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Roadblocks to 2017 association strategy

The 2016 presidential election threw many businesses and organizations into panic mode – mainly because of the unknown.

In fact, in terms of strategy, governmental relations was one of the five most areas of concern among associations for 2017, according to a recent survey conducted by Association Laboratory Inc.

The five factors: economy, technology, workforce, government and global activity.

“Looking Forward 2017” is a snapshot of the association environment, through leaders’ eyes. The whitepaper is the result of data analysis and environmental scanning – two methods growing increasingly popular to forecast business success.

The study found 48 percent of survey respondents are concerned about the impact of changes in government leaders, laws and regulations.

Although toward the bottom of the list of concerns, 31 percent of association respondents are concerned about education in new technologies. Strategically, 93 percent of survey respondents are concerned about creating compelling professional development for members.


When it comes to economy, the top areas of concern are member acquisition, retention and engagement. Respondents are worried about a reduction of non-dues revenue; a reduction in online program participation; and a decline in publication subscriptions.

In addition, survey respondents indicated concern regarding strategies for face-to-face events. Will organizations be able to prove events’ ROI?


Associations struggle with data security and with keeping technology up to date. Respondents listed 12 factors in the technology environment that will most impact association strategy. Those include: challenges in producing relevant info for members; ensuring the value of in-person learning; and information sharing.

Respondents are also concerned about their ability to customize information across multiple delivery channels.  


The largest challenge to association members is filling the workforce void created by Baby Boomers, according to the survey. At the same time, managing a multigenerational workforce is a top concern, as is providing professional development for staff.


For organizations that engage in international business, global instability could seriously affect association strategy, associations believe. Fear about changing international policies, trade laws and unstable markets is creating angst.

That angst could translate into increased demand for members to learn about international environments, so, associations anticipate building that into their 2017 strategies.

“Looking Forward 2017 provides association leaders with the most up-to-date information on what environmental factors members believe will have the most impact,” Association Laboratory says. “If we are to avoid the risks and take advantage of the opportunities, we’ll need to use this and other information to improve our understanding of the future and mitigate the risk to our associations and their members.”

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