This guest post was written by NoviAMS, a provider of leading association management software.
Professional societies and trade associations perform an essential role in the success of businesses around the world. From advocating on behalf of their industry in government regulatory conversations to educating member businesses on evolutions in technology, these associations are a valuable resource for members.
However essential, managing a trade association has its challenges. These could include normal growing pains of managing an association, such as adjusting to association management tech, to new challenges like guiding member businesses through necessary HR adjustments in the post-#MeToo era.
We’ve highlighted four member management challenges that associations face. In this guide, we’re going to examine the following challenges, as well as propose solutions for your association to navigate them:
- Disrupted landscape for member businesses.
- Managing association staff for improved member engagement.
- Addressing members across generations.
- Using technology in association management.
We at NoviAMS work to understand the challenges faced by trade associations and brainstorm solutions to those problems. Follow along for an exploration of some of the biggest member management challenges we’ve observed, and tips to overcome the hurdle.
1. Disrupted landscape for member businesses.
Owning and operating a business in 2020 is a significantly different endeavor than doing so in 2010/1990/etc., and your member businesses have to keep up with the times.
Whether it’s the seemingly constant emergence of new technologies or the political climate (this year is an election year, after all) shaking things up, there are a lot of changes and challenges to navigate. That’s one of the perks of joining an association — your members depend on you to see beyond the disruption.
But don’t get overwhelmed! Here are a few tips to live up to the challenge:
- Regularly survey member companies about their concerns. While you’re probably plugged in to industry-wide concerns, you might miss the smaller details your member businesses face every day. Keep an open line of communication to make sure you address what really matters to members.
- Pay attention to the news. When news breaks that could affect your members, don’t be the last voice to address it. Make sure you’re informing members of updates as soon as possible and, if necessary, advocating publicly as well.
- Make the most of your association website and social networks. This will allow you to send out information quickly and efficiently when needed. Make sure to follow association website best practices (learn more through this guide) and to adjust your messaging to match the social networks you employ.
- Consult experts on subjects affecting your industry. Whenever a big change is coming, consult experts on the topic. By educating yourself, you can give the most informed predictions and suggestions to your members. Then, you can later hold a comprehensive webinar or event giving members the full breakdown.
- Speak out on behalf of your membership. Whenever a big change occurs, of course you’ll communicate it directly to your members. However, you should also have a public-facing voice for issues affecting your industry, advocating on behalf of your members.
When navigating the ever-changing landscape of your particular space or industry, all your members want to see is that you’re standing with them and working to help them carve a path. These tips will help you get started.
2. Managing association staff for improved member engagement.
As an association, your biggest concern is providing worthwhile content and experiences to members in order to retain and recruit in the long-run. That’s a challenge in itself! However, if your only approach to member engagement and recruitment is external (as in, just your interactions members and prospects), then you’re missing a huge chunk of the puzzle.
Just as your member businesses are recognizing the need for continuous professional development of staffers— and your association should be helping them do so — your organization should also focus on your own staffing needs. Taking a proactive and strategic approach to your own internal management and human resources (HR) processes is integral to your association’s success.
Strengthening your team, creating a strong culture of engagement, and using technology to track your progress along the way can help. This internal development will allow you to focus on member management with improved processes, carrying lessons between the two areas of your operations.
Bringing in HR technology, such as talent management software, can help you in the charge. This software allows you to:
- Recruit with intention. Tools like applicant tracking and centralized onboarding will ensure you’re bringing in the right candidates and dong so in an intuitive manner.
- Add convenience to performance reviews. Helpful for both managers and those reporting to them, bringing performance reports online ensures all scores, notes, and other essential information are easily accessible.
- Organize compensation and incentives. Staffers need to feel confident that you’re keeping close track of their pay and not letting anything fall through the cracks.
- Conduct exit interviews and analyze responses. Customized interviews with tracked employee responses allow you to improve operations after a staffer leaves your association.
While much of your time will be spent focusing on members, it’s just as important to focus on your internal strength.
You may feel hesitant about directing your focus on staffing, but software makes it significantly more efficient. Learn more about using talent management software through this guide.
3. Addressing members across generations.
In recent years, as Millennials grow into their roles as business owners and leaders, there’s a growing generation gap in trade association membership. That, paired with the massive boom in technology we’ve seen in the past 30-or-so years, means member companies within your association will have different interests, preferences, and opinions regarding how things should be approached.
From your most loyal long-term member business to your youngest start-up, it’s difficult to walk the line between tradition and innovation. While you must remain respectful of traditional ideals, it’s also important to stay ahead of the times!
To address the needs of your members across generations, do the following:
- Have an ongoing conversation with your new and prospective members. Consider what would most interest them and work to incorporate that in your association’s offerings. These new and prospective members will likely be generation-spanning, so you’ll have a good view of what companies want from an association like yours in 2020.
- Make an effort to have generation-spanning leadership. Encourage collaboration in creating solutions that would serve all represented by your association. This goes for your internal leadership and any member committees that pop up along the way.
- While you’ll want to update methods for younger audiences, don’t neglect traditional methods. For example, while you should certainly incorporate social media and eLearning, make sure you don’t forget email, spoken conversations, and in-person meetings through the process. This will be easier if your AMS integrates with a wide range of solutions, so you can easily record the data of your many efforts.
It’s just as important to embrace the trends of the future as it is to respect the traditions that have long governed business. By making space for all generations when providing services to your membership, you’ll do just that.
4. Using technology in association management.
Just as your member businesses are probably turning to technology to improve operations, such as performance management software, email marketing software, and even event planning software, your association should consider doing the same.
If you’re not tech-savvy but still want to stay ahead of the times, don’t worry! There is one solution that will handle all of your tech-related association management woes: association management software.
Trade AMS software functions as a database of all of your association’s activities, including member communications, non-dues revenue collection, and even website management. You’ll want to choose an AMS that allows you to:
- Easily maintain member data for clear, actionable insights. This includes cleaning your database with duplication prevention and data merge abilities.
- Manage your association’s website to keep members in the loop. You’ll want to create a website branded to your association and offer updates and non-dues revenue opportunities (such as ad space and featured directory listings) through it.
- Host an event calendar and handle event registration. Make sure members are well-aware of upcoming opportunities to engage and can easily get involved. Further, consider elevating your next association event even more with mobile event app technology.
- Integrate your various association management tech solutions. This includes accounting software, email marketing software, social media networks, trade show management software, and others.
This software allows your association to increase efficiency and productivity, without overwhelming your leadership. Check out this guide to trade association management software by NoviAMS for more information.
Professional and trade associations play an integral role in society and the successful progression of businesses. However, managing such an organization is becoming a more challenging task as time goes on.
Whether helping member businesses navigate an increasingly tumultuous landscape, minding the generation gap, or adjusting to technology in your internal processes— your association confronts new challenges each day.
With the above solutions, your association will be well-slated to overcome these challenges in the new year.
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