How does the prospect of a significant economic downturn affect the day to day operations of your association?
Business Models – During a downturn your organisation becomes particularly vulnerable to losses and can easily miss opportunities for gains due to tight financial and staff resources. If you’ve got an ancient business model that is barely surviving the not-so-new millennium, then don’t count on it making it through a downturn. Now is the time to review your business model to ensure you are optimally set up to succeed in the current and future operating environment. I recommend reading Peggy Hoffman’s Mission Driven Volunteer article for more insights on this. It’s a couple of years old but still very relevant.
Sponsorship & Partnerships – We are seeing big changes in how corporates are seeking to partner with associations. They are investing more money than ever but into fewer partnerships. They want tangible results and creative implementation. They are seeking engagement with the “right” people (rather than a lot of people). They will run screaming from the next person who puts “we will put your logo on our website” as a major potential partnership benefit (seriously … please don’t do this). When you submit a proposal for a partnership you are entering a VERY competitive space. Associations are investing heavily into business partnership programs that are highly professional. You need to ensure your program can compete. (If you’d a copy of a successful proposal to give you an idea of what is out there email me on firstname.lastname@example.org).
Membership – Research has shown that membership is counter-cyclical. People tend to gravitate towards associations during downturns … provided that association is providing tangible value. Now is the time to look at the value you are providing to members. Are you really making a positive difference in their lives? Would they notice if you were gone? If the answer to those questions is “no” then you’ve got serious work to do. Your goal is to ensure you are truly entangled into the lives of your members throughout their career. If you have organisational members, you need to ensure you have multiple points of contact within each organisation – and a relationship with each contact. For membership ideas check out the Membership Managers’ Handbook