ASAE 2020 – Observations of an AMS Lifer

ASAE Annual 2020 blog (1)

Having worked in the association space since 1992, I have attended my share of ASAE Annual Meetings – Detroit, Dallas, LA, Hawaii – too many to list. This year, I took part in more than a dozen sessions, some live and some on-demand, with most of my focus being on those sessions that were dedicated to the actual business of an association and better serving membership (as opposed to individual leadership improvement or similar content).

While the specific aspects of association business were varied, ranging from Non-Dues Revenue, Content Marketing, Increasing Member Value, Chapters and Components, Member Engagement, or Association Technology, a thread running through each and every one was….

… data! A few interesting examples:

One session dedicated to increasing member engagement in online communities began, logically enough, by setting a foundation – the very first slide presented a scoring system for defining Member Engagement in a community (the recommended metrics were Community Activity, Community Value, and Community Reach). I was intrigued by their definition of “Activity”; it was the percentage of people coming to the community who generate content.

A session titled “How 2020 has Reshaped Chapters & Components: Acting on What’s Important Now” began in similar fashion – measurements of retention, recruitment, participation, etc. At Gravitate, we have seen that involving chapters is more successful when both the central office and the chapters share a common set of organizational measurements (such as conference registration), the chapters can see their progress, and the national office can see a holistic view of all the chapters’ trends and behaviors. We’ve found that providing chapters access to visualizations of their activity empowers them to support the national office.

A session dedicated to the future of association technology forecast, in the near term, the building of a “Culture of Data” and emphasis on Data Science/Analytics at U.S. associations. I think that’s a safe bet, as this trend is already well established. Most associations are not early adopters, but that phase has passed and analytics are now a safe choice and well-established technology rather than an unknown commodity.

An association research study looked deeply into Membership Recruitment and its primary recommendation was based on prospect segmentation – know as much about your potential members and what they are interested in as you possibly can, then conduct multi-touch digital marketing campaigns. Identifying evolving prospect segments is one of the primary benefits of data analytics at associations, of course, and every response to digital marketing campaigns generates more data about each person’s interests – further feeding the analytics.

One session was dedicated to something that I believe most associations are very much interested in and often come to Gravitate for – guidance on specific metrics. I found Dr. Richard Chang’s session “Defining the Right Measures to Achieve Desired Strategic Plan Results” to be exceptionally well done, as he managed to deliver detail and specifics while still acknowledging that associations are not homogenous and have different priorities. He talked about Key Indicators (all of which are metrics, of course) and his explanation of Key Result Areas (KRAs) was crystal clear and a fantastic concept for organizations of all kinds. He defines them thusly: “Top-level KRAs are critical, must-achieve, make-or-break performance outcomes for which the C-suite of an organization is held accountable’. He discusses how to both identify and measure these, which is vital. As legendary management consultant Peter Drucker noted long ago, those things that are measured tend to be improved.

Parting thought

Finally, I also attended Duncan Wardle’s keynote, “Innovation During Times of Crisis” and Ben Nemtin’s keynote, “Game Changer: Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty” – both inspiring stories to renew our faith in mankind and our ability to shape our future. Fortunately, you still have a chance to watch these on-demand, which I highly recommend.

We believe that you need the tools to shape the future of your association, and based on the sessions I attended, many speakers agree that data is the foundation. We can help you take this important data and turn it into actionable information. Want to talk about your data challenges or goals? Please contact me ( for a casual conversation.

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