In her thought-provoking book “The End of Membership as We Know It,” Sarah Sladek has some pretty eye-opening statistics to share, including:

“From now until 2030, every eight seconds someone will turn 65. This shift in human capital — the largest shift in our country’s history — poses the greatest threat to associations.”

She goes on to say that most member-based organizations remain entirely governed and supported by the baby boomer generation, and few are developing strategies to protect themselves from the “massive exodus” of board members, committee chairs, and dedicated volunteers.

This, paired with the fact that “entire generations that have never known life without technology are now entering the workforce,” are good reasons for organizations of all sizes to take note.

Membership certainly isn’t dead, but it’s time to change your thinking and your business model in order to continue to thrive! A few thoughts on how:

Teach an old dog new tricks

Across the country, associations and chambers that consider themselves small are convinced they don’t need the latest technology to achieve their goals and serve their members. Some of them (whose many members often include young professionals) take comfort in their well-known, daily routine without considering that there’s a faster, more strategic way to operate, engage with members, and provide membership value.

Inefficient processes are not only eating up the precious time of these under-resourced organizations, but also affecting their ability to strategically deliver targeted communications to very specific groups of stakeholders, use certain types of data to understand their membership and their financial position, and to demonstrate their accomplishments.

Today and tomorrow’s members want — even expect — you to be efficient, strategic, and cutting-edge in your use of technology. Meet them where they are, not where they were 10 years ago!

Time is money – but also lost opportunity

Even those who see the value of consolidating data from multiple siloed solutions and using modern, intuitive technologies to help them achieve their goals will lament that making changes like these “just aren’t in the budget.” But what they aren’t considering is the exorbitant costs of the time they spend using disparate and antiquated systems.

Countless hours wasted means substantial amounts of money spent needlessly! But also, consider the opportunities to better serve members that are being lost while staff labors over information from spreadsheets, duplicate their efforts, and scratch their heads trying to remember who attended your last event — or how to demonstrate value to that big sponsor you would like to renew for the next one.

What if those hours were saved and used instead to strategically communicate with stakeholders based on what they have said they want to receive from you? Or based on your specific member engagement needs at the moment? In today’s digital environment, members and stakeholders expect nothing less. Continue to clutter their inbox with irrelevant information and they’ll unsubscribe. (And, you’ll lose their ear.)

Data doesn’t lie

According to the 2020 edition of Marketing General Incorporated’s Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, included in the top 10 internal challenges that associations face in growing membership are a difficulty in communicating the association’s value or benefits (36%) and a difficulty in attracting and/or maintaining younger members (17%).

So the question remains: If associations are striving to better prove value and engage younger members, then why are they not using membership technology tools that are specifically designed to help them do exactly that?

The time has come for association and chamber executives to realize that they must get on the ever-accelerating technology train and adopt tools now, so that they can circumvent the massive membership, staff, and volunteer exodus that Sladek describes.

Inspired, but not sure where to begin? Take a look at our Buyer’s Guide to Association Management Software and our Buyer’s Guide to Chamber Management Software

Note: This post was originally published on 1/22/19, but updated on 2/3/21 for added value.

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