Did You Know?

Association Execs More Likely to Invest in Tools and Tech Than in More Staff

By Association Adviser staff • June 9, 2014

For most association leaders, wearing multiple hats and “doing more with less” is part of their DNA. But suppose you received a large and unexpected bump in your annual budget for communications and technology. Ever thought about how you would spend that windfall? Here’s what your peers told us and the results may surprise you.

For instance, hiring more staff was not the leading response. In fact, only 44 percent of respondents cited hiring first on their wish lists. What they did seem more interested in was “improving the quality of their existing communication vehicles” (54 percent) and “upgrading their publishing tools, technologies and processes” (48 percent). These stats were gleaned from the responses of the 1,000-plus participants in our annual Association Communication Benchmarking Study.

  • Only 44 percent of respondents to the 2014 Association Communications Benchmarking Study said they would hire more people if they received a monetary windfall.
  • Associations are primarily interested in improving the quality of their existing communication vehicles.
  • Second on their wish list is upgrading their publishing tools, technologies and processes.

According to survey respondents, other important uses of an unexpected budget surplus would be developing a real mobile strategy (34 percent agree); enhancing social media capabilities (31 percent) and launching new communication vehicles (29 percent).

“Budget cuts during the downturn left us with outdated technologies that impede our ability to communicate effectively,” said one association executive who took part in our soon-to-be completed annual study. Another association leader said that she would use a budget surplus to “build up the mobile app usage for our younger members, refresh our website to be more user-friendly, and update our other technology to be more interactive for membership engagement.”

Another respondent said that with a bigger budget, he would want to “change the email marketing system and upgrade the survey analysis capabilities.” His organization also would invest in a custom-designed blog or communication Q&A platform in which members could communicate with each other, but remain anonymous “due to competition in their industry,” the respondent said.

But, as Sarah Rosenberger, membership communication and marketing coordinator for the Indiana Society of Association Executives observed, “Sheer lack of knowledge can be the biggest hurdle to welcoming and budgeting for new technology. ‘That’s the way it’s always been done’ is the most common mistake that many boards make.”


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