The End of Membership As We Know It

What goes up must come down.

For years our society has supported membership associations and nonprofits and civic leadership. These organizations and concepts were especially prosperous in the mid-1900s.

However, since the early 2000s, associations have experienced a barrage of challenges that would weaken their position in the marketplace and forever alter their futures.

Is this to say that civic leadership is passe and membership is dead? No. But both concepts are certainly at a critical crossroads.

I’m just returning from the ASAE National Conference in St. Louis where my third book, The End of Membership As We Know It, made its

Besides the fact that I just wrote a book on the topic, I know many associations are tiptoeing on the verge of irrelevance simply from some of the conversations
that were taking place at the conference.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw and heard:

  • An association just updated its by-laws for the first time since 1880 to reword a
    reference to notifying members via telegraph;
  • An association spent 20 years implementing a dues change;
  • An association changed its name in hopes of drawing in more members.

Indeed these are extreme situations but it’s a reminder that what has been widely accepted and practiced in associations and nonprofits can no longer be the norm. The attitude of ‘We’ve always done it this way’ or the excuse ‘We’ll get to it someday’ isn’t sustainable, profitable, or acceptable in light of recent changes.

Economic swings, rapidly-changing technology, and demographic shifts have challenged most associations (some more than others) because all these changes
have redefined the meaning of membership. What members–and clients, employees, and consumers–want now is vastly different than what they wanted three years ago.

So what challenges is your organization facing? How is your organization responding to those challenges? How do you know that what your organization is doing now will be sustainable, profitable, and relevant in the future?

Please share your experiences and ideas here. We’d love to hear from you!

Indeed, what goes up must come down. It may seem like all hope is lost at this point, but remember this: When one chapter comes to an end, another one begins.

The key to your organization’s long-term success is to be open to whatever and whomever the future will bring.

To purchase your copy of The End of Membership As We Know It, click here.

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8 thoughts on “The End of Membership As We Know It”

  1. The problem I have with most associations I have been part of is the typical formats of meetings, ie the panel, the speaker etc that speak to topics that most in the room are fully aware of. They would be well served to bring in something out of their norm, like you for example, to speak on stuff they don’t think about.
    I think one missed value for many is the job seeking people, what better place to meet potential employers? I’m not sure they take advantage of these meetings.

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