7 Association Trends To Watch for in 2024

Members have thousands of ways to spend their time and money, yet many choose to spend it with you. Will they always?

Your association’s value proposition is more important than ever. To ensure association members pay attention to you, take advantage of what differentiates your association from the other organizations and brands in their lives.

These seven strategies will help you provide experiences, community, and resources that members can trust—benefits that will transform their professional and personal lives.

#1: Highlight your humanity in the AI age

Members and prospects are using automation and AI themselves or see others using these tools. They expect your association to also take advantage of these efficiencies to free up staff time for more valuable work.

But, if you’re not careful, relying on AI can be a race to the bottom. It’s the human touch that can completely transform a member’s experience.

Stand out from others competing for your members’ attention by highlighting the human aspect of membership. The top reason for joining an association, per MGI’s membership benchmark report, is networking, so help members connect with each other. When planning and marketing membership, programs, and events, focus on opportunities for members to interact with each other.

Remind everyone on staff that you all work in member service. Don’t just rely on the website chat bot or 1-800 number to do that job for you. Find feasible ways for staff or member volunteers to help connect new and longtime members with the benefits or experiences that will help them achieve membership goals.

Automate your new member onboarding campaign, but supplement it with phone calls or emails from real people.

Offer renewing members a meeting or call with a trained volunteer who can help them plan their membership and learning journey.

Use targeted, automated lead nurturing campaigns to show prospects, customers, and members how to connect with others and get the information and education they desire. These campaigns demonstrate your understanding of their interests and tie them closer to you.

An association is a community of people, including staff. Let your members see and feel that.

#2: Reduce staff busywork with automation and AI

You need time and brain energy to tackle challenges like changing audience needs, member recruitment, and member value propositions. Take care of what’s important while you automate the rest.

Eliminate manual processes and simplify regular tasks.

Track and analyze individual and member segment activity so you can identify patterns and predict behavior.

Automate onboarding, engagement, renewal, and marketing campaigns.

Jumpstart the writing process and transcribe and summarize audio and text with AI tools.

By taking advantage of automation, you make the once impossible possible. Free up the time you need to work on projects that increase opportunities for member engagement, like new member onboarding and check-ins, or virtual meetups where members can discuss hot topics and make new connections.

#3: Make data literacy a job requirement

Help staff understand the reasons behind your data governance and management practices. Remind them of your common goal: a full, accurate picture of members, customers, and revenue partners that helps your association provide relevant content and interact appropriately.

Everyone’s responsible for data integrity. Encourage staff to take advantage of opportunities to update data. Departments shouldn’t keep siloed data. For example, the government affairs team should share contact and engagement data for member company employees who are grassroots activists. That information is valuable for membership and marketing teams too.

You don’t have to worry about data hoarders if you use platform integration tools, like Power Automate. By leveraging data from all the systems members use, like your AMS, learning management system, website, and community, you have a more complete picture of the member or customer.

What’s possible when everyone is data literate?

You know what your audience is really interested in—not just what they say, but what they do.

You don’t have to guess or assume. You know how membership, purchases, and participation are trending by segment.

You can respond quickly to changing situations and make better decisions about resource allocation, program development (and sunset), and marketing.

#4: Focus on personalization, not just segmentation

It’s a given you will break members, customers, and prospects into segments, such as career stage and interests. But segmentation alone is no longer good enough.

People are individuals with individual needs, interests, and preferences. Consider these two 30-something finance professionals. Jeff is climbing the corporate ladder. He attends large in-person events and has started volunteering. Audra is a self-employed fractional CFO. She enjoys attending online education programs and meeting other entrepreneurs in small online groups, but as a mom, she’s too busy to volunteer. Their career stage, age, and educational background are the same, but these two are looking for very different things.

Use member data to personalize website content and emails based on the member’s behaviors, interests, and preferences. Don’t worry, they won’t see you as a creepy Big Brother. Personalization means you care enough about their time to only share what they’re interested in. It means you’ve been paying attention to them and the member experience as a whole—as they expect you to.

#5: Return to virtual programming

Hybrid events are prohibitively expensive for most associations. Plus, the virtual audience usually feels like second-class citizens.

Take a blended, inclusive approach to education and networking. By offering separate virtual and in-person programs, you have something for everyone.

Unfortunately, many associations dramatically reduced their virtual programs once in-person came back. But when you don’t offer sufficient online programs, you’re excluding many people who can’t or won’t attend in-person events because of:

  •         Personal or professional responsibilities
  •         Budget or schedule constraints
  •         Disabilities
  •         Health concerns
  •         Visa issues
  •         Employer restrictions

Virtual programs must offer more than just content. If your audience wants to passively watch a presentation, they can do that on their own time with videos and webinar recordings.

People who take the time to attend live (synchronous) online programs want a more engaging experience than sitting and watching. They want to interact with others, discuss what they’re hearing, ask questions, and practice what they’re learning.

This desire for peer interaction is why the number of online cohort programs offered by associations is increasing. Cohorts offer a mix of self-study, live instruction, and group discussion. The value lies not just in the content, but in the opportunity to develop relationships with peers.

Impexium offers event management software for associations that need to streamline their events and make the association experience better and more personalized for each member.

#6: Satisfy the desire to belong

People join associations to find peers, mentors, and leads. But many of them also want to belong to a community. As a society, we’ve lost many of the institutions that traditionally provided the feeling of belonging.

  •         Families are dispersed.
  •         Civic organizations have disappeared.
  •         Fewer people belong to a religious organization.
  •         Political divisiveness has replaced “we’re all in this together.”
  •         Remote work exacerbates this isolation for many.

Associations—communities of members—are the solution to isolation, loneliness, and the feeling that something is missing in life. Members share similar professional values, purpose, and interests. They’re all in it together.

Highlight this aspect of membership in your marketing messages to prospects and existing members to remind them why they joined and boost member retention.

#7: Look beyond the member relationship

Associations have always tried to convert prospects and customers into members. But it doesn’t always work. Many employers won’t pay for membership. Affordability is an issue for many prospects, especially early-career professionals and people between jobs. Many prospects aren’t yet convinced of the value of membership, despite your efforts.

But association membership is not the only relationship to cultivate. Instead, try to convert prospects into loyal customers—event attendees, learners, and subscribers. Keep them close. Get to know them by collecting behavioral and demographic data about them. Send only relevant content. Promote educational programs and other products that might interest them.

These people may never become a member, but they may become profitable and loyal customers whom you can count on for program and event attendance, grassroots advocacy, and survey participation.

Choose a solution to help you achieve these goals

How can your association apply these next practices? Transform your operations and exceed member and customer expectations with Impexium’s membership management software.

Impexium helps you leverage data to better understand members, prospects, and customers. Gain insight into what they truly value. Make more informed decisions when planning, designing, and marketing benefits, programs, and services.

Make each interaction with members and customers more effective by personalizing communication and engagement. Build their loyalty by proving you understand their desires and aspirations. Your association never wastes their time, instead you offer the resources they need.

When you streamline operations and automate marketing and engagement campaigns with Impexium, your team can shift their attention from busywork to strategic member- and customer-focused work.

Smarter, Simpler Membership Management

Impexium’s association management software (AMS) empowers associations to focus on what matters most—your constituents. We help you streamline operations, reduce development costs, and improve business outcomes.

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