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Economy Study Offers Insights on Future Expectations

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, March 2011 Intelligence

Summary: ASAE's latest economy study reveals optimism as well as possible trouble spots.

With the stock market on an upswing and the job market (slowly) coming back to life, association leaders and members alike are feeling optimistic about the economy going into 2011.

In a pair of surveys conducted from November 2010 to January 2011, ASAE asked separate samples of association executives and members about how the recession has affected employment, meetings, education, and more and how they intend to respond in the coming year. In general, members have been spending more time (and money) at meetings and are more likely to participate in association activities in the future.

But CEOs still worry about attracting and retaining members, with good reason. Association membership is still closely attached to employers' willingness to cover dues, members demand more value from their memberships, and members and executives don't see eye to eye when it comes to learning, especially online.

The new surveys include the responses of 403 association executives and 2,431 association members from 48 associations. More detailed information from these and previous ASAE surveys is available at www.asaecenter.org/economy.

Upbeat on Revenue and Employment

In early 2009, during the heart of the recession, few executives were optimistic that revenues would increase in the coming year. Today, more than a third of respondents expect an uptick.

Percentage of CEOs planning for total revenue to increase in the coming year

Spring 2009:

11.6%

Winter 2010:

23.5%

Winter 2011:

36.5%

Similarly, fewer members expect to be worse off in terms of their jobs:

Percentage of members who say they believe their employment situation will be worse in the coming year

Winter 2009:

8.4%

Summer 2009:

7.2%

Winter 2011:

6.4%

 

Ready for Membership Growth …

A much larger proportion of CEOs expect membership increases than at the beginning of the recession.

Percentage of CEOs expecting increased membership revenue in the coming year

Spring 2009:

4.9%

Winter 2010:

11.4%

Winter 2011:

19.1%

 

… But Worried About Keeping Members

More than a third of CEOs—37.9 percent—say they are more concerned about membership retention now than they were last year. They're right to worry. Members are increasingly ready to drop their association memberships regardless of whether an employer covers their dues or not, suggesting that members look for more value from their membership.

Percentage of members who say they will drop their membership on the next renewal regardless of who pays their dues

Winter 2009:

5.7%

Summer 2009:

14.1%

Winter 2011:

16.3%

 

A Slow Meetings Recovery

According to both the CEO and member surveys, meetings are coming back. But the proportion of organizations reporting increased revenues from such programs hasn't reached prerecession levels. Shorter meetings hold more appeal these days than multiday tradeshows.

CEOs reporting increased revenue from one-day or shorter programs

Spring 2009:

25.3%

Winter 2010:

16.2%

Winter 2011:

28.2%

 

Don't Bank on Online Education

Association CEOs are bullish on online education—it's one of the few revenue streams that has steadily increased through the recession. But that growth has led to a disconnect in expectations from online education revenue: Though nearly two thirds of respondents now anticipate revenue growth, only a third have actually experienced it.

Fact is, members don't want to learn only online: Just 7.4 percent of survey respondents say they participated in education programs only virtually last year. An increasing proportion of members mix in-person and virtual participation, suggesting that hybrid learning is the wave of the future for associations.

Members who participated in both in-person and virtual education in the past year

Winter 2009:

33.9%

Summer 2009:

39.3%

Winter 2011:

56.8%

 

Percent of CEOs who expected increased revenue from online education and the percent whose associations actually experienced increases

2009

Anticipated:

60.9%

Experienced:

31.2%

 

2010

Anticipated:

59.2%

Experienced:

33.3%

 

2011

Anticipated:

62.4%

Experienced:

36.3%
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