As Bob Dylan once eloquently said, “The Times They Are A-Changin.’” Association leaders are thus left with the uncomfortable ultimatum of embracing new trend or risk getting left behind.
During a session at the American Society of Association Executives’ Meeting & Exposition in Toronto, Ont., Hannes Combest, CEO of the National Auctioneers Association; Richard Green, vice president of Vetted Solutions; Terry Grim, partner at Foresight Alliance; and Marsha L. Rhea, president of Signature i LLC, discussed three key drivers of change facing associations: virtualized meetings, data analytics, and an aging base.
The quartet laid out seven strategies to taking on such change challenges and others head-on.
- Jumpstart strategic conversations with your board. Boards should be regularly identifying emerging trends impacting your industry, profession, or cause. Assess change drivers, identify those that are relevant to your association, and discuss them during board meetings;
- Seek out new opportunities. How might changes ahead create new opportunities for your members and association? Build an understanding of these new changes and opportunities.
- Educate membership. Explain to members how these change drivers might play out in your association’s field. Organize educational opportunities allowing members to explore the potential implications of these changes. Spotlight members that are coming up with innovative responses;
- Determine what issues matter to your members. Conduct surveys, focus groups, town halls, and online discussions to test how significant change-driver impacts might be for members;
- Conduct internal stress tests and take your staff through exercises in identifying potential vulnerabilities. Prioritize areas where you need to update practices and strategies;
- Plan and budget for technology investments. Many change drivers will require updated association technologies. Research and build plans and budgets for technological investments; and,
- Search for new opportunities. Change can create new needs among membership for programs and services. Exercise foresight in researching and testing the viability of new offerings.