New Study Illuminates What It Takes to Grow Globally

By: Katie Bascuas

The research from ASAE Foundation and MCI examined some of the commonalities among associations reporting increasing membership and product sales outside of North America.

What does it mean to serve mem bers and constituents abroad, and what does it take to do that successfully?

A new report from the ASAE Foundation and MCI examines those questions and sheds light on some of the differences between associations that are reporting global growth and those experiencing flat or declining memberships and product sales outside North America.

According to "Achieving Global Growth: Establishing and Maintaining Global Markets," one of the main differences between growers (64 percent of respondents) and nongrowers (36 percent) is a proactive mindset. Growers, for example, are introducing products—such as publications, conferences and meetings, education and training programs, certification and accreditation, and digital libraries and communities—much more frequently than nongrowers.

Growers "offer a variety of relevant products and services to improve local member and customer engagement, invest in local operations and leadership, and secure certain kinds of international partners to assist their efforts," the report notes.

The Society of Petroleum Engineers has been expanding internationally at a steady clip over the last 10 years and credits much of that growth to an increase in its meetings offerings overseas.

"We organized about 40 meetings a year 10 years ago, and we're now at about 150 to 160 meetings per year," says SPE CEO Mark Rubin. One hundred of those events are outside the United States and demonstrate significant growth, especially for an organization that garners 70 percent of its revenue from meetings.

Rubin says a gradual expansion of SPE's global staff was pivotal to the association's ability to broaden its meetings offerings. "We now have more than 170 staff throughout five offices outside the United States," he says. "We have staff close to the events that they're organizing. We also have staff who are from the cultures of the members who they are serving."

While staff recruitment was essential, so was strategy, Rubin says. "It's like anything else, the first thing to do from a strategic point of view is have a really good understanding of why you're doing it and what you want to accomplish and have well-thought-out strategic goals," he says. "Because without that, I'm repeating a cliché, but if you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?"

Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected].

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled"Global Growers."]

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.