March 17, 2020

These are the times associations are made for

by Belinda in Covid19

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt by everyone throughout our community.

We are all dealing with challenges we could not have imagined just a month ago. The whole toilet paper shortage was funny at first. Then I ran out of paper. It got dramatically less funny with each additional store I visited. It became deadly serious when it was apparent that many of the most vulnerable in our society were not able to access this essential item.

In the association section, the wide-spread cancellation of events is having a major impact on the financial sustainability of many associations. We are already experiencing a massive flow across the economy as a myriad of jobs and other opportunities that associations support are being lost. Association staff are having to grapple with cancelling major events (some at very short notice), moving CPD online, and managing the concerns of members.

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“Business as usual” isn’t an option. Most of the association leaders I’ve heard from are concerned about how to balance helping members with the need to ensure their association’s financial sustainability.

Without a doubt, these are challenging times. But now is also an opportunity for associations to fulfil their primary purpose by being a beacon of hope and support for their communities. Associations are doing this by:  

  • Demonstrating strong leadership – People are scared. Their businesses, livelihoods and loved ones are at risk. Through your daily actions and communications give them the confidence that you are in control of the situation.
  • Being the source of truth – People need up-to-date information on the issues that affect them. Be the source of truth by proactively gathering and validating information – then share it quickly on all possible mediums. Become the hub of information on what’s happening. Sharing the government’s latest health information with added messaging as it pertains to your members is a great start.
  • Facilitate connections between members – Your community don’t just want to be passive recipients of information. Provide a mechanism that enables members to share their stories, ask for help, and offer support. This could be something as simple as a Facebook group specific to the pandemic.
  • Actively manage your cashflow – If you don’t have the reserves to carry you through, now is the time to work on your cashflows. Negotiate with the tax office for a delayed payment on your BAS, remove unnecessary upcoming costs, and organise payment plans for other bills. Take the opportunity to shed costly programs that are no longer relevant to members.
  • Deliver tangible value to members that need it most – Identify the most significant challenges each of your member segments must overcome in the coming months. Develop and deliver solutions for those members who need it most. Potentially, there may be opportunities to generate new revenue streams from developing innovative solutions to contribute to you being able to achieve this sustainably.
  • Plan your sponsorship recovery strategy now – Your sponsors will be experiencing the same negative impact as your association and are currently pulling back. When they return to the market their objectives will be different, and you will need to adapt your offering accordingly. There will be significant opportunities available for those who have tailored solutions to answer these needs ready to go. You should already be planning your sponsorship recovery strategy.

There are some silver linings to this crisis. For us, it’s a re-evaluation of how we deliver our services. Jumping on a plane is not an option right now, so we’ve had to make changes. We’ve supported clients via video, teleconference, and email occasionally in the past. Now, with social distancing an imperative, we’ve moved all our services to these platforms for the time being, and it’s working well so far.

If you’d like to talk to us about sponsorship, partnerships, strategy, revenue generation, or membership for your association (or even just have a chat about things) email belinda@smsonline.net.au and we can arrange a time for a chat.

There are tough times ahead and by working together we will get through this. I hope that you, too, will find your silver lining amongst everything that is happening.