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Over the past year, SBI Association Management saw several shifts in industry dynamics and member needs in the association world. Several of these changes and innovations will shape association management strategies and services in 2024 and beyond. Here are five takeaways from 2023 and how we predict SBI and associations to evolve this year.

1. Embracing the Shift Toward Group/Organizational Memberships

One of the most notable trends observed over the past several years, especially in 2023, was the increasing adoption of group and organizational membership structures by professional associations, which are more common in trade associations. Group memberships empower organizations to efficiently manage multiple employee members and register numerous employees for events and training in a streamlined process. Recognizing this shift, member services quickly collaborated with events and marketing teams to create tailored language and processes for attracting and serving the unique needs of group members.

Moreover, SBI worked with clients to catalyze membership growth by offering enticing incentives, such as discounted rates for group membership and events with multiple registrations from a single organization. Our efforts to help associations introduce group memberships have forged a superior member experience, and streamlined invoicing and data management. It’s been so rewarding to relieve the administrative headache of association member billing departments along with our own member service team, and it is exciting to champion further growth and innovation for our association partners.   

2. Human Resources Initiatives:  A Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

In response to the growing need for diversity and inclusion in the workforce, human resource departments took bold steps forward in 2023 implementing new DEI initiatives. SBI demonstrated this trend by removing specific education requirements from our job postings. This strategic move not only broadened our candidate pool but also reinforced our commitment to creating an inclusive and diverse work environment.

In a similar fashion, many associations created or expanded DEI efforts by forming committees to help examine existing practices and create new processes and strategies to increase diversity in leadership and membership, as well as implement policies that work to promote accessibility and inclusivity and actively refute inequity.

3. Navigating Cost-Effective Options

Facing a dramatic rise in the cost of audits, SBI’s financial and accounting operations team adapted by putting the work out for new bids. Instead of relying solely on previous firms, management companies may find more cost-effective options for clients, some of whom opt for reviews of financial statements rather than full annual audits. This flexibility ensured that our clients could navigate the financial landscape efficiently while maintaining the highest standards of transparency and compliance.

4. Innovative Marketing and Communication Strategies

In 2023 we encouraged and achieved a reduced reliance on traditional lengthy printed programs for conferences and focused more on the use of robust mobile apps. Instead, our association communication professionals embraced a more strategic usage of printed items, which minimized waste and significantly reduced the printing costs that have seen a drastic increase since the pandemic.

Another huge trend in 2023 was the ever-increasing prevalence of Artificial Intellegence (AI) in associations. Marketing professionals have more and more options to use new tools to support design, editing, and brainstorming. While these innovative tools may help foster new ideas and efficiency, SBI continues to place higher value in the personal creative touches and messaging that come directly from our staff and association members rather than solely relying on AI-generated messaging or images.

5. Returning to In-Person Events

In the years following pandemic-era virtual conferences and events, members expressed a strong desire to return to in-person events, recognizing the value of face-to-face networking, collaborating, celebrating, and learning. However, the effects of the pandemic lingered, especially concerning the rising costs of hotels and convention centers, food, and AV services. These essential elements for successful events are increasingly being priced out of reach for non-profit associations. This poses a significant challenge, prompting creative negotiating and budgeting by event planners and remaining a top concern for association executives and volunteer leaders.

It has become essential to more closely examine how conference revenue fits into the overall financial health of an association, and design registration fees and other revenue streams to underwrite the true costs of in-person events. Meanwhile, virtual educational programming has proven a reliable source of revenue to many associations and, in many cases, has grown to surpass annual conference profitability and made education more accessible to many.

Lessons Learned in 2023

As we reflect on the lessons learned in 2023, it’s evident that adaptability and innovation are paramount in the ever-evolving landscape of association management. Moving forward, SBI Association Management remains dedicated to improvements and innovation, ensuring that we provide reliable, professional support and strategic guidance as we continue to exceed the expectations of our clients in the years ahead.