8 Ways to Leverage Your Association Membership During Coronavirus
Now is the most important time to belong.
The primary functions of trade associations are to support its professionals, grow the industry, and encourage legislative polices that are favorable to the sector. Most 501c6 organizations will have mission and vision language that focuses on advocacy, networking and education. And in a time of crisis, these three things are absolutely critical to the success of your business and your own employment.
In fact, most trade associations started because the collective need was greater than the individual needs; and historically, trade associations and informal consortiums have been at the center of innovation, messaging, and connecting during critical times. Trade associations can quickly yield critical mass, are already adept regarding the important issues, have institutional history, and can influence policy, change and support.
At quick glance, membership dues for a trade association may seem like an expendable line item in a tough economy. The time away from your office to attend association meetings may seem too precious to give up when you’re perhaps already short-staffed. The social outings offered by your association may seem frivolous when you’re making tough decisions about marketing budgets. The sponsorship you guaranteed your trade association may seem like an expense without an immediate return.
These are tough times and often challenge our thinking.
However, it is exactly during these tough times that your involvement in your trade association can be most beneficial. Here’s how.
- Your Organization Doesn’t Want to Lose You—In a tough economy or crisis, as people and companies cut budgets and don’t renew their dues or sponsorships or attend as many events, your association is working extra hard to provide you with good customer service, good content and opportunities for you to promote yourselves —all the reasons you joined in the first place. Use this time to ask (kindly) your association staff for what you need and help drive innovation with the group by looking at new ways of doing things. You can develop and position yourself as a thought leader of the organization during this time and it will help you and your company shine. Your association needs you, even if they haven’t asked.
- You Can Share Best Practices with Your Colleagues—Be a rockstar employee or leader at your company by gathering ideas from the best and brightest in the industry. The best conversations and ideas generated at a conference or meeting (virtual or otherwise) come during the “hallway talks” or in the open forum parts of the meeting. Use this to your advantage to leverage new ideas and innovation at your own companies, by bringing best ideas back, and by demonstrating that you have done your research on what others are doing.
- You Have Access to the National Conversation—Your association is having dialogue with your national association (and if they’re not, they should be) and national industry leaders all the time, and especially during a time of crisis. This means that you, as a member, will get access to all the information the national staff is working on, on your behalf. And national chapters often have bigger budgets and more staff to focus on all of these issues—especially at the legislative level, through lobbying and advocacy by staff trained to do it.
- You Maintain Your Seat at the Table—This goes along with the bullet point above; your organization is participating at the national level. Headquarters is making policy, advocating legislation, and promoting the industry and sector, based on what they’re hearing from the state and local chapters. Those state and local chapters are asking its grassroots members for information to report back to national. As a member of a state or local chapter, you will have a direct connection to share your needs and what you’re seeing and needing on the front line.
- Your Membership Provides Legitimacy to Your Customers—You’ll need a differentiating edge during a tough economy. Leveraging your membership shows you mean business. It is evidence that you are part of a bigger movement, that you have good business practices and that you take your work seriously. Ask your association how you can use the organization’s logo and how you can talk about on social media your involvement as a member.
- You Are Supporting a Small Business—Believe it or not, associations are small, local businesses too. In a down economy, we all know that local businesses can significantly be adversely affected, and what might be minor losses to other companies, could shut down the organization’s operation altogether. Maintaining your membership is a good way to ensure your association can continue working for you. And although cash flow is likely also a huge consideration for your association, they may be willing to work with you on your membership or sponsorship payment schedules, if you are also struggling with cash flow. Don’t be afraid to ask- the worst that can happen is they say no.
- You Can Find New Customers—Your fellow association members will understand the concept of supporting small businesses and helping their bottom line during an economic challenge. Now is the time to be there so they know you exist. Leverage this time to get the appointment. Even if they don’t buy from you right now, they will when the economy returns. Tell your fellow association members that you are looking for new business and help them be ambassadors for you.
- You Will Be Steps Ahead When the Economy Rebounds—By sticking around, you’ll maintain a leg up on the latest and greatest trends in your industry, you’ll stay in the “think differently” mindset and conversation, and you’ll also feel a sense of normalcy—in other words, a shorter ramping up period when everything is back up and running.
Have other ideas about how your association membership worked for you? Let’s chat. I’d love to share those ideas out and get a conversation going. Not sure where to start? Let’s chat and hatch up some new ideas for you.