How Associations Strive during a Pandemic

CIMGlobal Australasia was honoured to have recently presented at the 2020 Annual International Conference Industry CEO Summit, sponsored by ICCA, sharing ideas and thoughts on how best to weather this storm of the century. From CIMGlobal Australasia Managing Director Sujoy Dey’s presentation on ‘How Associations Strive during a Pandemic’, we share excerpts, predictions and recommendations on how as an industry we can better serve association clients.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of our existence, and yet, some of our association clients have never been busier. In a crisis, members look to their associations for leadership and guidance, underscoring the need for even wider collaboration and outreach. Those depending on associations for business models must now re-invent their product and service offerings to align with changing needs. Associations themselves need to manage the transition, delivering services across two separate cultures – the online community and their local face to face, in-office environment.

Admittedly, some things become difficult when staff is working remotely, across different time zones. Addressing these challenges boils down to modifying leadership and management styles.

Making the most of Hybrid

For now online is where it’s at. Leaders need to rely less on hierarchical and more on inspirational forms of leadership, making efforts to compensate for the reduced interaction. Team experience is a critical driver of hybrid culture and managers and team leaders have an outsize impact on their teams’ experiences. Additionally, members from different organisations can collaborate on areas of shared interest to strengthen member networks.

For the India Association Congress this year, CIMGlobal employed the virtual format to great success. The ICCA transformed its General Assembly into a hybrid event and it was a huge hit, with great keynotes, livestreaming and regional hub events all over the world.

As CIMGlobal CEO and India Association Chairman Mr. Prasant Saha said, “Though online may not be our first choice, virtual events continue to serve their original purpose.”

Going virtual is not just about changing an existing service into a digital version but improving it. This is a universal change affecting all establishments. The uptake of the latest digital technology has never been so critical, now is clearly the time to future-proof our organisations.

Digitisation technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), mobilisations, customer engagement, artificial intelligence, data and analytics can all be used to create new ways to engage.

Membership enquiries on the rise

In Southeast Asia where funding from membership fees generally accounts for somewhere between 10% and 20% of the total revenue, some associations are actually using the pandemic as a membership drive by waiving fees and offering free memberships for 2020.

Going local

Looking towards one’s one backyard is gaining popularity across. There has probably never been a better time for all associations, not just those involved in community health, to come up with ways they can help re-grow their local economy or act as the intermediary for distribution of stimulus aid packages to help create new jobs.

A good example is the ‘Australia Made’ industry group. They advised the Federal Government that the best way out of recession and to create jobs was to encourage people to buy locally from small businesses. They succeeded in getting funding for a multi-million-dollar advertising and promotional campaign, and obtained approval for their job creation proposal in just a few weeks.

It is definitely the right time to go local, embrace the opportunities in disruption and reimagine your association’s future.

Finding success

At a recent event organised by Glue-Up, Asia Pacific’s top association leaders came together to speak about ‘Providing Value to Members in a Post-pandemic World’. Panellists listed the six things to survive this crisis:

  1. There is no telling whether the pandemic-caused economic downturn will last months or years. Associations’ strategies must take this uncertainty into account.
  2. Make the hard choices – re-structure your organisation as fast as possible to survive.
  3. Cash is king – when dealing with diminishing or halted cash flow, make adjustments quickly.
  4. Look for new income sources. Try securing government grants linked to economic stimulus and new jobs and keep the member base of your organisation in the loop so that they too can apply.
  5. In innovating new solutions, associations must adapt quickly and not hold onto the past. Changing times require Changing Strategies.
  6. Rediscover your Association – formulate a business plan that takes advantage of these new opportunities.

Right now, things have begun to look up. The vaccine is almost here. In the meantime, Associations will be better served by using the various insights on ways to adapt and redesign business strategies to not just stay afloat, but to succeed as well.

As humans we are all fragile and need each other. We must collaborate, connect, co-operate and partner with our Association clients. If we, as industry suppliers, focus on the ways we can support and make them shine, profits and revenue will slowly but surely return.

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