Associations are a legacy business, like newspapers, and the TV industry. And they have all enjoyed many years of success without being challenged…until now.


Early roots of associations could be found in craft guilds, churches, and trading groups. Guilds were formed to protect the interests of merchants and craftsmen. Guilds provided skills training and lobbying, much like you see in associations today.


But guilds were disrupted during the Industrial Revolution when they no longer served their purpose. Mass production became more important than making a quality product, and we’ve been going down that road ever since.


Like all innovation and disruption, things go in cycles. After the Transcontinental Railroad began linking trade in the East to the West, trade associations sprung up to deal with expanding markets and competition. Associations were back in business and remained unchallenged for decades until the Internet came along.


The Internet has disrupted more than one business. Legacy industries like newspapers and associations are especially susceptible to disruption through technology. Thanks to online content and education, and social networking like Linked In and Facebook groups, new potential members may wonder what your association has that is unique and different. That’s where creativity and innovation comes in.


All aspects of your association can be innovated, from your memberships to the events you put on, to the content you provide. According to Kellen, the association management group, there are numerous streams of income you can innovate, such as:


  • Continuing education
  • Training, workshops
  • Webinars
  • Selling mailing lists
  • Advertising
  • Vendor workshops
  • Sponsorships
  • Vendor programs


Today’s associations are being challenged with members who are looking for more value for their membership dues. By giving them something they can’t get anywhere else, you are increasing your value, and will attract more members.


I will be the innovation keynote speaker for the .org Innovation Summit. Check out this promo video: