Navigating the Communication Challenges of Associations

Successful associations provide value to members through effective advocacy and leadership. Despite this, the American Society of Association Executives reports that association membership is declining. Below are three typical challenges that any type of association may face and some ways they can be overcome.

  1. Membership attraction and retention: Attracting and retaining members is priority number one for any organization. According to the Harvard Business Review, one reason for a decline in association membership is social media. With new ways to connect and network developing constantly, an association may not seem as relevant to individuals as it has in the past. To change that perception, it’s essential for an association to develop clear, compelling messaging with proof points to help potential members understand the unique benefits they’ll receive. When these messages are used in various promotional materials, individuals are more likely to join the association. Similarly, when an association has clear messaging around its work on behalf of members, retention rates increase.
  2. Keeping up with current trends and perceptions: An association, like its members, must adapt to an ever-evolving, technology-driven world. An association that doesn’t embrace change will likely encounter membership and business challenges that can threaten its existence. One method an association can use to keep current with trends and perceptions is to host focus groups and send surveys to its members. By uncovering and leveraging insights from this member-driven feedback, an association can shape present and future offerings to its members. Research can uncover those aspects of an association that members believe have the most value as well as those that members don’t consider to be as important.
  3. Diverse attitudes among members: Competing interests within an association can create tension. For example, members may have different positions on issues based on business models or geography. An association can overcome competing interests by consulting with an outside partner to identify these differences and develop strategies for addressing them. Partnering with an objective outside firm that specializes in dealing with and helping associations can guide and encourage leadership to make the best decisions for its members based on an unbiased but informed opinion.

There are countless benefits of joining an association: they set industry standards, provide updates on policies, lobby on behalf of members’ interests, and often help members with potential cost savings. However, if not regularly communicated, the value of these benefits gets overlooked by members or potential members. By focusing on attracting and retaining members, staying current with matters relevant to its members, and addressing the diverse attitudes of its membership, an association can set the course for a strong and productive future.

If you’re part of an association and are curious as to how Mower can help you communicate more effectively with members and stakeholders, contact Andrew Rush, director of public affairs.