Exploring Associations of the Future

By Meredith Low

It’s a weird anniversary, but we are coming up on a full year of pandemic times. Much of that has spent been in head-down, keep-it-together, wheels-just-staying-on-the-bus mode. Some days, thinking about the future seems hard; other days, it seems downright ridiculous. However, we also know we can’t stay in reactive mode forever, and coming up to the new year seemed like a time to make sense of what is happening and start thinking about what’s next, and even the opportunities available to associations.

In that spirit, engagement expert Amanda Kaiser and I recently created a series of discussions titled Associations of the Future. We know folks in the association sector might not have the bandwidth or the energy to look ahead right now, given all the demands on everyone’s time and resources. And not everyone has a trusted colleague they can bounce ideas off. But we also know how important it is to think beyond the current circumstances, even – and especially – at times of tumult and change.

So, we decided we would have these conversations with each other, and share them with the broader community via a series of videos. For the first two, we kept them short (under 20 minutes), and had a back-and-forth based on our own perspectives and what we’re hearing from clients and friends. For the third and final session in the series, we solicited questions ahead of time, and we invited live participants for a one-hour webinar.

The discussions cover questions like how to provide value for members in the midst of a pandemic, how we think being mission-driven is crucial, and how to focus our attention when both staff and volunteers are feeling burned out. We aimed for a positive, yet realistic tone, trying to keep in mind that many have been facing serious issues both personally and professionally, and may continue to do so into 2021 and beyond. At the same time, we thought that people would be looking for practical ideas about where they should be focusing, right now.

You can find the whole series – which you can listen to in any order – here. For highlights of the takeaways we offered at the very end, read more here. This series was our own experiment, so if you have ideas about what else we could talk about that others might like to listen in on, please get in touch

Amanda Kaiser, MBA, learned strategic marketing at Crayola, then went agency-side in the advertising world, and ultimately landed in her beloved association community where she is a member engagement specialist, researcher, and keynote speaker.

Amanda works with dozens of large and small associations, helping them solve complex strategic problems and boost member engagement. You can find twice-weekly articles on member value, experience, and engagement at SmoothThePath.net.

Meredith Low, MBA, CAE, C. Dir., is a strategist and governance consultant who has helped scores of associations and other not-for-profit organizations make intelligent, far-sighted, and feasible decisions. Her background includes strategy consulting to both startup and Fortune 500 companies, in-house strategic planning and strategy development at one of Canada’s largest banks, and frontline community service delivery. Meredith can be found at meredithlow.com and on twitter @LowMeredith.