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ISAE Blog

7 Trends for Associations

Posted by Katherine Mandusic Finley, Ph.D., CAE, CFRE, CMP on Nov 8, 2017 9:15:00 AM

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Did you know that according to BuzzFeed, big hair, big round glasses, and putting pink pom-poms on everything will be a few of the “fashion” trends of 2017 that we will “cringe about in 2027”? If only keeping up with trends that affect associations were as easy as changing hairdressers, going on the Internet to buy inexpensive (and ugly) glasses, and going to the local dollar store to stock up on pink pom-poms and glue. And wouldn’t it be nice if trends that affect associations could so easily written off ten years later as just a fad. 

Unfortunately, following and keeping up with trends that affect associations isn’t so easy and everything seems to be changing at an accelerated rate. In this rapidly changing world, not following these trends can have dire consequences.

Below are the top seven trends I have culled from various sources including Sheri Jacobs blog on her Avenue M website (“Five Trends Your Association Can’t Ignore"), sessions at the 2017 ASAE Annual Meeting, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and a number of association technology company websites.

  1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile. I remember when people first started getting tattoos and body piercings, and I thought to myself that this trend will soon fade. Here we are many years later, and tattoos and body piercings are so popular that even those people who you thought would never succumb to this trend (like your 93-year-old aunt) suddenly show up to a family picnic sporting a tattoo. Well, the use of mobile devices has grown and will continue to grow exponentially in the past few years. In 2016, it is estimated that 80 percent of individuals had a smartphone. Mary Byers, author of Race to Relevance, noted there are “more mobile phones in the use in the world than toothbrushes."
  2. Movement toward an engagement business model from a traditional membership model. That is, associations have to provide what people want, when they want it and on what device(s) they choose. This is also part of a “cord-cutter trend” in which people have decided to cut the cord to cable, telephone, and other services they don’t use. Basically, they refuse to pay for what they won't use, and members want to pick and choose the benefits that most suit their needs.
  3. A sharing economy. Airbnb and Zipcar are two companies thriving on the idea of sharing. If you live and work in an urban area, why buy a car if you only use it occasionally? Instead, rent a Zipcar and use it only when needed. Or why rent a hotel room, when someone is willing to share their home with you when they are on vacation? The trend may be filtering into associations. For example, some associations are experimenting with shared registrations. That is, one registration is purchased but different people at the same company use it to attend different sessions on different days.
  4. More emphasis on customer service. Companies like Amazon and Starbucks have taken customer service to a new level. And just because you aren’t working for or running a for-profit company doesn’t mean members won’t expect you to provide them with the same customer service at these successful companies.
  5. An aging population in not only in the U.S., but around the world. Not only will this mean more generations in the workplace (and possibly tension among them), but because most individuals are not financially prepared for retirement, there will be more strain on public resources. Also, there may be a loss of institutional knowledge at organizations.
  6. More emphasis on flexibility and community at an affordable price. People will expect inexpensive experiences, but still ones that can be shared with a group. This means that associations will have to increase engagement at events and introduce fun activities into the mix. It’s all about the experience, not the event.
  7. Fewer monetary resources. Let’s face it. We have all had to find ways to do more with less and with smaller staffs, and this trend will continue.

Topics: Association Executives, Association Management, Trends, Association trends, Innovation

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