Last week, we went into more depth on one of the first reasons associations appear to be dying — that is, the consolidation of industries eating up competition. This week, I want to cover the second reason: the appearance that associations are reluctant to change for the next generation.
This one is tricky, because while associations are making strides to update and embrace new technology, the reluctance of their member base to adapt has forced them to pull back and compromise. Also, it can be confusing for non-tech professionals to pinpoint exactly what technology the need, and what is a superfluous waste of cost.
The first issue is the most pernicious: most associations primary member base are older professionals, and it makes sense to hold onto and cater to them. However, maintaining an environment that strictly caters to older members can keep young professionals form joining. Younger professionals have grown up with access to a myriad of technology, and have certain expectations as to what they want and need. If your association isn’t providing these things, then they will look elsewhere. When one website updated their site to be more mobile friendly, older members commented how “unfortunate” it was that they were turning away from their needs. So, how do you reconcile the two?
First, just because you embrace a new technology doesn’t mean that you remove all of the old functionality. If you still have a large base that likes to receive printed media, then you can still continue to send out printed publications; just make sure that they are accessible online, too.
Embracing a new way of doing things can be a little scary for both you and your older members. Communicate with them, and be honest. Do this, and your association will be around for a long time to come.