Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 13 2017

3 Promising Stats for the Future of Associations

David McMillin

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Banks, governments, media, law enforcement, churches, schools — the list of established institutions suffering under a wave of eroding customer trust continues to grow. (Read a Convene interview with sociologist Josh Packard on this trend.) As Millennials question a number of the traditional pillars of society, many in the face-to-face industry have a serious concern on their minds: What will this all mean for the future of associations? Will Millennials question the value of associations and societies? Could the desire to become a volunteer member of an organization become a thing of the past?

The new edition of SmithBucklin’s Circuit report will help calm those fears. “The outlook [for associations] is decidedly bright,” the report begins. “Recent research and insights from the field make it clear that associations will continue to play critical roles in industries and professions, just as they do today.” Here are three main takeaways:

1) Ninety percent of associations reported an increase or no change in membership size. Despite concerns that members may decide to ditch their renewal fees, this figure from a MemberZone/Micronet Inc. association survey shows that the vast majority of individuals want to remain in their communities.

2) Ninety-three percent of members said that meetings or conferences are an important benefit of belonging to their associations. Those members aren’t just paying their dues so they can say they’re part of the community; another piece of research, the 2016 Abila “Member Engagement Study,” highlights that they’re investing even more dollars to be part of face-to-face experiences.

3) Fifty-eight percent of Millennials belong to a professional organization. For all the worries that Millennials will never want to walk into conference ballrooms or participate in continuing education, it’s clear that many of them recognize that associations can play a powerful role in advancing their careers.

SEE ALSO: How One Association Is Reinventing Its Outdated Education Model

The Membership Model Still Needs to Change

The SmithBucklin report should help association professionals sleep better, but it also reinforces the reality that organizations must adapt to the changing demands of their existing audiences and prospective members. “While it’s impossible to tailor membership benefits to meet each individual’s specific needs,” the report concluded, “an association can still improve upon a one-size-fits-all option.”

Those improvements can come in a wide range of areas — the kind of content that associations deliver throughout the year, their plans for advocating for their members in a divisive political climate, the way they show appreciation to their volunteers and more. For additional insights to help your organization navigate the changing association landscape, click here.

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