Despite an improving economy and rising membership numbers, many associations are still trying to run lean and mean. Even if they received a substantial unexpected budget surplus, many association leaders told us in our annual association communication benchmarking study that they would invest to improve existing communication vehicles, technologies and processes before staffing up or buying new tools.
Sometimes innovation means getting more out of what you already have rather than rolling out shiny new objects. As the table above shows, when we asked our respondents how they would spend an unexpected 50 percent budget increase, more than half (53.3 percent) said they would use the funds to “improve the quality of their EXISTING communications, and nearly half (47.0 percent) said they would use the surplus to upgrade their existing publishing tools, technologies or processes. Note the word “upgrade” as opposed to “make” or “buy new.” In fact, the number of respondents who indicated that they would use surplus funds to “launch new communication vehicles” dropped nearly 3 percent between 2014 and 2015 to just 26.7 percent.
“We’re always looking to work smarter, not harder,” observed Russ Webb, vice president and chief imagination officer of the Atlanta Apartment Association. “Associations always need to adapt faster than their members, but you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes we look at what other organizations are doing, and put our own twist on it and try to do it better.”