Competition has increased
We’ve built a gravitas and caché through years of unparalleled events, preeminent publications and elite members. We’ve grounded our organizations on core offerings – membership – conferencing – publishing – education. But there’s a predator on our heals – the internet and social media has disrupted our world, everyone’s world, and they’ve only just started.
Here’s a back of napkin calculation… associations generate about $130 billion a year in the US. The top 5 (AARP, ACS, NEA, NRA, ADA) generate about $2 billion. They have about 50 million members between them. That’s about $40 revenue per member. If there’s $130 billion dollars in revenue, lets guesstimate that $130b / $40 will give us an approximate number of association members in the US of about 3.25 billion – built up for over 100 years. That number is a very high estimate – but no worries.
Now for a rude awakening… the top 5 social media brands (Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat) have about 8 billion users, built up in less than 10 years.
The internet provides free meetings, communication, peer groups, networking, education, publishing – all the basics we have offered for the last 50 years or more.
Member Contribution is DOWN
Percentage of revenue derived from membership dues has dropped from 96% to 30% in the last 60 years. That’s about 1% a year – which translates into $1 billion per year at today’s rates.
Member Geographics and demographics have radically changed
Let’s take the IEEE* as an example. About 50% of IEEE members are from outside the US. This has a big impact on what they need, what language is used, what services you can offer and how much you can charge – if you can charge at all.
Again at IEEE* almost ⅓ of their members are students across 100 countries. This presents significant risk if you can’t give them what they need, but also presents an opportunity to develop highly focused solutions for them.
Young professionals are turning to associations for help with their careers. It’s not just content, they need career tools and education content which have not been our focus in the past.
And what’s our response?
Our response is to keep doing the same old things, faster, cheaper and to less and less appropriate audiences. How many of us are guilty of repurposing content based on everyone should be interested in that? How about repackaging individual products and calling them a corporate sponsorship package. We have to admit we’ve all done it.
but it’s not all bad
But we do have amazing member networks, fantastic positioning between academia, industry and government and independence that gives us trusted status between them, BUT we have to act now before even these assets are consumed by the beast.
*All stats freely available from the IEEE.org website