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April 30, 2024

Major Trends for Associations in 2024 and Beyond

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What major trends or changes do you expect to occur within the field or industry your association represents over the next 5-10 years?

At McKinley Advisors, we asked this question and received answers from more than 100 CEOs.

The results revealed the following trending issues are top of mind for associations:

  • Workforce shifts
  • Economic disruptions
  • Regulatory and legislative developments
  • Sustainability commitments
  • Digital transformation

Has your association board, staff, volunteers, or leaders discussed any of these trends?

During the “Major Trends Expected to Impact Associations” session at Higher Logic’s Super Forum 2024, I explored McKinley’s Trends Report and how you can take strategic action toward each area.

Here are a few ways to position your association for continued resilience on these trends…

Association trends

Workforce Shifts

Engage your board in a generative discussion about the role your association could have in addressing your industry’s workforce challenges. Consider how technological advancement may require reskilling or upskilling or whether traditional academic pathways continue to be relevant to today’s employer needs.

Economic Disruptions

Inflation continues to rise, geopolitical conflict persists, and lingering pandemic impacts continue to reshape where and how we work. Evaluate if your business model is prepared for these and other potential disruptors and whether it is aligned with the value members would like to receive from your association.

Regulatory and Legislative Developments

Both the international and domestic political environments continue to be riddled with distrust and turmoil. Drive efforts to provide your association and your members with up-to-date, high-quality information about changes in the legal and regulatory landscape and design interactions that foster civil discourse and transparency.

Sustainability Commitments

New global regulations addressing sustainability will continue to push businesses to evaluate environmental impact. Consumers have also placed a heightened emphasis on sustainability concerns when making purchasing and engagement decisions. Consider the direction of your industry and anticipated future trends to identify opportunities to lead on environmental issues.

Digital Transformation

The speed of technological advancement requires associations to learn how to adapt quickly and fail fast. Consider how culture impacts your association’s ability to respond to digital transformation. Clarify your organization’s approach to AI and discuss your AI strategy with your board. (Here is an AI Reflection Guide you can use with your board!)

Professionals reviewing association trends

Associations Need to Think Ahead

Through my experience at McKinley partnering with association leaders, I’ve seen that CEOs who are attuned to their external environment and their members are able to stay agile and navigate change effectively. By fostering ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, asking powerful questions, and listening carefully to responses – spoken and unspoken – we can prepare ourselves to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

I am engaging in ongoing discussions with executives regarding their association’s strategies for addressing workforce shifts, economic disruptions, regulatory and legislative developments, sustainability commitments, and digital transformation. If you would like to be part of the conversation, reach out here!

Kristi Donovan
Kristi Donovan

Kristi Donovan, MS, CAE, is the Practice Director on the Strategy and Innovation Team for McKinley Advisors. Kristi has a lifelong passion for getting to know the people behind the purpose and helping associations maximize their impact.

As a Practice Director on the Strategy and Innovation team, Kristi applies a creative and collaborative approach to help clients solve their most unique challenges. Kristi joined McKinley with more than 20 years of experience working in professional and trade associations. During her association career, she worked across a spectrum of functions, including member engagement, organizational strategy, professional development, communications, volunteer management, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This broad exposure cultivated a personal mission that Kristi applies with clients today: to help associations achieve deep and lasting positive change for the benefit of both industry and society.

Kristi earned her Certified Association Executive credential in 2007 and has served as a facilitator for the CAE Immersion Program. She is a frequent author and speaker, including publishing a chapter on knowledge management for ASAE’s second edition of Core Competencies in Association Professional Development and contributing to ASAE’s Journal of Association Leadership. Her volunteer leader experience includes serving as a member of ASAE’s Diversity and Professional Development Committees and as a former leader of ASAE’s Emerging Leaders’ community. Her journey through the association industry was profiled in a student text, Career Opportunities in Health Care Management, to illustrate alternative options to traditional career paths in the field.

Kristi is a Maryland native who crossed the river and now resides in Virginia. She has a master’s degree in organization development and strategic human resources from Johns Hopkins University and undergraduate degrees in business administration and healthcare management from Towson University. In her free time, she satisfies her appetite for learning through exploration of yoga, spirituality, art, history and feminism. She is a mom raising two strong young women alongside her husband, Ryan.