Monday, April 23, 2012

Disappearing Icons: Will Your Association Join the List?

Several American icons are disappearing.
The laundry list of disappearing or dying “icons” continues to grow. Here’s what I’ve spotted just in 2012:
If you and your volunteers have not scanned the environment to see how these changes are impacting other organizations, it’s time you did!

Here are six trends/issues “pressuring” associations and some thoughts for you to ponder:

1. Networking as the No. 1 reason for membership
  • ASAE’s Decision to Join research helps illustrate the challenge: Board/committee members rank networking as #1 association activity (rated it 4.3 on 5.0 scale). But, members-at-large ranked networking #3 (3.6 on a 5.0 scale). Members put information (content) and education as #1 and #2.
  • Despite protests from some (often older) leaders, members (and nonmembers) are networking via social media platforms. While such networking may not be “eyeball to eyeball,” it is global and instant.
2. The Association as “the” source of Content (Knowledge, Education or Information)
  • In providing direct-to-consumer content, companies are acting like publishers. Publishers are acting like associations. And, associations are being squeezed between the two.
  • In the “old days,” associations and professional societies were near monopolies on content/knowledge/information. If you want our information, pay your dues. Well, Google, social media and content marketers have usurped this space. 
3. Changing of the Guard: Influx of Millennials
  • The 78 million Boomers (generally considered those born 1946-1964) will really retire and leave our associations. Generation X (those born in the 1960s-1980s) number only about 50 million so will not be able to replace all of the Boomer retirees. Thus, organizations will need to rely on the 78-80 million Millennials/Gen Ys (those born in the 1980s & 1990s).
  • Even through they are still coming of age, it appears Millennials will have different expectations of associations and volunteer leadership. Will you be ready for them?
  • Here are three resources (among many) that you might consider:
            Gen Y Dissected: Six Types Of Millennials
            Jamie Notter’s Generational Diversity in the Workplace 
            The Trophy Kids Go to Work

4. Members always on: expecting 24/7 response to inquiries and engagement
  • With the average text message opened within four minutes of receipt, members and nonmembers don’t understand long (60 minutes?) delays to responses to inquiries.
  • Associations need “systems” to monitor member inquiries and comments on a 24/7 basis. 
5. Members wanting FREE the radical new price 
  • The traditional membership dues model is slowly dying. Members are pressuring associations to lower dues. And, some are asking why do I have to pay dues at all? 
  • Freemium runs on the premise that if you give away a curtailed version of your product, your fans will enjoy it enough to then upgrade to a paid subscription (membership).
  • The freemium pricing model may be the solution. Engage with a large segment of your industry/profession but build the model where perhaps only 5% to 10% percent of the universe pay for premium services/benefits.
6. Membership Declines Threaten Local Chapters
  • Membership in “Noonday lunch clubs” and civic organizations have been spiraling downward. 
  • Examples:
        Membership in the U.S. Jaycees has dropped from about 200,000 to about 25,000 in
        the last decade.
        Membership in American Bar Association down 7% from 2007.
        Membership in National PTA down 1 million from 10 years ago.
  • This includes many local chapters of national associations. I’ve been involved in three here in St. Louis facing both fewer members and fewer volunteer leaders. 
  • All associations ask members for both money (dues) and time (attendance, volunteers) ... and people seem to be more reluctant to give either in great numbers especially if they don’t perceive value in return.
Do you see other issues impacting your association?  Please add your thoughts to the comments section.

As you review the list of declining (or deceased) icons above, will your association be joining them?

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