Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with association executives across the country. These calls have focused on two key themes:
1) Has the pandemic given your association opportunities to engage and provide value in new ways?
2) Are there skills and knowledge that you acquired that may provide growth opportunities in a post-COVID world.
How Have Associations Responded?
Association leaders that I speak with have responded to the pandemic by engaging with members and finding new ways to provide value.
In the words of one executive, “We could either have said: We don’t know how to help or you can look at this and say: Now is the time to shine! Now is the time to throw everything on the table”.
Many have taken the approach of creating an information digest or summary with links to the credible sources of material on Government programs and services that have been announced.
All view this situation as an opportunity to go all in on technology. The stated view of one CEO, is that the pandemic has accelerated technological disruptions that already existed in their industry. For this individual,“the pandemic has accelerated a pivot to a technology-first approach”.
Another executive expressed it this way…“We are devoting all of our energy into going online. We have embraced video conferencing and webinars".
But here’s the interesting insight, the pandemic has given many associations a window to experiment that may not have existed in a pre-pandemic world.
"So, it forced us to do it but it also allowed us to have safe space, because it’s harder to do transition like this in normal times. The tolerance of your members for mistakes is much thinner. But everybody understands we are scrambling so it’s kind of a safe space."
It goes without saying that the situation remains fluid. Even as the economy opens and social distancing relaxes it’s hard to predict when members will feel comfortable gathering for networking events, education sessions, conferences and tradeshows.
Despite this revenue loss, the association leaders that I have talked to are cautiously optimistic. Most feel that technology will provide new opportunities and revenue streams.
“So, our goal is to keep our members engaged. We have to find the opportunities to do this. We are looking at different programs that will all be based online. So, we are looking at some things we have never looked at before.”
The question remains, while many associations have proven their value during the pandemic will members recall this leadership when we move into a post-COVID world? As one CEO stated, “associations will have to demonstrate value more than ever.”