with better tools and data for making strategic decisions more quickly. 
  • Innovative culture. Building a culture of innovation requires leaders to set organization-wide goals that include innovation. Developing clearly defined and measurable goals for innovation is a good place to start. 

modern association technology

Using outdated, disparate systems is no way to keep pace with today’s evolving member expectations. Yet, migrating all your systems at once to a modern solution can instill fear and uncertainty. YM Careers is here to help you build a step-by-step plan to modernize your association. 

Modernize your association today.

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