Recognizing a Century of Association Work

100 years February 4, 2020 By: Jenny Nelson

Associations accomplish a great deal for their members and the public, making it difficult to assess the impact of their work. In honor of ASAE’s centennial, the ASAE Research Foundation is tackling that challenge.

You may have heard that ASAE is toasting 100 years of association achievement in 2020, its centennial year. As ASAE reaches that milestone, the ASAE Research Foundation’s centennial research initiative, “Impact of Associations on Society: Evidence for Future Influence and Action,” will look how associations have driven progress in society in the past and present, and how they can create change in the future.

The foundation engaged McKinley Advisors and Westat, Inc., to perform the research. Researchers from both organizations are collecting stories that highlight the work and impact of associations. Westat researchers are also surveying association members to understand the value they have received from associations in the past—and where they see associations making important contributions in the future.

Telling Stories

McKinley’s research focuses on how association-based research projects have positively changed society, specifically in areas relating to safety, education, and economic and workforce development. Researchers gathered stories from across the association community, and with the help of an ASAE volunteer advisory group, selected powerful examples of the diverse, groundbreaking impacts associations have made on the world through research.

Throughout 2020, ASAE and the ASAE Research Foundation will share highlights and lessons from this research. These stories will feature associations representing wide-ranging industries and addressing specific problems and needs. But each story will provide insight into how other associations can approach their own challenges, including

  • improving member certification results
  • recruiting new workers into an industry
  • advocating for policy change
  • defining industry standards
  • establishing effective partnerships.

A complete collection of case studies and an analysis of case study themes will be released in late summer 2020.

Uncovering Perceptions

Westat took a two-phase approach to understanding the impact of associations. First, researchers interviewed leaders from outside the association sector—including those in government, business, and education—to understand these influencers’ perspectives on associations. They were asked for their views on how associations address challenges their members face, affect the American economy, educate the workforce, and protect industries. The researchers used drivers of change from ASAE ForesightWorks to frame conversations about the role of associations in preparing their industries and the workforce for the future.

Westat researchers also surveyed association members and other stakeholders to understand how they perceive past and present association contributions to society, as well as the contributions that associations should make in the future.

Findings from both phases of Westat’s research will be released starting this spring and continuing throughout the year, with complete findings and analysis to be released in late 2020.

Jenny Nelson

Jenny Nelson is associate director, research content, at ASAE.