Final Look at Lessons Learned During the Onset of the Pandemic – Association Hustle Podcast Episode 237



This week we’re concluding our Covid19 coverage with an overview of trends and observations that we saw during this time. We’re focusing on sponsorships and membership retention, renewal, engagement, and recruitment with a look ahead of what’s next for associations.
Hello and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive and a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. 21st century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core.
Here’s JP.
I’m pleased to say this is my last COVID-19 pandemic themed podcast of the year. I’m making that call right now. I’d like to wrap up things up with an overview of trends and observations that we saw during this time. Here goes.
Membership Retention
Let’s take look at where we were pre-pandemic: membership retention for trade associations was at 90%. We saw from the Marketing General membership study that 46% of all trade associations reported an increase in membership overall, 23% said that they were decreasing, and about 30% were flat. In other words, you had 53% of the industry that reported that they were flat or in decline. My expectation is that I think renewal rates will be at least 10% lower than before, so somewhere around 80%. I also think that the number of associations that will increase their membership will be somewhere around 25%. That’s based on things I’ve seen as well as things I’ve learned during my conversations with association executives.
Another trend I’ve seen? All of the value that you have delivered and you’re still delivering in an array of different formats! Zoom calls, webinars, e-newsletters, podcasts, video, and so much more. And I know that you will continue to do so for long term. The virtual meeting format is likely to stay and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
There’s also a continued trend toward membership modernization. A focus on segmented value propositions, new membership categories because you’re starting to engage different audiences, and revising dues levels to make sure that the organization can sustain itself.
Mergers and acquisitions are going to accelerate in your membership groups which will lead to your membership demographics/segments to shrink or merge together. Associations will also continue to merge.
The value of local, state, and regional organizations has increased significantly. National groups without a federated structure or a chapter have new challenges ahead because we will see some movement toward more gatherings at the local and regional level. People are hesitant to travel, they’re hesitant to stay overnight at a hotel, and they’re hesitant to being in large ballrooms.
I’ve got a story for you from one of my exec friends over at the National Sandstone Gravel Association.  One of their members called him and said, “Hey, listen, some of these webinars have made me more engaged with you and your association more than I ever have been. I don’t have the ability – based on my location, size of company, and schedule – to travel to your annual meeting, however, now I can participate!”
Membership Renewal and Engagement
If you dodged the bullet with renewal because most of your members did so in the first quarter all I have to say is, “Congratulations!” However, know that members are evaluating right now for 2021. How valuable were you were during this time? This is one of the questions they are asking that will help them make the decision for next year. As you know, many of your member companies, or individuals, have multiple memberships. They’re going to decide this year who was there for them, who provided the most interesting and useful information, and who compelled them to stay engaged. The answers to those questions will decide which associations that they will choose to stay with or join in 2021 when, more than likely, budgets are going to be smaller than in previous years.
By launching new programming, you are demonstrating unprecedented value and you’re connecting with a new audience. My question is, can you keep up the pace? Because, more than likely, you’re doing more outbound communication than you’ve done before. You could potentially see the growth of your communication teams.
Did your response to the pandemics demonstrate the importance of some programs while highlighting others that are outdated and need to go? Your organization probably learned some new things and created new programs during this time that you’d like to see continue on in future. Many associations reached more people in a variety of industry segments due their COVID-19 information delivery.
For example, The Moery Company joined the National Federation of Independent Business for the first time ever during the pandemic. Did we know about them? Heck yeah! Diane Moery, our COO, used to work for them but we never joined. We joined because we are getting so much value from them.
My guess is that you’ve engaged people and they would be very likely to join you because of all the valuable information, interpretation of rules, and navigation of new regulations and such that you provided to those in your industries.
Membership Recruitment
Make sure that you’re capturing the names, titles, company names, contact and any other valuable information from non-members who have engaged with you during this time for future recruitment.
It’s time for a very strategic decision. If you haven’t moved into the recruitment mode, when are you going to do it?
You’ve demonstrated value, you’ve delivered specialized information and expertise, and you engaged folks on government relations and advocacy. Your chapters are likely to be working in better concert and coordination with you than ever before. So, when are you going to ask for these folks to join? Don’t say no for someone else. I know times are still tough. Organizations are rebounding. However, I believe this is one of the best times for membership recruitment. So, get out there and do it!
You have engaged non-members that may have a changed perception of your organization or the way they think about you. Right? They may have changed the way they think about your association because they’ve been participating.
Your relationship with affiliates, allies, associates, and supplier members has changed, more than likely forever. You know now that they can deliver content, that they’re connected to you, and that you rely on them for sponsorship opportunities. It’s much more than just buying the coffee break. They’re now an even more valuable part of your membership and they likely need an updated value proposition and possibly dues structure because of it.
Expect different inventory pricing for virtual sponsorships. The pricing is usually less than what you’re used to charging for your face-to-face events. You’re also going to need to go into more detail in the description of your deliverables. There’s going to be increased need for sponsorship promotion and activation that are outside of the sponsorship on social media to give your partners increased branding opportunities. Virtual sponsorships are different.
Associations that are good at data, and ones that already have a strong virtual presence, will have an upper hand. Mining and delivering data back to the sponsor will allow you to ask for a premium sponsorship fee. Meanwhile, other associations may experience a staff and resource gap trying to catch up to get into the virtual and big data space.
Event planner skills may need to shift to virtual events and increased sales sophistication. What I mean by that is that your teams are no longer selling the same standard event sponsorship inventory that they’ve sold over the last decade. You’re going to have to provide more details for deliverables, do more outreach, and your teams will have to work harder for sponsorship dollars.
This is a long-term investment with new objectives, new strategies, and new ways of engaging the audience. This will allow you to attract new demographics and more members.
There are now more options for monetization when it comes for virtual event sponsorships. Some examples of inventory include pre-event sessions, direct advertising, and customized attendee experiences post-event with continuous and relevant information from the sponsor.
Make sure that these opportunities are based on solid thought leadership and content. You may recall that, in the past, when you had a bad session people would just leave and go have a cup of coffee or go back to their hotel room. If the content is bad in a virtual meeting, the attendees are never coming back again.
Take advantage of the opportunities and the things that you have learned coming during this time. I know that you’ll be a better association and more valuable to your members.
Best wishes to you.
Hey, if this content was valuable, will you please pass it along to a friend? That’s the only thing I asked for. I need to spread this message out to more people and I sure would welcome your help in doing that.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blog at and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JPMoery, as well as The Moery’s Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth, go to


Related Posts

Need Help?

Follow Us


803 W Broad St, Ste 730, Falls Church, VA 22046

(571) 814-3443