5 Survival Tips for Associations – Association Hustle Podcast Episode 268 (8m 17s)



How can associations can add value to their members and improve their member recruitment programs? Follow these tips.

Here are five areas that I see as very important for associations in 2021:
1. Integration of government relations and business development
If we’re really paying attention to businesses and their behaviors, our sponsors, our members and small businesses, we have opportunities to serve them better. Integrate your government relations team with your business development work. We have more tangible government relations offerings if you don’t just report what’s happening, but you interpret new developments in government relations, regulations, and things that are going on in Washington, D.C. Your members are more sensitized than ever about what’s happening and its direct effect on them. We developed a lot of goodwill when we were helping our members interpret rules and providing how-to’s about how to navigate things. This needs to continue with regular digital updates. I’m amazed at how advocacy, a clear and distinct part of associations’ value propositions, is so separate from our membership recruitment and retention program. A formative part of my association career was with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, so maybe I have a bias of connecting advocacy and business development. But I have to tell you, if we didn’t have the government relations value well articulated, we didn’t have membership value, and we didn’t have members period, and we didn’t have the resources we needed to win. So I think it’s really important, probably always was, to connect these two in a very integrated way. The more connected they are, the more successful you’ll be.
2. Embrace the efficiency of digital.
At the highest levels of membership, we see improved participation. Board of Director engagement from companies that you used to have to beg to come on board or beg to come to the Board of Directors meeting, are now participating regularly. CEOs and executives from across the country are learning the efficiency they get from digital interaction. That doesn’t mean you don’t get together ever again, but certainly this should be a big component of how you bring chief executives together in the future.
3. Small group execution.
I foresee that small, in-person meetings, which are regional geographically in nature, will come back first. Digital programs for small groups which deep-dive into details will also be very important. Those small groups might also be a good place to insert sponsors or suppliers that want to hear that type of industry dialogue. The associations that are able to facilitate these little small group interactions, whether it’s in-person or whether it’s digitally on different platforms, are going to be ahead of the game. Think about these as small focus groups. Also, it’s great for the association staff to be able to facilitate and organize these events because it connects your staff to your members more. They will have the opportunity to hear how your members are thinking and when they hear that, they’re going to be able to represent and be more valuable to your association.
4. Data information.
You may succeed by spending some time by performing list hygiene on your organization’s contact data. A lot of changes have occurred with existing member companies and there are different executives in place now. We are having sales success by prospecting our own companies for the association. We are going outside of the association’s list and we’re finding new companies within their industry sector. Why? The association list is really quite tired. I’ll give you a specific example: we’re currently selling for an association in transportation that has a big in-persontrade event coming up. We went outside their usual list of suspects; people that were still connected to the industry, people that would still get value, but never really had any interaction. We’re having some great conversations there and we’re closing some big deals because they’re looking for new opportunities as well. Develop some new companies and new contacts, even within your existing companies to have a fresh set of eyes on your value.
5. Personal connection over email
People are craving and grateful for the personal connection, the phone call, the written note, just “hey, how you doing”. Let your customers, staff, suppliers, and vendors that they are doing a great job. The member that renewed for the 20th time deserves a more personal thanks. The more you can communicate with them personally, will allow your association to thrive.


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