New research from Community Brands, business management firm for member-based organizations, identifies a critical disconnect between association managers and members of the efficacy of orgs’ technology use. In addition, personalization, mobile capabilities, and data analytics were also found to be key areas of focus for associations’ current and future technology needs.

The firm’s new Digital Evolution Study addresses perceptions and behaviors of today’s members toward technology, how those member views align to the views of association professionals, how prepared associations are to meet future needs, and how associations can evolve to best meet the digital needs of tomorrow. A parallel study was also conducted with association professionals to compare their perspective, providing a unique view of issues from both groups.

Association PR: Managers and members disagree about tech savvy

One telling finding in the study is the disconnect between the opinions of association professionals and their members

The latter are largely satisfied with the current use of technology by their associations, with 70 percent providing an “excellent” or “very good” response when asked about their primary professional association’s application of technology. Association pros, however, rated their organization’s adoption and application of technology as being much lower, with only 38 percent of responses providing an “excellent” or “very good” response.

Association PR: Managers and members disagree about tech savvy

Association PR: Managers and members disagree about tech savvy

“While members are largely satisfied with the technology provided by their association today, they have clear expectations for enhanced capabilities for personalization, mobile, and data privacy and security in the near-future,” said Tristan Jordan, EVP and GM of Careers and Education at Community Brands, in a news release. “The data suggests that association professionals foresee missed opportunities in their organizations today and are interested in continuing to invest in new capabilities to stay ahead of member expectations.”

Additional key findings from the report—and what they mean to associations and other professional membership organizations—include:

Members and professionals have a positive outlook on association technology

Members overall are currently satisfied, but professionals are looking to stay ahead with the adoption of new technology.

Association PR: Managers and members disagree about tech savvy

Use of mobile technology falls short of members’ rising expectations

Members expect the same capabilities on mobile as on desktop, and for many associations’ mobile capabilities are lacking with investment yet to happen.

Personalization, seamless experiences across touchpoints, and data analytics are needed to deliver compelling member experiences

Members have new expectations for engaging with association technology across touchpoints, and association professionals are looking to better leverage data and member insights.

Association IT staff is often focused on member experience and retention, and less on long-term tech objectives

Topics such as data privacy, security, and governance, as well as data analytics will require association IT staff to spend more time on projects outside of where they are focused today.

Association PR: Managers and members disagree about tech savvy

Questions and concerns of data privacy and security grow in importance

Members view data privacy and security as a top concern for both today and ahead, but there is currently a disconnect with association professionals who are underestimating members’ concerns.

Data and analytics play a key role in many of the trends highlighted within the study

Yet the data suggests that association professionals do not feel prepared to fully leverage data and member insights. Poor quality data, a lack of integrated data, and a skillset gap in reporting technology were highlighted as key roadblocks in holding organizations back.

Download the full report here.

Commissioned by Community Brands, Edge Research conducted an online survey of 1,143 U.S. members who self-reported they are 18 years old or older and a member of a professional membership organization. Survey respondents were recruited through an online non-probability sample, meaning findings are not projectable to the larger population of members. The term “members” refers specifically to those who were surveyed. A parallel online survey was conducted among 405 professionals who work in these organizations.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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