COVID-19: A Catalyst for Positive Change
Associations are a critical element of a successful democratic process. They are a useful mechanism for people to act collectively to achieve shared goals. The specific goals vary from association to association but include outcomes such as:
- Proactively influencing their legislative landscape.
- Accessing services and support specific to the needs of the collective.
- Enhancing the skill and education of people within the collective.
- Connecting with the rest of the collective community for mutual benefit.
- Advancing a positive impact on a cause shared by the collective.
- Delivering or facilitating services on behalf of the collective.
For this reason, a strong association sector has a direct impact on the success of the economy as well as the livelihood and well-being of many Australians. It is important that associations themselves are strong so they can continue to nurture the professions, industries, and causes that will drive the recovery and help those affected.
Yet many of these organisations were already struggling prior to the advent of the COVID-19 crisis.
Over the past 15 years our society has been transforming in ways that have fundamentally altered the operating landscape of associations. The rapid evolution of technology, the fragmentation of communication, and major generational shifts to name just a few.
Prior to the crisis there was already a desperate need for associations to innovate – not just to thrive but to survive.
Unfortunately, many associations have been hindered by internal inertia, legacy issues, and change-resistant organisational cultures. The fundamental changes required were stymied and many associations were already struggling to varying degrees. As associations started to lose sight of their core purpose – and how to fulfil this – competitors began moving in to fill the emerging gaps that associations were not nimble enough to fil.
The COVID-19 crisis created a catalyst for change that could not be ignored.
For many associations, the crisis has provided an opportunity to rapidly overcome internal or perceived barriers and create fundamental positive change within their organisations that will enable them to create a much higher level of positive impact on their members into the future.
The idea that the long-term impact of this crisis will be positive for the association sector is backed up by new research.
A comprehensive report on the current and future impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the association sector found more than 50% of the 426 associations surveyed believed the impact would be positive over the medium to longer term.
Many respondents reported they were already seeing positive results due to the significant innovation required by associations to adapt.
COVID-19 has been an opportunity for associations to gain a clarity of purpose that has enabled many to quickly enhance their relevance to members.
While not all associations will survive this crisis, those who have taken the opportunity to adapt will emerge stronger and better positioned to create a positive impact on members than ever before.
Other findings include:
- There will be permanent changes in the way associations run their events with a significant shift to hybrid and online events, as well as changes to the way face-to-face events run.
- Many reported their virtual and hybrid AGMs were more successful than their previous face-to-face meetings and they would now be looking to retain that format into the future.
- A skilled leadership and staff team, supported by a nimble organisational culture, were the three most powerful contributing factors to an associations’ ability to navigate the crisis effectively.
- There is a permanent shift to remote working models with only 10% of respondents intending to revert to how things operated previously. The vast majority indicated they would be more amendable to working from home arrangements in future. 4% of those surveyed said the shift to working from home would be permanent and they would not be returning to the office.
- Associations operating in industries and professionals badly affected by the crisis are expecting a negative impact on member retention this year.
- Despite most associations having reserves sufficient for at least 3 months, Jobkeeper was an important factor in the ability of associations to adapt during the crisis. Many respondents are concerned about the impact of the removal of Jobkeeper on their members, the economy, and their associations.