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2021 Membership Prediction


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This guest blog post is by Scott Oser of Scott Oser Associates

For many associations 2020 has been a year of incredible innovation and creation as we have been forced to change in so many ways.  Now that 2020 is almost over and many of those initial challenges are behind us it is time to focus on 2021 and what that might look like from a membership perspective. Here are some predictions:

Continued Uncertainty
I will be honest with you and state up front that 2021 really worries me.  There is still so much uncertainty around COVID-19 and its impact on all areas of our lives (personal and professional) that forecasting results for member recruitment, engagement and renewal is going to be incredibly difficult.  Even if we have the best data in the data tracking universe predicting results for 2021 is going to be a challenge as things continue to change on what feels like a daily basis.

Evaluation of new Membership Models
The contemplation of a new membership model has been happening within associations for quite some time now.  Since many industries, and their members are struggling, financially the number of associations that are evaluating new models will only increase in 2021.  Some ideas that could be considered include unbundling (a la carte), bundling and creating premium levels of membership, adding individual membership in addition to corporate membership or vice versa, and more. 

Focus on Core Competencies
Due to other areas of focus associations sometimes let their focus stray from what they do best.  In 2021 associations will take a step back and make sure that everything they are doing is effective and efficient.  Processes must be tweaked and optimized.  Benefits that they provide to members must be the best that they have ever been.  Competition for dollars and time will be fierce in 2021 so association staff must be even more awesome than they have ever been. 

Listening to Members
As mentioned earlier the situation of members, and therefore member needs, are changing at a more rapid pace than ever before.  Associations understand that serving these changing needs will require understanding member needs on a minute by minute basis.  Yes, that is an exaggeration but associations will undertake efforts like micro-surveys, pop-up one question ads, and more to make sure they know what their memberships are dealing with, both personally and professionally, so that they can react and serve them appropriately. 

Going Rogue
This trend started in 2020 but 2021 will be a year where associations will move to quickly create products and services and use tactics that they have never used before.  As needs have changed, and will continue to change, associations have been set free to try new things and run with them much more rapidly than they have ever done in the past.  In order to survive, and thrive, this will need to continue for many associations in 2021. 

Even with all of the uncertainty that I predict will come in 2021 I do believe that associations are in a great position to do well. If you can start by addressing some of the trends addressed here I think you will be well on your way to a successful year ahead.     

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