Altai attendees of the ASAE’s Great Ideas Conference came back surprised that the two main themes that emerged were: 1) Association Management Systems (AMS) were holding back many organizations’ progress; and 2) Membership rates are going down across all organizational demographics. On the surface there may not appear to be a direct link between these two themes, but the reality is their connection is extremely strong.
As the population ages and leaves the workforce, millennials are entering the workforce seeking out new opportunities. In previous generations, entering the workforce coincided with joining a professional association, but there has been a shift in recent years in the desire for individuals to join and stay in such groups. According to Buzz Marketing Group’s, “Professional Organizations Study 2015,” respondents under the age of 40 have been leaving established groups in record numbers for some of the following reasons:
- 37% did not see value in the group
- 45% percent reported participation was too expensive
- 31% percent felt that groups lacked technology
By assessing these three key reasons, it becomes clear where associations need to refocus their efforts, and by specifically addressing the third bullet, the lack of technology, the other two points can be vastly improved.
Is Your AMS Holding Back Progress?
An organization’s AMS was previously thought of (and often still is) a utilitarian database whereby members names and contact info is housed with information regarding events, such as attendance, payment, etc. For many years, these basic functions were enough to keep the organization going, but today’s systems need to be interactive, fluid and integrate with multiple other IT functions. According to John Rampton of Entrepreneur, “Millennials rely on technology to make their lives easier, both professionally and personally.” Outdated legacy AMS systems will no longer cut it among today’s tech savvy membership market.
Today’s systems, such as those based on Microsoft Dynamics® CRM, can integrate with web portals, create messaging, marketing, communications planning, data, consistent business processes, planned activities, resource scheduling, accounting rules, revenue recognition, and many more!
Membership Rate Decline
Professionals today will not turn over large sums of money for membership dues or seminars simply to put them down on their resume. According to the 2014 “15 Economic Facts about Millennials” report issued by The Council of Economic Advisers to the White House, the second largest category of household debt for millennials is student loan debt. In fact, outstanding student loan debt has now surpassed $1 trillion. Therefore the emphasis on membership being a value added professional necessity is more important than ever.
While associations need to look at their content to make sure that it’s relevant to today’s millennials, they should also be examining the technology they are using to disseminate and collect that content. Opportunities for virtual contact via text, webinar, etc. is extremely important. Likewise, having a LinkedIn group, Facebook page and Twitter feed are necessary places for associations to have a presence to reach their millennial constituents. Equally important in helping to steer membership upward is by having access to analytics measuring the pulse of an organization’s message through tools like Social Engagement. But to capitalize on these tools, associations need to have the most up to date AMS infrastructure in place first, or many of these efforts will be in vain.
Lowering Costs for Everyone
To help drive costs down, switching to a CRM based AMS can help associations reduce upgrade and expensive development costs long term. Likewise, it can help to facilitate millennials’ choices in how they want to “bundle” their membership packages thus increasing membership revenue. Many associations are finding that if they present their membership fee as including a bundle of services such as: website access, monthly newsletters, 3 webinars and a discount on a 1 day pass to the annual convention – they can attract more young members. The “catch” is that to facilitate that type of membership structure, a progressive CRM system needs to be in place for it to work. (Most legacy systems are not designed for this type of flexibility.)
The bottom line is that sticking with the “old way” of doing business, whether it’s technologically or procedurally, will not help bridge the millennial membership gap. Organizations need to embrace new technology and new ways of attracting and keeping members or they’ll end up going the way of the Commodore 64 (and if you don’t know what that is, Google it.)
To learn more about Altai’s AMS based on the Microsoft Dynamics® CRM platform, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.