While at #ASAE16, I had the opportunity to attend a session titled, “Using Trends and Environmental Scanning to Steer Strategic Planning.” The session was presented by Sue Pine, CAE, Vice President of Professional Development at Association Headquarters, and Kristine Metter, CAE, Vice President of Member Services at America’s Essential Hospitals.
During the session, I experienced so many “ah-ha moments,” that I wanted to share a few of those with you.
But first, why even bother with environmental scanning? Isn’t strategic planning enough? The short answer: No! Environmental scanning is all about identifying trends, and trends affect everyone - including your association.
The problem is board members don’t typically like environmental scanning because it can be a little messy and not as clear cut as simple strategic planning. But let me ask you this: Would you want to be the taxi association that didn’t see Uber coming? Of course not. That’s why it’s so important to be proactive. Remember, change is only disruptive when you DON’T see it coming.
That said, how do you get started with environmental scanning? Well first, you’ll want to gather a team and identify critical trends.
Trends to pay close attention to:
- Social trends
- Technological trends
- Economic trends
- Environmental trends
- Political trends
- Demographic trends
Once you identify those trends, determine if and how you can incorporate those into your organization’s strategic plan. For example, in the session, there was one association that talked about a trend they’ve recently noticed: shorter attention spans. To prevent that trend from harming them, they’ve started creating shorter content pieces to keep their members (and potential members) interested and engaged.
Another trend one association noticed: the growing importance and use of technology. And because that association’s members are mostly Baby Boomers, they turned that trend into a member benefit/non-dues revenue opportunity. They started offering tech support and training to members for a small fee - less than what it costs at other tech support companies. Pretty smart, huh?
Now those tactics may not work at your association, but they give you an idea of how you can and should adapt to trends.
Speaking of trends, one of the biggest shifts affecting associations today is the retirement of Baby Boomers and the rise of the Millennial generation. Not sure how to recruit and engage those younger folks? Check out our free guide, The March of the Millennials: Tips for Engaging the Next Generation Now!