After spending 4 intense days together with fellow Association Executives and various business partners from around the world at the ASAE Annual Meeting in St. Louis, it is quite obvious that anxiety abounds. The economy is the greatest pressure point for many during discussions in meetings and social events throughout downtown St. Louis while maintaining relevancy and viability for their particular organizations is top of mind for all in attendance. It is heartwarming to discover that attendance was up for this year’s meeting despite the looming economy and the concerns for the future.
Though many trade and professional groups have regained their vigor since the bottom fell out in late 2008, it is quite apparent that times are just not what they used to be and that new plans and goals are now being implemented to move associations to greener pastures. In addition to economic concerns, other issues of interest included the old tried and true topics of:
* Member retention and the association’s value proposition,
* Innovation and the new means and methods of member communications
* Ethics and the standards of conduct of the association community and their Boards
* Global engagement and the inclusion of the international market
* Diversity of the association environment and cultural competance and membership
* Advocacy and the reason to be
Member retention and the association’s value proposition. Associations are becoming more determined to find new and more meaningful reasons for membership. Networking, education, research and advocacy are still values that many individuals and corporations attest to but with free external means to those ends (Google, Social Media etc.) it is vital to find a new niche to attract the newest generation of members who are diversely different from those who saw association involvement as a major component of their career growth.
Innovation and the new means and methods of member communications. Innovation works hand in hand with exploring a new value proposition for the association membership. It is now time to move away from episodic innovation where we provide periodic innovative programs or services to integrating innovation into the association’s culture and making it an integral part of the association’s being. It is imperative that associations become more creative, innovative and responsive to member and societal demands or their days will be numbered.
Ethics and the Standards of Conduct of the association community and their Boards. For the first time ever ASAE has adopted aspirational standards of behavior for all it’s members. The Ethics Committee developed and the ASAE Board approved a universal statement detailing ethical standards and a core set of conduct principles for association executives and professional staff, consultants and business partners. Though these principles are not yet enforceable and thus aspirational, their development and adoption speaks volumes regarding what is expected of those who are involved in the association community.
Global engagement and the inclusion of the international market. The American Association Community is determining that it is no longer an island in the sea of lethargy and apathy. For many associations the only growth market is the international market and the interest is of great importance to those who have become aware of the mutual reasons to belong and participate in a community.
Diversity of the association environment and cultural competance and membership. The association profession is no longer exclusive to those who for generations have lead – the old boys network is long gone. Inclusion is the mantra of today’s association and is a vital element of growth within the community. Associations need to look like society and slowly but surely due to numerous factors, that end product is becoming more evident.
Advocacy and the reason to be. With the local, state and federal governments all looking for additional revenue to balance their budgets, it is imperative for the association community to continue to be out-front on the value we bring to the nation. Associations and non-profits are key to the American Rebound from the economic ills we are still experiencing and though the word lobbying is looked upon negatively by all elements of American Society it is vital for the association community to continue to present it’s positive message to those who can make a difference to the historical benefits provided by associations.
Associations remain an integral part of American Society and it is important for those who participate in the community to do what they profess – get involved. Association professionals need to be a part of the discussion and attendance at their local, state and national meetings within their own profession, like the ASAE Annual Meeting is just one more step in solving mutual problems that can keep us relevant for many years to come.
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career. He is one of 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted with the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives since 1986. He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 100 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.
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