Fresh Perspectives on Association Membership: Two Resources You'll Want to Read

Recently, I was privileged to give two presentations at the 2013 AuSAE Leadership Symposium: Associations at a Crossroads, which was held October 24-25 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. AuSAE is the Australasian Society of Association Executives, ASAE’s sister society “Down Under.” 

It was great to have a chance to share some of the ideas and findings from The Demand Perspective blog as well as from our forthcoming book, The Demand Perspective: Leading Associations from the Outside-In (expected ASAE publication date, winter 2014) with some of the hundreds of association CEOs, EDs, and other association executives from Australia and New Zealand who attended the Symposium. 

AuSAE’s passionately membership-focused CEO, Belinda Moore, believes, as we do, that associations are at a crucial moment in their existence. Based on her extensive experience and success as a membership development expert, Moore thinks the next 5-20 years will be the “toughest ever faced by associations,” and associations that don’t adapt to the new realities of the knowledge age face a “slow decline into obscurity.” “Without immediate, urgent action,” Moore says, “there is a very real risk that associations, as we know them, will disappear not with a bang, but with the tiniest of whimpers.”

Accordingly, in the Symposium’s opening plenary session I focused on how associations can detect and act on the warning signs of irrelevance. I also talked about the six building blocks of a demand-based architecture and the four key elements of associations’ worldviews that must change in order for membership organizations to continue to grow and thrive. In my second session, on membership at a crossroads, we looked at the pros and cons of the most common association membership models and how to make decisions about which model or models will work for your members.

In preparing for my sessions, I was thrilled to be able to consult two excellent resources about association membership. The first is AuSAE’s newest study, Associations Matter: 2013 State of the Sector Report for Professional Associations, which looks at the value perceptions, membership drivers, and points of view of Australia’s association members. Every association executive should take a look at the survey findings, which were just published in October 2013. You’ll find some striking parallels and intriguing differences between US associations and their Australasian counterparts, as well as an enlightening interpretation of the results by the authors of the study Rebecca Sullivan and Brenda Maitland of Survey Matters. The report is a fascinating perspective on some of the similar challenges associations are facing around the world.

 Read or download the Associations Matter: 2013 State of the Sector Report for Professional Associations here.

I also highly recommend that you read Belinda Moore’s white paper, Membership is Dead? It’s a smart, savvy, and succinct prescription for membership model change.

Read or download Membership is Dead? here.

I’ll share some of the main points from my two sessions ASAP on our blog. Meanwhile, thanks, again, to CEO Belinda Moore and the folks at AuSAE for inviting me to speak at the 2013 Australian Leadership Symposium. What a great opportunity to share knowledge and learn from one another!


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