A Brighter Economic Outlook for 2010

A new study breaks down how associations responded to the recession and what they expect in the coming year.

Association CEOs may not be able to predict the future (yet), but there are certain areas where they appear to have a firm grip on how much damage a down economy will do.

Last year ASAE & The Center surveyed association CEOs about the recession's effect on staffing, travel, meetings, and more. A follow-up survey, conducted in January and February, sheds more light on how executives feel about 2010's prospects and suggests where last year's feelings of optimism and skepticism were justified.

In general, respondents feel that their associations' revenue prospects have substantially improved. But most still have to trim, and though they've tried to save money in ways that avoid cutting staff, layoffs were part of the budgeting picture last year and remain so for 2010.

The new survey includes the responses of 960 association executives. White papers on ASAE & The Center economy surveys, as well as additional resources on managing during a downturn, are available at www.asaecenter.org/economy.

Planning for increased overall revenue …

The percentage of respondents who said they were planning for increased overall revenue in 2010 is more than double that of the previous year. The percentage who said it would decrease dropped substantially, from 63.9 percent to 38.1 percent.

Percentage planning for total revenue to increase in the coming year

Spring 2009 


Winter 2010


… but more restrained about membership dollars

The percentage of respondents who say dues revenue will go up increased between the two surveys, from 4.9 percent to
11.4  percent. But a majority (52 percent) say such revenue will decrease in 2010.

Where did they cut?

For the new survey, respondents were asked what they had done in their human resources departments to respond to the down economy. Laying off staff wasn't a priority, but nearly a third of associations did it in 2009.

HR changes that have occurred in your organization in 2009

Frozen salaries: 


Reduced, travel, training, or other employee-related expenses:


Eliminated or postponed bonuses: 


Laid off staff:


Mandated a temporary hiring freeze:  


Good Predictions

When it comes to nuts-and-bolts aspects of running an association, CEOs do a good job of judging how badly the organization's pocketbook will be pinched. For instance, the proportion of associations that took a hit on publication sales matched up with the proportion that expected to take a hit.

Decreased revenues from publication sales

Percentage who expected this in spring 2009:


Percentage who reported this in winter 2010:


Not-so-good predictions

Associations feel positive about the promise of online programs—though the survey suggests they don't have much reason to. Last year a majority of respondents said they believed that their online revenues would increase, but only a third of those surveyed this year reported an increase.The bad news hasn't dampened executives' optimism: 59.2 percent of respondents say they expect online revenues to increase in 2010.

Increased revenues from education, training, or professional development programs offered online

Percentage who expected
this in spring 2009:


Percentage who reported this in winter 2010:


Don't mess with dues!

If CEOs were interested in tweaking dues structures to perhaps squeeze a few extra dollars out of members, they're thinking twice about it now. In spring 2009, 41.7 percent of respondents said they already have or expected to restructure dues amounts. In the new survey, only 25.1 percent of respondents say the same thing, suggesting that attempts to tinker with dues last year backfired.