Associations had a built-in set of "golden handcuffs" for value because the internet did not exist as it does today. They were the only real place to access new product launches, information and networks of people.
Then a life changing event happened for associations, in the 1990's, AOL and Google became the information highway for everyone. Now everything was different...information was at the fingertips of anyone who had a computer. Over the last 20+ years, the internet has taken over an area that was once so vital to associations..."Information and Data".
The 800 hot-line to the association offices is no longer needed to get critical updates on legislation and industry news. With a couple of key strokes and Google, you can have over a billion pages at your fingertips to filter through.
In order to understand the answer to this question, you need to understand the types of benefits and their relationship to member value. Here are the three types of benefits any association can offer:
- Those things your members can get for free without you (adds zero value to the association)
- Those things you are going to do whether I'm a member or not (adds some value to the association)
- Those things you do for your members they can't do themselves effectively (maximizes association value)
Remember, in the world of associations, innovation isn't developing the next big mobile app or device. It's simply creating solutions that solve your member's problems and challenges. If you do that, they will trust you, know that you care for them, and you will have great relevance in the life of their business.
I take my own association for example: Seven years ago we chose to put all of our focus on #3 above, and we began listening to our members with the intent of restructuring our strategic plan to reflect what they said were their areas of challenge. We came away with the following areas of focus:
- 24/7 Online Training
- Effective Face to Face Networking Conferences
- High Energy Leadership Training Relevant to the Younger Generation
- Financial Benchmarking and Forecasting
- Online Member Matching for Networking
- Tools to Help Members Reduce Findings in Their Accreditation Audits
Since our Association put its focus on these 6 areas in 2006, the Association has grown over 18% in annual dues revenue, 28% in per member revenue, and 840% in net worth...with the largest economic downturn in our history.
Do we have a set of "golden handcuffs"? YES, because the 6 areas noted above are crucial to the success of any company within our industry, and they can't get it anywhere else, nor can they do it themselves effectively.
When an association gets back to the basics of why they exist:
1) Organize themselves
2) Coordinate their efforts
3) Leverage the costs over many
4) Build trust as a group
5) Do things together they can't do themselves effectively
...they will begin to see member value, engagement, and loyalty start to grow to levels they never thought possible.
It is helping association boards/staff find their way to higher levels of excellence for their members and industry.