Associations Behaving Like Businesses – Association Field Report (October 23, 2020)



Over the last decade, consultants such as myself have been talking about association needed to behave, act, perform more like a business, and be more bottom line oriented.
We’re beginning to see this happen across the industry for a variety of reasons.
So, what does that mean for us – the consultants – as we have asked for this for a long time? Now that associations are beginning to change the question consultants are asking themselves is, “Are we ready for this?!”
Here’s what we’ve seen from associations who are beginning to change:
1. Associations are making decisions quicker. New contracts are being signed at lightning speed because association leaders have needs that they want to address and they want to address them immediately.
2. Association’s expect a quick turnaround from service providers. You need to get out of the gate, perform at high levels, and deliver on your project quickly because they no longer have a 90-120 day timeframe. The issues you’re helping them solve are urgent.
3. Associations are more results oriented. Many associations are dealing with internal cuts. They may have reduced their staff, in some cases due of financial reasons and in others because some of their staff members’ skills are no longer needed or new skills are required – specifically around meetings and events. Meeting planners used to be very adept at setting up at hotel, delivering content, and putting on a show but are not able to do pivot into a virtual space because it requires an entirely new set of skills. For a number of reasons, association’s staff size is smaller and they need help, they need bandwidth, or they need skills that you offer them in form of advice or implementation.
This means we have to get out of the gate quickly, launch the project, and start doing the work. And, don’t wait if you’ve got colleagues that you’re working with that may not be getting you the information that you need to get the job done. I’m telling our teams right now, “Hey, if we’ve got to step on some toes, both internally in our own company and externally with our clients so we can perform and get the results that we think we can achieve, you better do it.”
It’s time to step on some toes if that’s what it takes to get the job done. Associations are in a different environment now and they’re expecting their internal and external teams to perform.
Another thing that I’ve learned – as it pertains to association leaders, particularly CEOs – is that they are looking for in-depth expertise, advice, and experience. As a consultant, I can get into a mode where I’m more about building the watch instead of telling them the client the time when what they really want to know is what they need to do. Now, I still think you need the data, details, qualitative, and quantitative research to get the job done. However, at the end of the day, the association CEO now is looking for intel on what their next move should be. That’s what businesses have been doing for a long time as well.
We’re up to the task.
Associations are acting more like businesses so let’s react, respond, and serve them well.
We offer consulting services in the areas of membership, sponsorship, and other non-dues revenue for associations. Let us know below what areas you’re looking to improve in your association’s business and we’ll be in touch soon!
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