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Top priorities and outlooks of association professionals

When you’re setting goals and making plans for your association, it can help to get a sense of what other association professionals are thinking about the future. Part of the 2023 Association Trends Study by Community Brands digs into the viewpoints of association professionals to help understand the needs, wants, and areas of opportunity for associations.

Let’s look at three of the top priorities and outlooks of association professionals from the study.

Top priorities and outlooks of association professionals

1. Association professionals are mostly optimistic about the future.

Association professionals in the study (Pros) weighed in on various aspects of organizational health today and the future. These professionals report positive numbers for staffing levels, member acquisition, and member retention over the last 12 months. They also continue to be optimistic about the future – especially when it comes to member acquisition, non-dues revenue, and events revenue.

Majorities of Pros are expecting an increase in non-dues and events revenue streams, which is an expected result of organizations returning to in-person events.

And although Pros are positive about the future of associations, they still face some concerns, including the economy, losing members and staff, and the possibility of reduced revenue.

 

And although Pros are positive about the future of associations, they still face some concerns, including the economy, losing members and staff, and the possibility of reduced revenue.

And although Pros are positive about the future of associations, they still face some concerns, including the economy, losing members and staff, and the possibility of reduced revenue.

2. Association professionals are focused on member acquisition and retention.

The focus for Pros continues to be member acquisition and retention. However, Pros place less emphasis than they did in 2022 on key areas that impact member engagement and the member experience (MX), including providing a seamless MX, building trust with members and the community, and upgrading and/or integrating new technology.

As in the 2022 study, technology and driving innovation continue to be higher priorities for large organizations than for small organizations. Increasing membership, improving membership retention, and developing or improving member engagement opportunities rates higher for small organizations.

Notably, Pros’ priorities have decreased in the following areas: developing or improving engagement opportunities, providing a seamless member experience, building trust with members and the community, and upgrading and/or integrating new technology. Passing key legislation or other advocacy efforts increased by 8 points from 2022.

Notably, Pros’ priorities have decreased in the following areas: developing or improving engagement opportunities, providing a seamless member experience, building trust with members and the community, and upgrading and/or integrating new technology. Passing key legislation or other advocacy efforts increased by 8 points from 2022.

It’s important to note a possible risk here around technology and innovation. In this study, Pros place less emphasis on building trust with members and the community, innovation, and upgrading and/or integrating new technology. In studies during the pandemic, members said the importance of their organization had grown from previous years. During this time, Pros put a higher emphasis on building trust with members and the community, innovation, and upgrading and/or integrating new technology. The de-emphasis of these priorities’ points toward a risk in loyalty metrics and the perception of member value.

This study also finds that only one-third or less of members rate their professional membership organization’s use of technology to provide benefits and services to members as “excellent.” This points to a need for organizations to prioritize innovation and rethink their processes and use of technology to support and improve the member experience.

3. Revenue sources remain largely the same for associations (with some exceptions).

From a revenue perspective, Pros say that membership dues and meetings/tradeshows continue to provide the majority of revenue – a consistent finding from past studies.

Pros say they are relying more on sponsorships/partnerships and exhibitors significantly more than in the past fiscal year. Small organizations are relying significantly more than large organizations on sponsorships/partnerships (64 percent compared to 48 percent) and large organizations are relying more on publications (28 percent compared to 8 percent).

These findings point to an opportunity for associations. Professional development courses make up just seven percent of revenue, while job boards make up only one percent. Given that the study also points to members’ desire for job opportunities, career assistance, and professional education, these numbers suggest a big opportunity for organizations to grow revenue in these areas.

Your association can take advantage of this opportunity by:

  • Giving members more ways to learn – For example, offer a variety of learning opportunities throughout the year to accommodate members’ schedules, learning preferences, training, and certification needs. Also, invest in a modern learning management system (LMS) to provide the innovative educational experiences your members expect, such as course recommendations and a variety of online learning options.
  • Offering a robust online career center – Provide an online career center that includes not just a job board, but also career-building resources, such as career peer data, industry-specific career advice content, online coaches, an online career planning tool, and mentoring, to help members advance their careers. In addition to giving members the top benefits they seek, a robust online career center can help your organization drive non-dues revenue through sales to employers who are looking to fill roles with highly qualified candidates.

Do your research and plan your professional future today.

Resources from your association, like a job board, can help guide you along your career journey. Take advantage of these tools at your fingertips!

Learn more about association trends

Discover more insights about association trends in the 2023 Association Trends Study.

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