Associations to rethink key structures to survive new year

Attaining a workable financial budget and having different revenue streams are crucial to associations’ survival and relevance as they sail towards an uncertain future in 2021 where loss of income and drop in membership are likely.

Dot Miller, CEO of association management firm The Solution, emphasised the importance of strategic fundraising as people were no longer getting together anymore.

Associations need sharper operations to survive the new year

Speaking at the 8th Summit of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) in October 2020, Miller said different revenue streams could come from increased dues, ambassador programmes, provision of continuing education and online learning via leadership academy or master class, as well as new innovative sources of revenue that an association and its members never had before.

She also suggested that virtual conferences could be priced higher than in-person ones, while hybrid events could have virtual concierge and corporate sponsorship options for everything. Citing some ideas for increased revenue, she said conference content could be recorded and sold on demand, and screen ads and videos before and after presentations.

Should a corporate sponsor have a limit to funds, associations could consider breaking up the payment, Miller added.

Miller also stressed that associations should “get rid of programmes and services that are not revenue generating” and no longer relevant to members.

Concurring, PCAAE chair, Charlie Villasenor, said associations should “revisit their value proposition to make it more relevant to the current industry condition” where regular events and social gatherings are not allowed and annual conferences – the main source of associations’ income – have disappeared.

Villasenor, concurrent chair of Procurement and Supply Institute of Asia (PASIA), said associations should “establish and build a sustainable business model that will enable them to bring better value to their allied industries”.

Citing PASIA’s foray into teleconsulting, Villasenor said that in November, it started online training and accreditation to a global audience in addition to e-services to associations spanning accounting and finance, graphic design, online event facilitation, membership and social media management.

As to retaining and getting new members, Toni Brearley, CEO, The Australian Society of Association Executives, advised associations to be clear on why they exist so they will get better membership renewals and new members.

Cutting membership fees and delayed invoicing should be avoided, advised John Peacock, CEO of Associations Forum Australia, but associations should be flexible if members are unable to pay.

Peacock also urged associations to “seek government financial assistance” and “present your views to the government”.

Sharing this view was Noor Ahmad Hamid, ICCA Regional Director Asia Pacific, who said that it was important for associations to be working with the government since under the new normal, anything that has to be done goes to the government, from getting immigration permits to health-related protocols.