Friday, September 9, 2011

Why the Traditional Association Model is Stronger Than Ever

A lot of talk has been pouring over the internet recently regarding whether the traditional association model works in today's crazy, fast, and ever changing environment.  The answer is more powerful than ever.   Let me share why.

I like to compare the traditional association model to that of the traditional car model.  Cars of today have the same four components they did in the 1960's, with an engine, body, frame, and four wheels.  The car has always been the best and most efficient mode of transportation for the average person.  Yet the cars of today outperform cars of the 1960's, because of technology advancements and re-engineering.

Associations are exactly the same.  The traditional model of today encompasses the same core elements as the 1960's, in that associations provide groups of people with a common passion, a purpose, and a chance to:
  1. Organize themselves
  2. Coordinate their efforts
  3. Leverage the costs over many people
  4. Do things as a group, they could not do individually, effectively
  5. Build trust to take advantage of business opportunities
There is no other model that allows a group of people with common passion and purpose, to pull off such great accomplishments as the association model does.  For all of you who believe social media can assimilate people with a common purpose, you're fooling yourself, because someone has got to execute and do the work.  Social media allows people to talk, write, and shout out a lot, but at some point, someone has to leave their computer and do the work.  This is where the associations rules the day.

With technology advancements such as social media, gotomypc, go to meeting, Skype, and mobile, the association model has made the association model stronger and more powerful because:
  1. We have now given the smallest member in the most remote location an opportunity to be involved in the conversation.
  2. We have empowered our members to connect 24/7.
  3. We have engaged our members to have a louder voice because the voice has expanded.
  4. We have become more important as a trusted filter to the incredible amount of wrong information on the internet.
The reason people view the association model as dead, is because many CEO's and execs have viewed technology advancements as a threat to their control and association model, instead of the path to re-engineering that which can propel their association to expand their reach to rule their universe.
I know this, because our organization still runs a traditional model, with a baby boomer board of directors, baby boomer members, and committee structures.  However, over the last six years, our association has aggressively made technology advancements, and re-engineered our habits, and the member satisfaction, member loyalty, engagement of the younger generation, and financial strength of our organization has never been higher.

Here's the deal:
  • People WANT to accomplish something bigger than themselves with groups common to them.
  • People WANT to be a part of something exciting.
  • People WANT to believe in an organization who can empower them to make it happen.
If any association implements technology advancements, and the right re-engineering around the five core association elements mentioned above, I believe they can rule their universe and engage the loyalty of their members.

As the commercial says..."Life comes at your fast.  Stop talking and start doing."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Tom. I was really struggling with our conversation on this topic over Twitter. Sometimes, 140 characters are not enough!

    It looks like you and Jeff De Cagna fundamentally disagree on this topic, but I'm still not clear on where you two diverge.

    Jeff said:

    "tom thinks assns can do a modified and tech-enhanced version of what they have always done 2b successful. i fundamentally disagree."


    "imho we must question EVERY assumption abt what assns r/what they do 2day 2 design biz models connecting purposeful action & profitability."

    Is he characterizing your position correctly? How would you characterize his?