The Link Between Association Membership and Technology

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The DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia (DMV) regions are far more than just the center of our federal government. They are also home to a technology corridor and a center zone for most national associations.

The currency of association management remains its membership. So, as membership lags during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact is felt across the DMV region. The effect is felt as income drops, and dues are unpaid. We are also impacted as associations cancel annual conventions and meetings in our region.

How can technology boost association membership and visitation? In this blog, we explore the tie between association membership and technology.

Association membership during a pandemic

As a starting point, let's look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on association membership, networking, and conventions. We are feeling the impact across the region, and here are the top four factors that started the dominos falling:

  1. As budgets tighten, single members, entrepreneurs, and small businesses have to restructure their budgets. Unless critically needed, association memberships expire.
  2. During the pandemic, some associations found the need to cut services, and members found that the membership was no longer of value to their business plan.
  3. Associations cut their continuing education opportunities, and members found a new source for classes and testing.
  4. Networking is a top reason to join an association and to attend a convention or seminar. Due to social distancing and travel restrictions, association meetings were postponed or canceled altogether.

The impact is accurate, and associations are still feeling it today. But there is a silver lining. 78% of associations report that they have developed new services and activities to re-gain membership in 2022. (Associations Now)

New association ideas tied to technology

The good news is that technology can solve many of today’s issues, bring forward new ideas, and offer new opportunities for associations in 2022. Team MainSpring’s group of talented virtual CIOs are here to help your association review needs and plan for the future. A technology refresh can help your association build membership in three ways:

  1. Prospecting for members, including automated marketing
  2. Manage data and online learning in the cloud
  3. Facilitate a virtual or hybrid seminar for a hundred or conventions for thousands
  4. Integrating systems to streamline operations and reduce manual labor
Prospecting for members using technology

As the economy is rebounding, it is time to start rebuilding our contact database. Today, it is common to find that contacts have resigned, changed positions, or shifted their employment to a new field. A workforce migration is a perfect time to launch a new customer relationship management (CRM) software solution at your association—or business.

A cloud-based CRM such as SalesForce or HubSpot can ensure efficient prospecting while protecting your data in the cloud. Or use a CRM system created specifically for association management. If you are considering using a software subscription specific to association membership, check out a list of the Top 10.

Our MainSpring tip is not necessarily using a cloud-based CRM solution; although, it is good advice. Our recommendation is to ensure that the system fits your needs and can grow with your association or organization. And, if needed, your software subscription needs can shrink as your team changes.

If you are currently using a subscription CRM solution, when was the last time you evaluated your subscription and license count? Are you overpaying for licensed use because your workforce shrank in 2021? Read a popular MainSpring blog about auditing your subscription services.

Remember, a database is only as good as the data entered. It may be time to set new standard procedures for updating and entering data into your CRM. It may be time to ask further questions about your membership and to gather new information. Turn over every stone to find new members.

Continuing education rebounds with the help of technology

In the past, continuing education provided a revenue stream for the association and a benefit for the member. If your professional license depends on continuing education, you often look to your association to provide the resources.

Today, continuing education has gone virtual or hybrid. Large associations began the trend to online learning before the COVID-19 pandemic, but many small to medium associations and organizations are pivoting fast.

The cornerstone of building an online training program is embracing cloud technology. If your association or organization considers including cloud technology in your business plan and budget, now is the time to talk with a services provider.

You may develop one online class in 2022 but plan to grow to a suite of courses in the future. Again, it would be best if you had a solution that grows with your association.

Welcome back seminar and convention attendees

Although the era of large conventions in fly-in locations was already in the rearview mirror for some organizations, the pandemic immediately halted this industry cornerstone.

The once-a-year tradition of an association-wide meeting provided trickle-down economics to both the association and its partners. It also provided revenue to the host city such as DC, Tysons Corner, and Baltimore. The meetings were also a networking opportunity for members, while some used the event for prospecting new employment or contract opportunities.

As the economy rebounds, technology provides the solution for a hybrid event. I recently spoke to Jon-Mikel Bailey of Wellspring Digital about the future of virtual and hybrid events. Pre-pandemic, Jon traveled to association meetings and conventions as a guest speaker. Here is some feedback from Jon about the future of association networking and conventions:

“In 2022, associations will shift to a hybrid mix of in-person and virtual events.  Technology will allow for a blended networking event for hundreds to thousands of attendees. Event partners and sponsorships will return with virtual or blended trade shows and even virtual networking opportunities. Meeting attendees will choose between in-person attendance or going virtual for the entire event. Associations that understand the importance of digital, technology and even audio-video will benefit."—Jon-Mikel Bailey 

Jon paints an aspiring picture, but is your association ready for the next generation of network meetings and conventions? You may have a great team to plan your next event, but do you have the technology bandwidth? Now is the time to evaluate your needs and your IT budget.

Contact MainSpring

MainSpring is a technology services provider in the DMV region. With a few tweaks to your technology plan, you can enable new tools to build membership, provide online training, and host events. How can we help you? Contact us.