Association Trends Part I: Structural Trends

Glenn Tecker

One of the things that we benefit from as consultants working with multiple and diverse clients is the ability to identify association trends. We identify trends as a change in progress and the direction of that change.

Every now and then, we sit down and identify the trends we are seeing across associations. We want to share what we see. Are you seeing the same thing? This is the first part of a three part series that will identify structural trends, process trends and what we see as emerging trends.

Across the board, the most significant trends impacting associations are occurring at the confluence of shifting demography and evolving technology.

Part I: Structural Trends


  • Increased citation of affordability as a problem when perceived value is the real issue.
  • Members dropping and joining regularly based upon perceived immediate value.
  • More associations viewing members as customers; more businesses viewing customers as members. 
  • More competition between affiliated associations and/or components (e.g. chapters) for attention, money and volunteer time.
  • Others?


  • Increased conversation about competency-based boards driving innovation in the representative governance model.
  • Societal and political tensions related to economic, generational, and world views influencing association decision-making.
  • Re-emergence of conflict and confusion about member and staff leader roles. 
  • Fewer volunteers; less time to give; less association experience to bring.
  • Others?


  • Increase in “hybrid” programs and technology integrated into learning opportunities
  • Increased expectations about “customized” programs
    Increased distinction between charitable, professional, and trade association missions in the “mind” of government.
  • Rethinking of global and international strategies and business modeling.
  • Continued pressure to move association experiences on-line.
  • Others?


  • More associations developing comprehensive digital transformation strategies.
  • More jobs and new cost centers are being created in associations as a result of technology; costs are sometimes reduced and sometimes increased.
  • Less focus on use of a single tool for member engagement with a reallocation of resources towards multi-platform content creation.
  • Increased storing and use of member data for association decision-making; more discussion of data and analytics
  • Others?


  • More dependence on staff; yet static staff resources especially related to data and technology skills.
  • Models for organizing from members’ workplace continue to influence organizational design decisions.
  • Increased use of full or part-time telecommuting for a wider variety of association jobs.
  • Increasing numbers of associations bringing core functions back in-house from outsourced provision or collaborative ventures; increased use of consultants for specific initiatives.
  • Others?


  • Increased bundling and/or un-bundling of programs and services to decrease costs and/or increase revenue.
  • Increased attention to non-dues sources of revenue; diversifying revenue streams.
  • Increased attention to the search for “new” business models- especially related to digital strategy.
  • Wider variation in association fiscal experiences depending on the economic conditions of the profession or industry served.
  • Others?

Do you recognize these trends in your association? What have we missed? 

Next week: Process trends.

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About the Author

Glenn Tecker

Glenn is a Principal Consultant, Chairman and Co-CEO of Tecker International. He has served in an executive capacity with business, public agencies, and non-profit organizations. Glenn is widely acknowledged as one of the world's foremost experts on leadership and strategy.