Our Thinking

ASAE 2022: Key Takeaways for your association

What a pleasure to meet up with so many of you at the ASAE conference last month! Apologies to those that we missed, and rest assured that we will catch up soon.

This was the first in-person ASAE conference in 3 years. With 3 days of amazing sessions and networking, did you miss out on some of the ASAE goodness? Read on for our key conference takeaways!

What is the disruption? 

Whether they were ready or not, the pandemic forced associations to go virtual for events, meetings, staff communications and more. What started as a stressful transition has now become a new way of working that saves time and energy while boosting efficiency. 

But it’s not only about work and communications between association staff. Member engagement has also gone online. Now is the time for associations to turn to a digital-first approach to best serve existing members, and attract new ones. Associations who can’t quickly respond to this disruption risk losing relevance in mere months. 

It’s important to remember that markets and members (not associations) determine if a service is truly disruptive. Disruption comes from recognizing and adapting to shifting market conditions, new technologies and the creation of new markets. 

How have association members responded to these disruptions? They have  higher expectations for the level of association services, including:

Easy Access: Members need to easily and quickly access resources 24/7. If not, they may not see the value in staying connected and engaged. 

Deeper Pool of Resources: Members want a wider diversity of resources across different forms of media that solve their most pressing problems. Think videos, blogs, e-books, webinars and resource libraries. If members don’t see their needs reflected in both the quality and quantity of resources, that could mean major setbacks in member retention.

Networking: In-person interactions like conferences and annual general meetings used to be the best way for associations and members to keep in touch. Now, members expect their association to provide virtual opportunities to build and maintain relationships. 

How is this disruption an opportunity?

Disruption isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of fearing disruption, associations must flip the script by genuinely embracing disruption as early as possible. When acted upon quickly, disruption always presents opportunities. This could be an opportunity to grow, to stand out from the crowd and yes –  an opportunity to better serve your members. 

As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Nothing forces an association to evaluate and improve member experience like disruption. 

In other words, disruption isn’t the problem. The real problem is when associations do not quickly respond to disruptions, risking losing member interest, engagement, and relevance.

What are the opportunities?

When it comes to what opportunities associations can leverage in response to disruption, the sky’s the limit. It really depends on how far the association has travelled on their digital transformation journey, and how digital assets can be optimized to meet member needs. That being said, here are two key opportunities for associations to consider. 

Create communities of practice 

What does the ‘new normal’ look like for your members? And how do they expect their association to make their lives easier under these circumstances? Answering these questions is key to boosting member engagement with communities of practice (CoP). CoPs bring people together with common problems or interests to share best practices, education, and foster relationships with regular meetings. CoPs add great value to membership – especially when associations have done their homework to identify key member needs.

We at 108 understand that every association is unique. When it comes to shifting organizational structures, cookie-cutter approaches simply don’t work. However, we have identified one common member desire in the association world: continuing education. As we know, the real learning starts when school ends. Across all professions and industries, association members always need to keep up on the latest news, research and best practices. The opportunity isn’t just about providing targeted education that supports professional development. It’s also about finding the best digital platform to deliver new ways of learning that keep members coming back for more. If your association is wondering if it’s time to switch to a learning management system, feel free to ping us.

Cultivate new relationships 

When it comes to sparking new relationships, associations have realized that virtual engagement exponentially expands their member reach. With geographic location no longer an obstacle to relationship building, associations can tap into new member markets and form impactful partnerships with organizations across the globe. 

Digital engagement done right also increases accessibility. There are many reasons why members may not attend your in-person events, ranging from travel and hotel costs, to difficulty getting childcare, to barriers for people with disabilities. Many associations have been surprised to see member engagement increase during the pandemic, due to the ease and lower cost of virtual interactions. 

Associations that used to onboard new members in-person, can now turn to a digital onboarding process. Time and time again, we have seen that members are not aware of all the benefits that their association offers. Instead of directing new members to a ‘member benefits’ website page, why not hold an onboarding webinar monthly or even weekly? These early interactions that help members understand the value your association has to offer is the first step in building a lifetime relationship. 

Don’t forget about online forums and discussion portals! These tools are excellent to bring groups of people together that can learn from each other. For example, experienced professionals with new graduates, mentors with students, etc.


Being member-centric is a given in the association space. And now is the time to move away from traditional ways of working and communicating, and make the most out of this opportunity disguised as disruption. It’s no longer a matter of if you should take a digital-first approach. The only question is  – what digital transformation strategy is right for your association? After 25+ years of working with associations around the world, we understand how to create custom digital strategies for your unique association needs. We understand that your main goal is to serve your members. We hope you will let us serve you, and be part of your digital transformation journey.