What a difference a year makes. New Year resolutions, especially for organizations, are rarely ground-breaking or completely different from previous years’ goals, resolutions or commitments. However, 2021 does include plans for products and services that few association leaders expected to see on their to-do list 12 months ago.
In a 2019 survey of association executives’ perceptions of the economic outlook in 2019, there was no pandemic or associated recession. When asked what they considered their greatest challenges to addressing a potential recession or economic downturn, participants pointed to institutional resistance (31%) and a slow board (30%) lacking agreement (25%) as significant obstacles to quickly responding to a potential recession. By 2020, each obstacle had decreased by about 10 points.
In the 2020 Association Economic Outlook Report, association executives point to changes in messaging to their members as the most noticeable change in 2020 and identify new opportunities that had not been considered before their experiences in 2020.
The greatest change in messaging was a switch from traditional messages about activities and association services to members to sharing crucial information that helped members during the crisis (90%). Other changes included:
- 73% — Empathizing with members
- 50% — Emphasizing association networking opportunities
- 40% — Offering members economic assistance
- 17% — Offering career assistance
Opportunities that association leaders plan to explore – that were not even considered in 2019 – include:
- 84% — Increase virtual professional development opportunities for members
- 78% — Develop new products and services to assist members
- 72% — Reevaluate and streamline internal processes
- 45% — Conduct market research and data analytics
- 43% — Increase virtual professional development opportunities for employees
Even as association leaders expect challenges with membership retention and growth, 81% are very or moderately confident that they will successfully maneuver the challenges of the recession and pandemic as they continue to adapt to new realities.