It is difficult to be a leader during a global pandemic. There is a lot of information to process and a new decision to be made every day. Your association started the year with a balanced budget and big plans, and now it feels upside-down.
Take a deep breath and consider these eight things every association leader must understand about their organization now to survive these challenging times.
First, face the bad news:
- What is keeping your members up at night?
In the middle of the COVID-19 health emergency, the future is an ever-changing and highly uncertain prospect. Get in touch with your members and find out their specific concerns and challenges. Don’t just call your peers. Make sure to talk to young professionals through soon-to-be retired members about their current experience.
- Your new financial position.
Whether you are just starting, in the middle of, or wrapping up your fiscal year, the budget you created last year is likely out of date. Update projected revenue and expenses based on cancelled events and programs and understand how this impacts the bottom line. Look for ways to cut expenses now if needed. Making them early will help in the long run.
- The future financial impacts
What does your future membership look like? Will a recession or shifts in your industry cause a decline in membership for your association? If so, what is the possible (and worst-case scenario) impact on your financials this year, next year and even five years from now?
- The impact on fall/early 2021 events
What is the impact to your sponsors/exhibitors, revenue and the overall experience if travel restrictions or anxiety keep people away from your events over the next 12 months? What changes can you make to ensure a successful event even if it is smaller?
Then, find the opportunities:
- How can you serve your members NOW?
Things will not go back to normal for a long time. Your association should not be business as usual. Evaluate your programs and ensure they are addressing your members’ new needs. Put things on the backburner to focus on getting your members through their current challenges (and efficiently allocating your resources).
- How to find new value for sponsors and exhibitors
It is more important than ever for your partners to connect with your members. Call your partners and discuss how you can work together to deliver value to them and support your programs. Be flexible and show your partners that you genuinely care about their business. Be sure to stay up to date on trends in association management by following sources such as Associations Now and the AMC Institute.
- The call for connection
Stay-at-home orders have highlighted the value of connection. Find new ways to create engagement and connection between members through virtual events, online forums, polls, communications, etc. Members need your organization now more than ever. Be creative and answer the call.
- How to support your leadership and staff
Your organization may need to make hard decisions over the next 12 months. Open dialogue amongst board members and staff is critical. Acknowledge this is hard and unprecedented. Make sure everyone has time to process all the changes and feels heard. Don’t worry about perfect right now. Make the best decisions you can and collect feedback so you can adjust.