5 smart ways to future-proof your association

Future-proofing your association is about being well prepared to meet unexpected challenges. Here are five great ways to get your association ready for whatever comes next. 

When you look into your association’s crystal ball, what do you see? That’s a trick question, of course. The truth is that no one knows for sure what the future will bring.  

What we do know is that the world experiences ups and downs, twists and turns. Just consider the economic downturn of 2008. Or the global pandemic starting in 2020. Who saw those things coming? 

The trick isn’t to try to predict what’s coming, but rather to learn from the past and be prepared for whatever comes your way. This is especially important for mid-to-large size organizations that are growing and evolving. You can’t just press the “pause” button on your association’s important work and wait for unexpected challenges to pass. That approach can result in membership and revenue declines that can be tough to recover from. Instead, you need to find ways to help your organization survive and thrive – even when times are tough. 

What it means to future-proof your association 

You can essentially future-proof your association by using tools and techniques that make your organization more agile and able to scale in new ways to address changing conditions. 

Future-proofing is not so much about guarding against specific potential threats to your organization. It’s more about giving your association a strong foothold so that the winds of change don’t throw you off balance. It’s also about putting tools in place that can help you work more efficiently now and remain flexible when needed down the road.     

TIP: NetForum association management software (AMS) by Community Brands is high-functionality software built to help mid-to-large size associations manage fluctuating business needs and budgets with faster execution and improved scalability. 


5 smart ways to future-proof your association

So, how do you future-proof your association? Let’s look at five approaches: 

1) Put your resources to work.
Future-proofing your association doesn’t have to be all about brand new approaches. It can also be about doing more with what you already have. For example, you can:

  • Expand your existing programs, such as your learning program, to provide members with a wider variety of resources and support to meet their evolving needs.  

Launch a new membership tier that provides a modified list of benefits and budget-friendly price and payment options that might be more attractive to members who are struggling financially.  

2) Use automation and outsourcing to work more efficiently.
Preparing for the future, and working successfully through tough times, requires efficiency. When you develop efficiencies today, you can navigate through challenging times with greater speed and agility. You can also scale, when needed, to meet greater demands for your services.  

Automating manual processes is one of the most impactful ways to work more efficiently. With the right tools, you can automate common and mundane tasks, freeing your staff to work on higher-value activities.  

TIP: Using NetForum AMS, you can use a graphical workflow builder to automate things like a personalized renewal email series or workflow for incoming member requests.

Another powerful way to work more efficiently is to outsource specific functions within your organization to a third-party provider. This approach allows you to fill in gaps in your staff’s skillset and/or relieve your staff from work that isn’t directly related to your organization’s core mission.  

 TIP: NetForum AMS is user-friendly – even for non-technical staff. But if you want an extra hand, the NetForum team offers tailored consulting and support services.

3) Focus on member retention.
Developing stronger relationships with members will pay off for your organization today and when the road ahead gets bumpy. And when it comes down to it, building stronger member relationships is all about adding value at every step of the member journey.member retention

So, for everything your association does, ask the question, “What value does this add to our members?” This approach will help you to make better decisions and find new opportunities to give your members a great experience.  

TIP: NetForum’s proprietary member engagement scoring technology measures the engagement of your members based on your organization’s unique needs. You can determine the interactions most meaningful to your organization, and then weight their value and analyze member history to see which individuals are least/most involved. This type of insight helps you make smarter, faster decisions when it comes to connecting with your members and delighting them every step of the way. 

4) Diversify your association’s revenue streams.
Diversified income streams can help your association to grow today. They can also help you to moderate the impact on your organization of ups and downs in the economy. Here are some ideas for generating revenue:  

  • Offer an online career center. When it comes to generating revenue, offering an online career center works in two ways. First, it helps you drive non-dues revenue as employers in your industry pay to advertise their job openings through your career center. Second, it gives your organization a way to connect members and prospective members with job opportunities and career-building resources – ultimately helping you to attract more members and improve member retention, which translate to dues revenue.

TIP: YM Careers by Community Brands integrates with NetForum AMS to help you build a robust online career center that includes an online job board and career development resources.

  • Sell more sponsorships.
    You probably sell sponsorships for your annual conference and other events. But you can take sponsorships to the next level by also selling annual association sponsorships. For example, offer different sponsorship packages that include a mix of:  

    • Advertising opportunities, including banner ads on your association’s website and ads in your publications and email newsletters   
    • Sponsorship opportunities for your association’s papers, guides, and studies  
    • Job postings on the job board in your online career center
  • Optimize your fundraising.
    Your members have likely joined your association for a variety of reasons, including that they believe in your organization’s mission. That’s why fundraising can be a powerful way to generate non-dues revenue. Look for an AMS system that supports multiple approaches to managing donor relationships and achieving your fundraising goals. For example, NetForum AMS helps you to manage donor data, measure donor engagement, track household value, simplify moves management, set up a recurring giving program, and process gifts efficiently.

TIP: If your association does not need a customized solution, NetForum AMS offers a streamlined implementation option that uses pre-configured modules for a faster alternative to a customized implementation. It can have you up and running with NetForum AMS in a flash.

5) Invest in digital solutions.
Using email, your website, a mobile app, online learning programs, and other online channels can help you stay connected with your members all year long. How does that help you future-proof your association?

online storeTo start, it helps you to develop stronger relationships with your members that can weather tough economic times. The stronger your members’ affinity for your organization, the more likely they’ll be to continue spending their valuable dollars on membership dues.

Beyond that, it allows you to continue to provide members with access to much-needed services and programs, even when they can’t make it to in-person events due to budget constraints, scheduling conflicts, or other challenges.   

Look for a feature-rich AMS system, like NetForum AMS, that helps you provide great online engagement experiences for your members.   

TIP: NetForum AMS is hosted on Microsoft Azure’s cloud platform, allowing users to work faster and more efficiently. Learn more about how the right cloud strategies can help you build agility, increase efficiency, and navigate some of today’s uncertainties: Read the article Inside Azure for IT: 3 Cloud Strategies to Navigate Market Uncertainty.

Learn more
Find out how to build the right mix of software to support your association’s work today and for years to come. Read the guide, Finding the High-Functioning Software Your Growing Association Needs.

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