July 8, 2014
On June 20, 2014, Kellen Company hosted its very first U.S. conference – Associations: 2020 and Beyond – exploring the social, cultural, economic and technological issues impacting the future of associations and their leaders.
The event marked our 50th year in partnership with the association industry and we were proud to host the inaugural event in New York City.
We’ve included a recap of the day’s hottest discussions below, courtesy of our content partners Mr. Finn Content Works. Enjoy, and stay tuned for details on next year’s event!
Focus | Future Shock and How to Ensure Your Association’s Survival
What do a meme agent, drone driver and corporate disorganizer have in common? “They’re all jobs of the future,” said Sarah DaVanzo, futurist and Chief Cultural Strategy Officer at Sparks & Honey.
Sarah’s prediction illuminated her kick-off session, “The Connected Age: Friend or Foe?” at Associations: 2020 and Beyond. Her program stirred much dialogue among the nearly 100 association executives in attendance. She anticipated skills of the future: focus, explained the difference between networking and netweaving: “It’s not about getting a business card, it’s about solving a problem,” provided demographics on future membership: 0-18 year-olds, referred to as Generation Z, and discussed some of the many ways associations can engage with them.
By posing questions like: “Are you addressing modern needs?” and “Are you syncing your association with cultural relevance?” she aroused some soul-searching among attendees.
“It was encouraging to hear that my colleagues are dealing with the same issues—primarily how to deal with millennials,” said Laura Bartlett, CFO/COO at American Association of Advertising Agencies.
For Maurice A. Desmarais, President of the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers, regulatory and legislative issues are paramount, but when “getting a hold of Generation Z, most distributors and manufacturers could use a strategy to capture that customer base for shooting, hunting and fishing.” Mr. Desmarais noted that the archery membership has grown 30% since The Hunger Games.
Kevin Koonce, Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications, Council of the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, said that his membership is a bit older, but echoed a sentiment held by several attendees: “So this is all interesting and, honestly, sort of scary.”
Focus | Membership Recruitment & Retention
As associations try to solve the riddle of member recruitment and retention, the “Future of Associations: Embracing Change and Ensuring Value” panel session offered several insights. Creating events that increase awareness and grow membership was one topic that received extended play.
One panelist, Bobby Blumenfeld, Executive Director, Association for Corporate Growth New York, said that for his organization, events have become lifeblood—as well as revenue generators. “We asked ourselves, ‘How do we grow members?’ And the answers we came up with were that we needed products—in a word, events,” he said. “We have 70 events annually, and, for example, one of which started as a wine gala for 200 people has grown to 1,000 attendees, which gets to the heart of our membership value proposition: networking and deal-making.”
The session resonated with attendees, who found it helpful hearing panelists with direct association experience. “I could apply their problems to my own,” said Jerry Biuso, Sr, Chief Executive Officer, Land Improvement Contractors of America.
Yet another challenge expressed by panelists was how to professionalize their association. Christine Duffy, CEO of Cruise Lines International Association, advocated a solution: associations should consolidate their message into one voice. With the help of the Kellen Company, Duffy and CLIA recently brought together 13 independent cruise associations from across the globe. “It became obvious we needed one voice,” she said. “We restructured governance, re-wrote by-laws, determined a global chain of command to know who speaks when, and developed a clear messaging and communications strategy.” The results speak for themselves, with CLIA increasing its revenue from $14 million to $21 million in the space of two years.
Phil Kafarakis, Chief Innovation & Member Advancement Officer, National Restaurant Association, suggested health insurance coverage as one way to offer a professional sheen for members. “The Affordable Care Act will offer an open health exchange for restaurant industry members,” he said. “That will drive membership growth.”
Glenn Merry, CEO of USRowing, acknowledged that the topics were particularly relevant to him, since his association is currently re-structuring. “The discussion around engagement and member services, and having large industry leaders on the panel, gave a good diversity of answers– it gave me some things to think about,” he said.
Focus | Economic Reform
Ron Insana, Senior Financial Analyst and Commentator at CNBC, final keynote presentation discussed: “Economic Realities and the impact on Association Finances and Investments.” Referring to the U.S. as an “island of stability,” Insana justified his positive outlook by focusing on the manufacturing renaissance in the U.S., rapid technological innovation, a sharp rebound in real estate and less political dysfunction in Washington, DC. He expects these developments will lead to a “Fortress America,” reconfirming the United States’ position as the preeminent economy in the world, and one filled with opportunity for associations.
Insana explained that despite the recovery in financial markets and a sustained period of economic growth, over 50% of Americans still believed the U.S. economy was in recession. Insana’s response to such pessimism: “The world will end in five billion years when the sun flames out… There’s a lot of time for optimism between now and then.”
“Change is inevitable yet at the same time unpredictable, but this does not mean that associations cannot prepare for what’s ahead,” said Kellen Company CEO, Peter Rush. “The conference goal was to help associations anticipate and be at the forefront of developments that could impact their organizations and members. I think conference attendees left with a lot to think about.”
We’ve included some great shots from the day below. If you are interested in attending next year’s event, sign up to our eNewsletter and stay tuned for more information!
Associations: 2020 and Beyond was sponsored by Washington Speakers Bureau, Quality Letter Service, Wegner CPAs, Professionals for NonProfits, Kellen Communications and Mr. Finn Content Works. The conference was held at Apella Event Space in New York.