The new year looks like it’s filled with promise as association leaders plan to throw the net wide and enhance their offerings.

Staying relevant and adapting to change is critical for any organization’s long-term success. This is especially true for associations, which rely on engagement from both existing and potential new audiences.

How associations respond to members’ changing needs is what keeps them relevant. For example, during the pandemic, some restaurants recognized that people preferred to use the drive-thru lane rather than spend time indoors in the dining room, according to a New York Times article. Three years later, this preference has continued, and many restaurants are rethinking how they deliver value and service. Some have increased the number of drive-thru lanes and shrunk their dining rooms.

This begs the question: What is the association equivalent of a drive-thru lane? The pandemic accelerated many changes in how people connect, learn, and work. Associations that quickly pivoted to more virtual offerings, flexible membership models, and relevant networking opportunities were better positioned to retain existing members and attract new ones during this period. Associations looking to increase value in 2024 may need to identify what their equivalent of a drive-thru lane is.

According to an Avenue M text poll, when association leaders were asked about the top issues their organizations need to address in 2024, 48 percent said bosting their value proposition, and 43 percent said increasing their reach with current or new audiences. Only 4 percent said ensuring they are an inclusive and diverse organization.

One executive who said they are aiming to expand their reach explained, “Adjacent markets are ripe for engagement with us. Our offerings are extensive and with marketing segmentation we can increase engagement, e.g., membership, education, events.”

A leader who said they want to enhance their value proposition said, “The industry we serve is changing and we need to our evolve business model to the adapt to the future environment.” Another executive noted, “We need to better articulate clear, tangible benefits to better recruit and retain.”

One panelist noted, “We are working to create an emotional connection with our members and also to make sure they are aware of the depth and breadth of our offerings.” Another executive said, “We are looking to grow both membership and programming to new audiences beyond who we engage with today.”

These are compelling main goals to start with because increasing scope helps associations stay relevant. Sticking to the same audience means losing influence and struggling to meet evolving member needs. Whereas, connecting with new and existing audiences is crucial for associations to thrive because it fosters growth, adaptability, influence, and addresses diverse member and stakeholder needs.

The other top priority—boosting value propositions—is not only about attracting and retaining members, but also about ensuring the association’s continued relevance, adaptability, and overall success in a dynamic environment.

A broader reach and better value? The new year looks like it’s filled with possibility.

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For more insights on upcoming trends for 2024, read Avenue M’s quick summaries of the following resources, and click the links below.

Hungry (but Not for Human Contact), Americans Head for the Drive-Through

The pandemic accelerated the popularity of drive-throughs, with a 30 percent increase in traffic from 2019 to 2022 and a 47 percent drop in in-person dining at fast-food restaurants in the first half of 2023.

The $113 billion industry is responding with reduced dining room sizes and the introduction of technologies like tailored mobile menus and bilingual AI. This trend is driven by a demand for convenience, cultural shifts favoring drive-throughs, and a post-pandemic emphasis on safety. The fast-food industry’s adaptability, influenced by Gen Z, has transformed the drive-through into a functional and cool experience.

The World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2023

Fast Company’s list of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies and sector-specific lists showcase stories that go beyond trends.

For example, in healthcare, companies like Folx Health, Maven Clinic, Hazel Health, and Cityblock Health are making services fairer for underserved groups. Iconic brands like McDonald’s and Tiffany & Co. are changing how they talk to people, empowering creators and connecting with culture. Restaurants and consumer goods are also changing with a focus on content.

Explore what other companies have done to keep themselves up-to-speed and in the game.

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Contributors: Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE & Lisa Boylan
Image: Adobe Stock