Why are associations at risk?

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain why associations are at risk

As Amith discussed in the video, success can sometimes be a roadblock to change. Just like for-profit companies, when a business plan works, there can be resistance to change it, because of the attitude, “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.” 

All organizations, for-profit and associations alike, must work to adopt a growth mindset. Success is an amazing accomplishment, but it should not become something that can impede change or growth for an organization in the future. Associations can be seen as risk averse — but they can also be seen as a catalyst for change. As Amith stated, “It takes incredible leadership to drive change,” and the leaders of associations know how to drive change for the greater good of the organization as well as society.

Associations have a long history, but now they can be viewed as being at risk. Why?

Associations depend on their members to create revenue for the organization. This revenue is then invested back into the association to maintain or expand its products and services. Associations invest back in themselves by offering education, conducting research and advocacy.  

If members feel that an association and its efforts are irrelevant, then it becomes at risk for a few reasons:

  1. Joining an association can be seen as costly - This research dissertation from Kesha Renee Walton at Walden University explored the barriers to membership in a professional organization for advanced practice nurses. While the research subjects acknowledged the benefits of joining the American Nurse Association, like continuing education, the outcome of improved healthcare and job opportunities, these benefits did not outweigh the cost of joining. For associations to be effective, they must reach out to future members and generations and show how the benefits of joining outweigh the costs. 
  2. Associations can be viewed as risk-averse - This means an association can be reluctant to take risks in different areas, especially when an association has a sizable staff or a long history of success. Implementing a new business model, adopting new technology or making changes within the organization takes time and resources. Due to this, associations can be viewed as not taking enough risks to stay relevant in today’s society. 
  3. Associations are tradition-bound - Traditions create a sense of comfort and belonging and bring value to an association. But, only relying on traditions and not working to move forward can be seen as a roadblock. Because of this, associations can be perceived as an “Old Boys’ Club” where change is slow to happen. This means some associations have the tendency to focus on the same issues, generate the same continuing education, plan the same conference year after year and manage their agenda the same way. This can make it difficult for them to appeal to or meet the needs of new generations. In today’s workforce, there are four generations working side by side, and associations need to make a conscious effort to appeal to all generations instead of just one. 

Knowing the challenges that associations face is the first step, how associations choose to proactively tackle these challenges is imperative to their growth.