Associations Weigh Post-Pandemic Options

Association leaders are looking ahead to several challenges and opportunities when they come out of the pandemic. The American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) ASAE Foundation’s Association Impact & Policy Snapshot report has identified leaders’ top challenges in 2021 to be related to managing the financial aspects of their organizations resulting from the impact of COVID-19.

Association leaders have identified driving new ways to engage members; shaping the direction on diversity, equality and inclusion, and organizational culture; and developing new ways to partner as their top opportunities in 2021. These opportunities sit alongside several challenges, including COVID-19 and its impact on managing non-dues and dues-driven revenue streams; engagement with members to drive retention and acquisition; thinking beyond 2021 for long-range planning, management, strategy and governance; and managing the impact of COVID on an organization’s P/L.

Ahead, association leaders expect their associations to provide in-person, face-to-face conferences, expos and events in third and fourth quarter 2021 for smaller meetings and in first and second quarter 2022 for larger meetings. Virtual and hybrid aspects of events will also continue, which ASAE suggests represents an increasing comfort level with adapting multiple delivery channels per event.

The top factors influencing the decision to return to face-to-face are the take-up of the vaccine in the United States, attendees’ organizations lifting their travel bans and guidance from state, local and national officials. Nearly one in 10 (7.4 percent) associations have already resumed business travel. The majority (58.8 percent) of associations plan to resume business travel in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. ASAE says that it sees this data as an approximation for resumption of conference travel.

Just over half of organizations (51.3 percent) plan to return to the office at some point over the next two years. Among those who have already returned, nearly two in five organizations either partially (18.3 percent) or fully (18.3 percent) returned to their physical office space, with one in 10 not having physical office space. Among those who haven't returned to the office, three in five (58.8 percent) plan to return in third quarter 2021.

For more information from the ASAE report, click here.

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