Association Field Report (April 30, 2020)



Hi there, it’s JP and I’ve got a report from the field for you today.
Last week I had a Zoom call with association CEOs and Chief Operating Officers and we learned a great deal by providing a forum for them to answer, “Hey, what’s going on with your association?” So, I’ve got some notes to pass along to you as we’re wrapping up this unprecedented month in the association space.
People are hungry for information and willing to actually pay for it by becoming a member of the association. Reach out to members and non-members alike with compassionate messaging and the right tone. Membership fees are a key driver to the association model; most renew and many of the associations are starting the renewal process. They’re using an appropriate tone for the time and some are offering flexibility in terms of deferred payments, partial payments, lowering dues at certain levels and in certain industries, and providing temporary complimentary access to members that may have lost their jobs. Associations that are moving forward with renewals are pleased that they have done so because it’s given them the opportunity to connect with their membership. Associations have also opened up their information portals for non-members as a public service and are actually gaining new members by doing so.
There’s a lot happening on the event side, too. This part of the business is in flux. Associations are converting face to face meetings to virtual platforms on a daily basis. There’s a lot of interest and questions around what platforms to use and how to execute; this is going to be a moving target and it is something that associations are going to be very interested in figuring out. What works best for one association may not be the best option for another?
The one thing that we did see was there was that different pieces of content may need to be balanced in a virtual meeting space and there needs to be a right cadence to that as well. People are not going to sit through a six hour virtual conference. Make sure to think through your delivery system. The use of webinars becoming very popular not only on the event side but also for sponsorships.
Segmented virtual networking is becoming popular, too. Segment groups to be smaller and more focused. This will allow attendees to talk about what’s happening in their industry and focus on specific issue areas. Make sure to have a staff member facilitate the dialogue. There’s also concern with security when it comes to virtual events. Some firms have been forbidden use of some of the platforms because of security concerns. Organizations are thinking about security, and which platforms are most secure, to host their meetings and their virtual events.
Overall, sponsors have perceived the value of virtual events to be lesser than one of face to face meetings. Thus, the dollar commitments are lower on those sponsorships. That’s something that I see in our own work right now, too. Don’t assume that you can get a $30,000 sponsor from someone and then convert to a virtual meeting and maintain the same price point. Diversify the sponsorship portfolios.
There’s also a heightened awareness of the value of government relations. We’re seeing some of our clients that are engaged in government relations work more than they ever have and there’s more interest in their work from businesses. If you have a strong and robust Government Relations platform, now is the time to showcase it. Now’s the time to showcase it in terms of implementation and guidance on PPP and other government programs. Frankly, that’s where the resources are right now and that’s where they may need help and guidance from you, both your members and your non members, because they may, for the first time, see the value of government relations.
Hope this is helpful, pulling for you, keep moving forward.
P.S. We’ve recently launched an Association Stimulus Package to help associations not only survive but also thrive during these turbulent times.
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