Associations Are Embracing Data

Insights from the ASAE Annual Meeting

BY DAN VIDA AND TOBY SWOPE, D+R INTERNATIONAL

In August, we traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the American Society of Association Executives’ (ASAE) annual meeting and exposition. The four-day event, which attracted thousands of association professionals and industry partners, was packed with a wide variety of learning opportunities for association professionals. These included sessions on association management, marketing, delivering new programs to drive non-dues revenue, and understanding what members’ value most in a fast-changing world.

One key aspect that pervaded all of these different subjects was the use of data-driven decision making.

Associations collect a great deal of data: member demographics; information on services and tools that members purchase, such as training modules and certification programs; and supply chain market information. Now association professionals are asking themselves, how do we organize our data? How do we get the right content to the right people? How can we increase consumption of our product by effectively using our data? How can we use data to acquire more members? How can we retain members? How do we stay relevant?

These critical questions are shared by nearly all organizations, both large and small. While they understand the value of data, they often struggle to know what to do with their data and where to start. We heard several presentations on this topic at the ASAE annual meeting and often hear the same echoed in our own work with trade associations. However, with a focused process and two key components, organizations can start their data journey on the right foot.

Understanding the key questions you would like to answer

Data for data’s sake won’t be helpful to anyone in your organization. Having a good understanding of the questions you’d like your data to answer will help you determine the data you should pay attention to first. It will also help you decide what data you currently have that is a distraction.

Start small and set achievable targets and timelines

The idea of starting small and making sure you have the basics was highlighted in many sessions at the ASAE annual meeting. One of the biggest mistakes we see all too often is attempting to do everything right out of the gate. Of course, the buzz wordy objectives are what get the attention (predicative analytics, AI, block chain), but most organizations need to start with an accounting of what they have and a plan for good data governance.

The bottom line? Having data is great. But making sense of the data is the key to success.

One of the biggest takeaways from the ASAE annual meeting was that technology is reshaping industries and impacting the way associations are looking to data to evaluate their markets, make decisions about strategic direction and implement programs that create value for their members. We look forward to next year’s ASAE annual meeting and being part of the conversation on how associations can turn their data into member success.

See you next year!

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