The way associations are making money is changing. Here’s why you need to keep up with those changes…
Traditionally, many associations rely on revenue from at least one major conference or event each year. And maybe that cut it in 2019, but post-pandemic? Not a chance. With pandemic restrictions and a cautious business environment, the prospect of hosting large scale in-person events is uncertain. According to new research from LinkedIn, of 1,800 marketers across 13 countries, 85 percent held virtual events last year. In addition, 75 percentanticipate continuing to hold virtual events.
That means fewer in-person conferences and, potentially, reduced revenue for your association. So, how can you keep members engaged and money flowing in? The answer is diversification. And the solid starting point is learning and development.
In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or are anticipating them within a few years.
“Digital transformation is putting pressure on all sectors. The pandemic accelerated digital adoption which provides a tremendous opportunity in a post-COVID world to transform professions and meet the skill gaps and upskilling necessary to compete,” says Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, QAS Vice President of Operations at Ewald Consulting. “Building on a professional development strategy now with ongoing investments while integrating business and marketing plan will position your association as the thought-leader and go-to resource for exponentially learning and development workforce needs.”
Associations should make professional development a year-round value and revenue generator through online learning including webinars, bootcamps, master classes, workshops, series, certificate programs, forum discussion groups, content hubs, podcasts and video. These assets can be the content foundation that leads to certification programs and deeper learning through comprehensive credentialing programs.
In the chart below, McKinsey identifies the key foundational skills your association can nurture to prepare them for the changing workforce:
Making focused investments in specific offerings that serve your constituents will create value and generate revenue.
Will your investment in professional development only last during the pandemic? No.
While face-to-face connections are invaluable, there will be even more emphasis on different formats including augmented reality, scenario building workshops, design thinking activities to solve real-world problems, attendee connection and engagement and an even stronger emphasis on professional development to upskill and reskill the workforce.
By going deeper into professional development, associations can impact behaviors, drive desired outcomes, demonstrate value and generate revenue. Certificate programs offer a time-saving alternative to more in-depth certification programs. Certification programs can take years build and require a standardized assessment or third-party assessment of competence by a credentialing body. And just like it sounds, it can be pricey and complicated.
Do certificate programs offer the same specialization?
You bet. According to Institute for Credentialing Excellence, certificate programs can help build capacity in an industry, emerging profession or specialty area. Because certificate programs are built based on member needs, your organization can customize the learning and assessments that directly tie back to the knowledge, skill or ability gap you are trying to fill.
Wear your certifications and certificates proudly. Digital badges are a relatively new tool that associations can use to help build credibility among their members. According to Accredible, these badges serve both as recognition of learning or achievement AND digital proof of that accomplishment. By earning the badges, learners are motivated to continue refining their skills and associations are filled with a pool of trusted and accredited members.
Follow the leader: an association success story
The Organization Development Network, an association dedicated to advancing organization development scholar and practitioner skills, networks, and knowledge, launched a certificate program based on its competency model in just under two months.
“The timeline was condensed immensely for this program from announcement to launch, so getting the amount of interest we did was impressive and unexpected,” said Jessica Truhler, OD Network’s Senior Professional Development Specialist.
Despite a crunched timeline (even for a certificate launch), OD Network tripled its registration goal, generated roughly $60,000 in profit, and added new members to its growing association community.
OD Network’s professional development focus has driven engagement, relevance and revenue. With its certificate and additional professional development programs added in 2021, professional development revenue will make up 22 percent of its annual revenue — more than twice what it was in 2020.
Associations need to provide member value
The association business model was already shifting. The pandemic sped up this change. Now more than ever, there is a need for customized professional development resources.
By filling the gap in your members’ skills, you can re-engage members, become a trusted source of information and drive revenue for your association.