If you’re reading this, odds are you already know: running a major association or nonprofit organization is not easy. (Neither, for that matter, is running a smaller one!) There are a million balls to keep in the air, from marketing to managing employees, to running educational programs and retaining members and donors. With so much going on, there are a number of challenges you’re going to face, no matter how many great people you have on your team or how well oiled your machine.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing associations and nonprofits in 2014? To find out Professionals for Nonprofits conducted a major survey of professionals in the field and got the word straight from the horses’ mouth. Visit their site to order a full copy of the report. The major highlights from their findings were compiled in a post on Associations Now, including areas where associations see their greatest challenges in the coming year, as well as what they plan to do to face them.

Some of the results were quite interesting, and many were not at all surprising. For example, most association professionals cited membership recruitment as their top challenge to face this year. With retention rates significantly lower in recent years, this definitely comes as no surprise. All associations, large and small, should be focusing on improving member retention (a search of the archives of this blog will provide numerous resources on that subject). But what were some of the other obstacles facing associations this year?

From the Associations Now post:

“Other challenges for 2014 identified by the survey, conducted by the staffing firm Professionals for Nonprofits, included delivering new programs and services, keeping up with technology changes, improving communication with members, creating stronger impact through advocacy, becoming more competitive for new revenues, strengthening and engaging the board, managing the rising cost of benefits, and improving efficiency of operations.

How do associations plan to tackle these issues? Forty-four percent reported they will evaluate and assess program results, while 42 percent plan to focus on marketing strategies, and 36 percent will upgrade technology systems. About a third of respondents also plan to strengthen leadership and succession plans and develop use of social media.”

Making better communication with members a top priority should also be on your radar. This ties in to keeping up with technology changes, as the ways to reach out to your membership base have vastly expanded, even in the last few years as social media has surged to the forefront of online communications. We suggest doing regular updates of your member database, and applying a calendar of communications to members based on their preferences and their engagement level. Some members who are extremely active and engaged may prefer to receive weekly emails, social media outreach, and other touches throughout the year, while others may only prefer to be contacted about major events and conferences, or with renewal information. Keeping your member information up to date with a high quality CRM system will help keep your communications planning on the cutting edge.

The survey also touched on the association as a workplace, a topic we’ve focused on here in the past as well. Respondents discussed their salaries, and association leaders discussed ways they plan to improve staff performance in 2014. Improving staff performance is only possible if you have attracted top quality employees to your workplace. There are a number of factors involved in making your organization a great place to work, including competitive salary and benefits, attention to appropriate work/life balance, excellent workplace culture, flexible work schedules, and more. Focusing on making your workplace the best it can be will ensure that the best employees want to work with you—and this will show in the improved performance of key staff.

Are there any major obstacles or challenges you’re facing in 2014? Let us know in the comments!