With Daylight Savings Time behind us and a season of new beginnings upon us, what better time to apply mantras of change and progress to your association? While change management is a buzzword that often sparks feelings of anxiety, the notion of change is catching tailwinds across the association landscape. More organizations we work with are taking a hard look at their member engagement models and value propositions to question if the strategies of the past will hold relevance in the future.
While the traditional individual membership model worked for building support and engaging audiences since most member-based organizations’ founding, it’s losing traction for associations that are feeling the pain of a dwindling community. Markets and member audiences are shifting dramatically, and in the face of change — particularly as it relates to the technology curve — the association sector has struggled to keep pace. McKinley’s recent “health” research likens the sector’s public favor to cable companies and other rigid, non-customer centric monopolies.
But in many ways, the “challenge statement” for the current model lies less in structure and more in value. We know that individuals still need and want to associate — social relationships and communities help sustain our happiness and well-being, after all. We also know that the sector was largely mistaken in assuming millennials are “non-joiners.” Instead, this incoming generation of members prioritizes social consciousness, demands tangible value for their dollars and expects seamless customer experiences as the “Amazon effect” continues to overtake our economy.
While we don’t have all the answers about what the association of the future may look like, we do know that the time is ripe for change. To support associations in navigating change, we developed the following strategic framework, further outlined in our recent presentation.
Work on your “Why?”
You need a defensible, research-driven business case for change to fall back on when emotions and politics inevitably present a roadblock to progress. First and foremost, change should be driven by need. These need areas often originate from member or mission demand (the fundamental nature of our work has changed), the industry (changes in the field must be reflected in the industry’s association) or macroeconomic factors (customer expectations necessitate a change in our ways of operating). Researching member and non-member needs and expectations of your organization, and then overlaying this internal insight with data from the broader competitive landscape, will help your team level-set the “why?” behind your change choices.
Protect your Core
Acting member-first and mission-first serves as a filter for your association to determine if the demand you see in the landscape is worthwhile to pursue. Change should reinforce core elements of your association, before introducing different approaches or looking to stimulate broader progress. Change should not, however, compromise your mission, established brand credibility or member value proposition.
Trust the Process
Change isn’t quick, and it isn’t easy. Rather, implementing significant changes to your structure or ways of operating will likely take a multi-year approach paved with research, input, concessions and communication. Although this process takes time, the exercise is certainly worthwhile. As the saying goes … “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
As we spring ahead to a season that represents new life and change, consider entering a season of growth with your organization. Download our presentation to learn more and reach out to McKinley Advisors to start the process.