Association Communication and Services Trends for 2015

By • January 5, 2015

Kelly Clark
Kelly Clark, Naylor Association Solutions

As 2014 draws to a close, we took some time to reflect on lessons learned in 2014, and to look forward to some trends we think will rise in importance in 2015.




  • Advocacy, environmental consciousness, and mobile lifestyles were three trends Association Adviser observed rising to prominence in 2014.
  • Mobile is still going to grow in B2B and B2C communications prominence.
  • Career services will become a more in-demand tool by the members who will use them to advance their careers and by associations who will work to earn non-dues revenue through them.

Looking back on 2014:

Amanda Niklaus running copyAdvocacy became a lot more meaningful and fun: Our interview of three professional women in advocacy showed that working to promote a cause doesn’t necessarily mean expensive trips to Washington, D.C., or stuffy meetings at City Hall. These women take personal and professional causes to the public through running races, community breakfasts and blogs, with inspiring results: thousands of dollars raised for hundreds of miles run, introducing hundreds of youth to state legislators and the advocacy process, and an entire community awakening to the importance of preserving records and data. Although they know they face continuing obstacles on the way to progress, mostly in the form of increasing awareness of their causes, these professionals aren’t quitting and encourage others to become involved with a favorite cause: “Not only does [advocacy work] better your community, it’s an extremely empowering feeling to know that you’re changing the landscape of your community and affecting the lives of others in a positive way,” said Amanda Niklaus, fundraiser for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

It CAN be easy being green: Associations around the U.S. celebrated Earth Day on April 22, and we looked into ways that associations and their members could act in more environmentally-friendly ways year-round. Suggestions for association staffs include

  • Using more durables and public transportation during events
  • Re-examining their communications footprints to see if online communications can complement or expand printed materials without increasing their carbon footprint
  • Recycling or reusing materials more

Individuals can help reduce waste and preserve resources by shopping local, carpooling to association events with other members, and becoming more prudent about the disposable materials they use on a daily basis. What are some ways that you’re committing to a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle in 2015?

Mobile became a way of life: Mobile phones and apps have been around for several years now, but in 2014, mobile devices became an accessory owned by a majority of Americans for the first time. Reaching this tipping point means that texting—a strangely foreign word to most people 15 years ago—became the most popular form of non-verbal communication, and organizations are now working to make their websites and other online communications responsive to mobile formats. While some associations are taking the shift from Web 2.0 to mobile in stride, others are still catching up. Millennials, the generation that now comprises more than 70 million members of the American workforce, will undoubtedly drive everyone further into a mobile-reliant world. Associations: Be ready.

And looking ahead to 2015:

Left: A digital edition archive on a desktop monitor, and (right) on a mobile phone.
Left: A digital edition archive on a desktop monitor, and (right) on a mobile phone.

Mobile is still going to grow in B2B and B2C communications prominence: According to Pew Research, more than 58 percent of American adults now own smartphones, and 91 percent of those owners access their email accounts at least once per day on their devices. Mobile apps are becoming standard guides for events, and with the advent of “Internet of Things” concepts, such as Apple Pay and smart sports equipment, this space is going to explode in the coming year. As an association, make sure you are poised to use mobile to provide your members with enhanced membership experiences and to earn yourselves non-dues revenue. NDR can come in the form of mobile app advertising or paid apps, to name a few. There will be plenty of opportunities for every association to use mobile apps, devices and connections to enhance their work and their industry.

Non-dues revenue will become more critical to associations’ financial well-being: We’re not saying membership dues, paid programs or other sources of association income will falter, but associations will need to become more creative and more flexible about how they fund their initiatives and their work. This is where non-dues revenue earned through areas such as communications, reimagined print and digital channels, and partnerships can carry the day. We live in a business world in which the creation of meaningful professional experiences and opportunities to advance the careers of members cost money. We look forward to exploring more how associations will rise to this challenge.

ASHRRA Career Center
Career centers like this one from ASHHRA will become a more valued and in-demand tool by members and associations. (Click on image to go to the ASHHRA Career Center.)

Member will increasingly expect career services from you: Associations are in a prime position to help professionals maintain their skill set and advance their careers with the help of online career centers and networks. Career centers deliver advancement opportunities from the comfort of a member’s personal computer or mobile device, and can earn associations non-dues revenue as well. These industry-specific tools can also help members who need to relocate or are looking for a change in careers. Association-sponsored online networking hubs—whether it is something as simple as their Facebook Page or a dedicated, white-label private networking site—also help members more easily connect with career opportunities and recruiters by serving as common ground between individuals. As Peter Weddle discussed earlier this year, the Golden Rule of online networking is to be as helpful to others and they can be to you. Associations, by their nature, are all about helping one another in business, advocacy and personal growth. Professionals who want to get a foot in the door will be wise to look to their relevant association to give and receive career assistance.


2014 further pushed associations into a mobile world where the membership experience includes growth for one’s self and advocating for others. We look forward to seeing how technology, mobile and non-dues revenue will intersect in 2015. Happy new year.

Kelly Donovan Clark is the manager for online marketing at Naylor Association Solutions.