How is the economy impacting your association?

Almost every association that I have met with over the past few weeks is asking me the same question, “What are other groups experiencing with the current economic situation?”

They want to know if conference attendance is down or if membership acquisition or renewals have been impacted.

If you have some feedback, please go ahead and post a comment with what you are seeing with your organization. Is the bottle half empty or half full?

From a marketing perspective, whether the economy ends up in recession or we move back to a growth pattern, I think the key to success still depends on generating innovation as a means to maintain resilience. Time after time I have found that we have been able to innovate ourselves out of very challenging business situations.

This was articulated for me a number of years ago when I read an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review. The basic premise of the piece was that no matter what business you are in, keeping relevant and “resilient” was the key to success. The authors said:

“Most companies [or non-profits] would be better off if they made fewer billion-dollar bets and a whole lot more $10,000 or $20,000 bets – some of which will, in time, justify more substantial commitments. They should steer clear of grand, imperial strategies and devote themselves instead to launching a swarm of low-risk experiments.”[1]

I think that it is pretty good advice. Here is a link to an abstract of the article.

Please also do share your insights on any early signs that your organization is seeing from the current economic conditions.

[1] Gary Hamel and Lisa Valikangas, “The Quest for Resilience” Harvard Business Review, September 2003, Page 6.


Vinay said...

I have one client (individual society) who is reporting significantly lower registrations for their educational programs then last year. Not sure if this is due to their much later planning and therefore announcements going out later then last year.

In fact, another one of our clients faced a similar situation recently. The membership director is so much on overload that she totally forgot to send out any announcements for one of her meetings till about a month prior to the event.

I see this every where and it's getting worse day by day. Folks are really stretched, there is much less planning going on, more stuff is done at the last minute, projects are coming in piece meal and often incomplete, with incorrect and even conflicting instructions, and much of the work is are being done on the run.

Often I wonder where the break point is. Everyone I know is running faster, doing more with less, working far longer hours then ever, stress levels are rising...

CindyAE said...

My industry is real estate, so clearly we're impacted by any economic change. Beyond membership levels, signs are: 1. lower attendance at everything; 2. reduced sponsorships; 3. cutting out more non-essential association expenditures; 4. greater and faster adoption of innovation; 5. increase in professional standards complaints (we handle arbitration of financial disputes and ethics); 6. more resources shift to media and public relations - externally and internally; 7. greater stress; 8. greater need for staff recognition (patience, empathy, thick skin) that those on other end of communication potentially have hard time financially; 9. more need/expectation to offer "free" and discounted programs; 10. change in focus of programs offered to be related to market conditions.

Tony Rossell said...

Vinay and Cindy -- Great comments by both of you. Cindy, your point four is part of what I was driving for in my post. At times "pain" can really be the iniative for innovation.

Both of you commented about the increasing levels of stress. That is a by product of tighter economic times that I had not thought much about. But it makes total sense. Tony