What’s in and what’s out for associations in 2014? Associations Now has weighed in and I bet you have some ideas of your own. You know I do!
Before the holidays, in part 1 of my Predictions for Associations in 2014, I speculated about small data, opening your ears and your organization, getting personal, new membership menus, claiming the content crown, new IT departments and vendors as partners. Here are the rest of my predictions.
SoLoMo – Social
In 2014, associations will become more social, local and mobile. If you want to know what a “social” organization looks like, make a resolution to read Humanize by Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter this year. You would think “social” would be a natural fit for associations considering the work they do, but, unfortunately, it’s not always a cultural fit. Humanize can help your association fix that.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Membership is everyone’s job.” In 2014, more of us will also say, “Social is everyone’s job,” not just the job of the overworked person in charge of your association’s social media and online community. Almost everyone on staff should be listening to, participating in, sharing with and strengthening your community, starting with the CEO.
Here’s another mistake to fix in 2014: social does not mean promotional. Too many associations still use their social channels only to sell, brag, promote and talk about me, me, me. Social means a two-way conversation. Social means sharing resources no matter the source, even sending members to other websites – gasp! Use social media to become an information filter for your members.
SoLoMo – Local
Members can now find resources, education and networking opportunities online from you and others. But they still want to meet people and develop relationships face-to-face in real life. Unless your association provides unique value that can’t be found elsewhere, local and state associations will have an advantage since only a sliver of national association members have the budget and schedule to attend national events.
In 2014, national associations will reexamine their relationship with chapters and affiliated local and state associations. What once felt like an arranged and lop-sided marriage will develop into a committed and mutually beneficial partnership. As a result, membership in national associations will take on new meaning for members who may never attend a national event or even visit the national website. Chapters may turn out to be saviors for national associations.
SoLoMo – Mobile
If your website still isn’t mobile-friendly, I give up. I mean, seriously, what are you waiting for? An old 2012 report from Pew Research says 50% of 18-29 year old Americans use only their mobile phone to access the web. That percentage is bound to be higher now. If they can’t find you on their phone, you don’t exist.
My word for 2014 is integration.
- Technology integration: Shop for technology that has a really good API and plays well with others.
- Strategy integration: Departmental strategies, for example, communication, marketing, digital, political and technology strategies, must be aligned with each other and with your association’s strategic goals.
- Governance integration: Having a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, experience and skills on your board and in other leadership positions isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do if you want to have a healthy, thriving association. That means including those who don’t talk, look, act and think like your current leadership. Shorten your leadership ladder and clear any real and perceived barriers to involvement.
- Staff integration: One department can’t create content alone. One department can’t mobilize grassroots political action alone. One department can’t recruit leaders alone. You get the idea. Brains in collaboration work better than brains in a departmental box. Let your people go!
Put the Kibosh on the Culture of Control
Collaboration won’t happen unless leadership and department heads release control. Their need for control hinders your organization’s success. For example, no matter what worked in the past:
- You can’t control the devices and platforms staff uses at work.
- You can’t control what people say about your association either in real life or online.
- You can’t control staff’s understandable urge to call BS on stale bylaws, policies, procedures and cultural habits.
- You can’t control members’ desires to create the membership experience they want instead of the one you’re used to providing.
The more you try to control, the more you dampen spirits and creativity. In time, the best staff will move on and the best industry conversations and events will happen elsewhere. I predict micro-managers and control freaks are going to have a tougher time working in this profession because the association community is too smart for their nonsense.
Associations are rewarding places to work, and our association community is a fascinating space to work in. However, in many associations, culture is what holds you back. It’s time to lose the mindsets, processes, policies and traditions that stand in the way of truly fulfilling your mission. 2014 is the year to experiment with new ways of building community and relationships, sharing knowledge, making voices heard, solving problems, advancing careers, and helping businesses and people grow and thrive.
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