Top Challenges Facing Association Executives and Staff in 2021

man standing trying to make decisionAccording to the 2021 Association Industry Survey, a surprising 58% of respondents reported a positive impact on their value proposition from COVID. Of the organizations responding to the survey, 88% said members definitely or somewhat recognize the association’s value proposition. Of the 35% of respondents indicating an increase in member engagement in 2020, 48% said that COVID had a major impact.

Regardless of association size or budget, the top three impediments to doing their job that were identified by respondents were consistently:

  • Time – Includes unrealistic expectations of staff by board and members as well as lack of member volunteer support and staff shortages.
  • Money – Includes decreased funding due to non-renewals and event cancellations.
  • Technology – Includes lack of technical infrastructure to support virtual education or events.

The next twelve items included on the “impediments” list were:

  • Staff
  • Events
  • Face-to-face interaction
  • Processes/Operations
  • Board of Directors
  • Member engagement
  • Remote workforce
  • Other/Miscellaneous
  • Government
  • Leadership
  • Uncertainty
  • Volunteers

In spite of these challenges, survey respondents also pointed to changes made in their associations that improved job efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction. These items include:

  • Working remotely
  • Technology
  • Videoconferencing
  • Processes/Operations
  • Miscellaneous
  • Time management
  • Staffing changes
  • Increased autonomy/flexibility

While the 2021 Association Industry Survey focused on responses from association professionals, another survey from Personify asked for input from association employees and members. When asked if they had to significantly change the way they engaged with members in 2020, 90% of association employees agreed.

When members were asked about engagement in 2020 compared to 2019, nearly half reported being more engaged in 2020 than the previous year, and only 28% of respondents report being less engaged in 2020.

Among association members, the biggest changes reported include being able to network with others via digital platforms and social media, with 47% of members saying that this has become more important. Self-service, online member communities gain in importance, with 44% of member respondents saying this service has become more important than ever.

Both reports highlight how 2020 affected association staff and members – leading to changes in the type of services offered as well as the delivery method. For more information about the Association Industry Survey, which includes detailed comments from respondents about their organization’s struggles, click here, and for results of the Personify research, click here.