Rising Expectations for Association Impact

Impact May 7, 2020 By: Keith Skillman, CAE

The need for associations to support public protection, education, and workforce knowledge is increasing, according to findings from the ASAE Research Foundation’s centennial research initiative.

Association leaders can expect an increasing need for their organizations to support public protection, education, and workforce knowledge, according to preliminary results from the ASAE Research Foundation’s ongoing centennial research initiative. Respondents—association professionals, members, and other stakeholders drawn from rolls of 25 participating associations—put the highest value on the following association activities that support their ability to improve their industry or field:

  • sharing current knowledge and data: 81 percent of respondents
  • providing professional development and education: 65 percent of respondents
  • networking: 58 percent of respondents

Equally notable are rising expectations for the future. For example, 51.4 percent of respondents credit associations with having played an important role in attracting competent people into their field, and substantially more, 87.8 percent, expect this to be the case in the future.

Selected Findings

Study participants held a generally positive view of current and past association initiatives in areas such as improving workforce knowledge, providing emergent technical information to their field, supporting career development, and setting standards. They also see a rising need for association efforts and impacts. Among many survey results:

  • Overwhelmingly, participants agreed that associations have enabled them to contribute to society through their field—83.8 percent said this is true, and 85 percent expect this to continue in the future. It will become increasingly important for associations to help improve workforce knowledge—47.7 percent underscore the importance of these activities in the past and present, with 78.7 percent saying it will be very or extremely important for associations to continue them in the future.
  • Fifty-nine percent called associations’ advocacy for high ethical norms important in the past and present, while 84.4 percent said this work will be very or extremely important in the future.
  • Setting standards and addressing inequalities were rated very or extremely important in the past and present by 47.8 percent of respondents; that figure rose to 76.7 percent when looking ahead to the future.

87.8 Percentage of association members and stakeholders who expect associations’ talent-attracting activities to become very or extremely important in the future.

Ongoing Research

The ASAE Research Foundation study “Impact of Associations on Society: Evidence for Future Influence and Action will be highlighted and further detailed throughout ASAE’s centennial year and beyond. The findings reported here are drawn from the quantitative portion of the research, conducted by research firm Westat, which is probing attitudes and expectations of association professionals and members.

Another focal point of the research is collecting case studies of demonstrated association impact. Throughout 2020, ASAE and the ASAE Research Foundation will tell the stories of these efforts and share the lessons gleaned by associations representing wide-ranging industries and professions and addressing specific problems and needs.

Keith Skillman, CAE

Keith Skillman, CAE, based in Lawrence, Kansas, writes about associations and their work.