In 1994, I worked on one of the first websites in the association industry. It was very forward thinking for the association and I was able to learn a lot in two years. We had no examples of other associations who had websites and took a lot of risks. At the end of the project, we had an incredible, high end web presence for the organization.
I then worked to start a for profit subsidiary that helped other associations create websites. This was another learning experience as no other association had ventured into this territory. We lived through the worry of Y2K, server rooms getting too hot in the building, etc. It was an adventure for sure!
Looking back, these two organizations let a young woman with lots of ambition try new things and create new member and customer experiences as well as new revenue streams for their organizations.
As I consider the future and the impact on associations, I often think about what will enable organizations to be successful in a rapidly changing world. Technology advancements are happening quicker than ever, the way we work will change in the near future and managing in a connected world creates challenges as well as new opportunities. The association governance model creates the biggest challenge for organizations to adapt quickly to a constantly changing environment and member needs.
So, how can your organization continue to succeed in a rapidly changing world?
Here are a few thoughts on how these organizations were able to be successful venturing into unknown territory. Each of these associations had these same characteristics.
1) They created a culture of learning. We were all learning through formal education as well as lessons learned. We gained insights from each other.
3) New ideas were not only encouraged but expected. There was a culture for innovation with both the staff and board.
4) Allow the freedom to act. We were allowed to make decisions, take risks and were encouraged and supported.
5) Each organization made an investment in the technology tools needed for us to be successful.
As I look into the future, I see a new opportunities for associations.
Mobility allows organizations to hire talent anywhere in the world. Rethink the “office environment”. Millennials have grown up being “connected” and have learned how to collaborate without being in one physical location.
Work-life blend. The younger workforce do not talk about “work-life balance” but a new way of thinking that the “job” is no longer confined to traditional hours or places. Associations will need to be flexible to secure the right talent as these workers have a very different approach. Instead of worrying about more office space as your organization grows, create collaborative work spaces.
New and exciting products and services. New technologies such as robots, AI, business intelligence, 3D printing to name a few can provide associations with opportunities to rethink the traditional products and services. By creating and allowing for innovation, associations can increase non-dues revenue.
What are your thoughts on the future of association? What are the challenges ahead of us? What are the opportunities?