12 Jul 2022 The Top Association Trend for 2023: Future-Proofing
What is future-proofing and how can your group get on board? Read on to find out.
What Is Future-Proofing?
When the pandemic hit in 2020, many businesses were already struggling on other fronts. Covid was merely the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. During successive lulls in covid activity, organizations have tried to plan for future shocks, so next time they won’t be hit so hard by disruptive events. This is future-proofing.
Future-proofing isn’t a guarantee that everything will always be fine. But it does increase your odds that you’ll be able to weather rough seas if you find yourself among them. It’s the business equivalent of carrying an emergency kit in your car. At Jaffe Management, we always tout the benefits of remaining agile as an association or nonprofit. It’s more important now than ever.
What Future-Proofing Strategies Can Your Association Embrace?
Increase Your Technology Capabilities
It’s no secret that the companies that fared well during the pandemic were the best prepared for a more digital presence. Being on the forefront of technology is a smart move no matter what. If offers many benefits:
- Possibility for remote work or hybrid offices
- More options for meetings and events
- Ability to create online revenue streams (see more, below)
- Appeal to younger members (also more below)
- Improved sustainability and potentially lowered overhead
- Positioning to leverage new tech more quickly
- Capability to work through power outages, weather events, etc.
- Reduced likelihood of data compromise and legal jeopardy
Hire Forward-Focused Staff
Whether you’re hiring locally or globally, it’s vital to find employees who agree with a forward-thinking philosophy for the association. A good interview question might be: “How do you think our group could advance its future-proofing and what steps would you suggest to accomplish that?”
Fortunately, most candidates today are on board with remote work or hybrid office models – in fact, many demand it. Another hiring trend is changing the traditional organizational hierarchy chart in lieu of more lateral and team-based structures, often with small groups split into autonomous silos for greater efficiency.
Get Rid of Board Dead Weight
If you’re like many associations and nonprofits, you are challenged with board members who either don’t pull their own weight or who resist change. Both of these traits make board members useless in the best of circumstances and downright detrimental in times of crisis.
It’s tough, but it’s essential that you periodically review your board to see if it’s what your association needs now and in the future. Anyone who cries, “But we’ve always done it this way!” is not likely to be helpful in planning for five or more years down the road.
Imagine What Future Members Will Want
Future-proofing for associations is 25 percent thinking about the organization itself and 75 percent imagining what members will want, since they’re the lifeblood of your mission.
If you aren’t sure how to figure out what younger folks might want in the future, there are a few ways to gather information:
- Survey your younger existing members and potential members to find out where they stand.
- Talk to university students and people just starting in your field.
- Look at what competitor associations are offering to their new members.
Diversify Revenue Streams
One reason organizations that were technologically advanced performed better with the pandemic was that they were able to generate new sources of income when pressed, such as:
- Virtual meetings
- Podcasts and subscription video content
- Online seminars and courses
- Ebooks for purchase
Not having all your revenue eggs in one basket is wise no matter what. Run a tabletop scenario where your prime source of income suddenly isn’t available. What can you do to make up that income and how do you set up for that?
Save Money for Emergencies
It’s helpful to have a rainy day fund as a buffer against future trouble. Think carefully about where you’re spending money and decide if it’s worth it. More and more, associations are cutting overhead by downsizing or doing away with physical offices and taking conferences online.
As with your revenue streams, it’s best to split up your savings into long-term and short-term investments, checking accounts, and even cash, so you always have some liquidity. Be careful if you exceed the FDIC caps on accounts, and think carefully about any aggressive investments that could prove too risky.
When your association needs financial services, membership administration, or a headquarters office to help you downsize, Jaffe Management is here to assist. We can help with your future-proofing efforts and more. Call us at 212-496-3155 or email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.