The State of Associations with 2021 on the horizon

As we edge closer to the end of the year, it’s safe to say 2020 has been a year quite unlike any other. By March it was clear annual projections could be tossed out, expectations needed to be reset, and perhaps most impactful was that uncertainty ruled the day. Crystal balls hadn’t been this cloudy in some time.

Now several months into this pandemic environment, which is still shrouded in uncertainty and trepidation, we have at least been afforded the opportunity to gauge some of the initial impacts membership organizations have faced. Aiming to understand those impacts, Multiview surveyed association partners in September to evaluate the current State of Associations. Here are some key takeaways from our research.

Revenue and Membership Have Suffered

Unsurprisingly, 87% of associations surveyed said revenue had decreased, compared to only 9% that saw an increase in revenue.
Membership declined at 65% of associations polled, compared to 34% that claimed no decline.

To deal with membership challenges, associations have taken to extending renewals (57%), free trial memberships (33%) and reducing membership fees (9.5%).

Engagement has been a bit of a mixed bag, with 43.5% reporting an increase compared to 36% noting a decrease. Almost 22% experienced no change.

Budgets Were Hit

Organizations responded with several measures to mitigate the impact of COVID – most notably cutting budgets (61%). Staff reductions (35%) and program cuts (39%) were also notable fallout from the pandemic.budgets-were-hit-chart3

Virtual and Hybrid Events Are Here to Stay … For Now

80% said they will stick with a hybrid events model at least through 2021. That said, 65% predict a decrease in event sponsorships in 2021, with only 35% forecasting an increase.

Email and Newsletters Still Dominate Outreach

Every organization surveyed confirmed using email for member communications. Newsletters and social media were close behind at 95%. Webinars and virtual events have logically taken on a more significant role in outreach.

In addition to being the most utilized, email was also labelled most effective for engagement by 52%. Newsletters followed with 24%. Webinars (9.5%), social media (5%) and virtual events (5%) lagged

Membership Dues Pay the Bulk of the Bills

Membership dues are typically the primary portion of association revenues and that appears to still be the case this year, with 39% of organizations identifying dues as the top revenue source for 2020. Events (either in-person or virtual) and education followed with 36%. Sponsorships and Ad Sales were listed as the top revenue source at only 13%, while 22% claimed “other.”

So, What Now?

The pandemic has clearly had an impact on associations, and it’s impossible to say what twists or turns still lie ahead. While we don’t know the circumstances we face , we do have it within our power to position our organizations to not only survive them but thrive beyond them. In other words, we can’t predict the future, but we can prepare for it.

That’s the inspiration behind MultiView’s four-part Thrive vs. Survive webinar series, which was designed to arm associations with the right tools, analysis and perspective to move beyond a survivalist mentality through difficult times – and shift into a thrivalist mentality. It’s from this foundation that we can build our organizations not only to withstand the current uncertainty, but the next year, five years and 10 years. Don’t wait on your future – make your future by starting now.


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