Exiting comfort zone key to better association management

Regardless of industry, leading and managing associations this year will require boards and secretariats to think differently by making greater use of technology to engage members, diversifying revenue streams for financial stability, and capitalising on opportunities to innovate and strengthen good governance.

Those were the key takeaways from a March 25 webinar, organised by Glue Up and featured speakers in charge of associations in advertising, childcare and professional membership organisations based in Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines and India.

Associations need new approaches to management and member engagement in times of adversity

Sharing an example of how The Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Hong Kong (HK4A) had adopted greater use of IT during the pandemic, executive director Onie Chu said member engagement had transitioned from working on desktops to notebooks, smartphones, Zoom, Microsoft Team, Google Meet, etc. Doing so allowed “members (to) know were are here” to continue to help them find solutions, Chu noted.

In the case of MSME Business Forum India, director Ravi Sinha said technology was used to sustain two-way communication and required the training of “those who had to adapt to something new”, give them time and to show them the protocols to “make life easy and not complicated” for its micro, small and medium size enterprise members.

Sinha commented: “We had to show that it was easy to use and it increased productivity.”

Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) New South Wales, CEO, Chiang Lim, who has a technology background, added it was important for the association to recognise and embrace IT.

ACA, he said, was “already Cloud-based” and just had to “scale up and train members to be Cloud-safe”. It introduced an online AGM and “Coffee Roulette” conversations to rebuild connections.

Clockwise from top left: MSME Business Forum India’s Ravi Sinha; The Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Hong Kong’s Onie Chu; Philippine Council of Associations and Associate Executives’s Bobby Peralta; and Australian Childcare Alliance New South Wales’s Chiang Lim

Bobby Peralta, founder and CEO, Philippine Council of Associations and Associate Executives (PCAAE), described IT as “a great enabler for membership engagement” and is producing an e-letter and organising virtual meetings.

Peralta also highlighted the importance of a reserve fund, saying: “No money, no mission.”

“The association did not only rely on membership dues. Diversifying led us to providing training, career development and consultancy services,” he continued.

Emphasising on the need to identify opportunities to excel during times of adversity, Lim shared how ACA picked up the government’s signal for collaborators to stimulate the economy. It responded with a proposal to help the government address “the fear of the cost of childcare”.

“There was massive panic when 90 per cent of parents took their children out of childcare because of the pandemic. We had to show members we were working in tandem with the government…to shore up financial support during the pandemic,” Lim said, pointing out that there are now more clients in childcare than before the Covid-19 outbreak.

On HK4A’s part, it chose to host a hybrid student awards event, even though the main awards were cancelled, in order to continue nurturing talent.

The association also kicked off a Create for Good initiative, partnering selected NGOs, Chu said, because it wanted to put itself in the shoes of members who believed it was something worthwhile despite business being slow and because “we need to show a positive outlook”.

To ensure association longevity, Peralta shared that the 44-year-old PCAAE had developed a corporate culture where it is always “all about purpose” and “to lead by example by practicing good governance, fairness, accountability and transparency”.

He shared that the secretariat’s team of eight is committed to nurturing teamwork and family culture, and celebrates birthdays in the office or virtually.

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