COVID-19 has introduced an unprecedented level of complexity when it comes to routine operations for businesses across industries. For professional associations whose business model depends upon creating impactful interactions with their members and proactive change in their industries, operating in the times of Covid is uncertain at best. For many associations, interactions that were once physical have suddenly become digital by necessity. Regardless of which industry your association serves, there are lessons and takeaways that can be gleaned from the responses of other professional associations. If your association is still fine-tuning their response to COVID-19, read on for a few case studies that may help you as you navigate your operational path forward. 

Case Study 1: American Chemical Society

What they’re doing: Expanding access to member benefits, creating digital experiences to help members navigate their own responses to the pandemic, and sharing the latest research so their members are up to date.

Our Analysis: ACS’s approach is thoughtful and human-centered. It’s clear they formed their response based on what they thought their members would want to know given the context of the current climate in the US and the chemical profession as a potential player in pandemic relief. They’ve created new experiences, not just new content, to serve their members and bring more value despite stay-at-home mandates that will likely get in the way of ACS organized events. 

Our Score: 9/10

Case Study 2: American Physical Therapy Association

What they’re doing: Sharing need-to-know content about policies impacting Physical Therapists during COVID. Some content is readily available; others is paywalled. There are lots of reading materials but not a ton of other engagement options.

Our Analysis: Like many professions that rely on in-person interaction, Physical Therapists have struggled during the pandemic. Many have lost jobs or been furloughed until further notice. This was an opportunity for APTA to step up and provide real value and leadership, and support during a time when their members really needed it. In our opinion, their response falls short. 

Our Score: 5/10


Case Study 3: American Society for Association Executives

What they’re doing: Launching new virtual learning programs, focusing advocacy efforts on activities related to COVID’s impact on associations, and launching new research programs to help associations better respond. 

Our Analysis: ASAE has pulled out all the stops to support associations and help them understand not only how COVID may impact their business, but also how to respond and actively pivot to help members find value in their association membership during this time. From launching new digital learning and networking experiences to publishing new research about the impact of the pandemic, ASAE has gone above and beyond to prepare associations as they find a new normal. 

Our Score: 10/10


Case Study 4: American Marketing Association

What they’re doing: Recommending resources based on experience and content, new content to help marketers work smarter during the pandemic, webinars are front and center.

Our Analysis: AMA’s approach is almost perfect. They’ve made an attempt to tailor content based on background, to try to predict what a student, academic, marketer are small business might need. The content itself is well presented on the site, and there are many content formats (articles, videos, webinars, etc) to engage with. Where they fall short is with regards to the topics they share. AMA has acknowledged that marketing may be more difficult during the pandemic, and it seems as if all resources are about building better marketing skill sets and sharing marketing tactics to help marketers weather this period. What they don’t acknowledge is the fact that many creative workers and marketers are likely furloughed or out of work; AMA offers no advanced or nuanced resources and support in the way of networking or job searching during the pandemic - topics that may be top-of-mind for many marketers right now.      

Our Score: 7/10

So why does all this matter, and what should your association do moving forward?  Clearly, this is a time to pivot, and if experts are correct, COVID is here to stay. Life as we know it has changed, at least for the foreseeable future.  If your model has been reliant on face-to-face member and advocacy interactions, it’s time to think about implementing digital-first strategies sooner rather than later. 

And, if you’d like to be on the forefront of conversations about digital-first strategies for associations, join us on December 2 - 4, 2020, at the digitalNow conference in Orlando. Every year we gather with 250+ association leaders from all corners of the U.S. to discuss trends and key strategies for growth in the modern landscape.