I read an article recently published by NPR about the future of associations. The article was titled, “Time for Associations to trade in their past?”. You can read the article by clicking here.
Don’t have the time to read it? I’ll summarize it for you: There are thousands of associations in the US. Many would seem to be associations for outdated industries or purposes. Traditionally, associations provide information to their members. They provide their members with an opportunity to network with each other. They may also lobby the government for favorable laws and regulations. The article suggests associations may be out dated. Information is after all, available at the click of a mouse. Many people connect with each other through social networking technologies these days. What is left for associations to do?!
I think the future of associations is bright – if they continue to evolve.
Associations are no longer repositories of information. They have to be knowledge centers for their members and other interested parties. Yes, people can get information with the click of a mouse. However, they cannot turn that information into useful knowledge without interpretation of experts – that’s where associations come in.
Most associations aren’t going to compete with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter from a technology standpoint. However, associations can utilize these and other emerging technologies to provide value to their members. Members of associations will always need a way to connect with other members. Some will want to do that face to face by attending a meeting – associations can provide that opportunity. Some will want to connect online – associations can provide that opportunity as well. In fact, smart and leading associations are already merging tradition with technology by providing attendees of their meetings with 24/7 access to networking and knowledge through websites and mobile applications.
Most importantly, however, I believe successful associations of the future will be “market makers”. In other words, associations will actually help increase the market for the products and services their members sell. They will do this through collective and cooperative marketing efforts, through influencing acceptance of products, through lobbying for favorable legislation and regulation, through supporting and conducting market research and other studies to identify new market opportunities and much more.
Associations were traditionally a place where people and companies with common interests or in similar industries could get together to share information and network.
Associations of the future will be that AND will create new markets in which their members can compete fairly. Let me know what you think.