2013 Will be the year associations take steps to stop doing things the way they’ve always done them. Discussions will intensify. New voices and ideas will be heard. Budgets will be reallocated. Small steps will be taken toward big changes. People will be pissed. People will be relieved.

We’re used to companies knowing our browsing and shopping history. Their websites respond to whatever device we use. We expect quick responses on social media platforms. We’re used to being pre-qualified, segmented, targeted, wooed, educated, and understood. Our expectations, your members’ expectations, for B2C and B2B relationships have changed. In 2013 associations will start to meet these new expectations.

This is the year IT gets a seat at the strategic planning table. Everyone will get the fact that technology is an empowering tool that helps associations achieve goals. IT budgets will increase. Sacred cows will be slayed. Old systems will bite the dust. If it doesn’t play well and integrate with other systems and tools, out it goes. The same for staff, there’s no budget for slackers. 

In 2013 associations will have the data conversation. They’ll assess the data they have, what’s being used and how, what’s needed to understand their members, what they need to collect and how they’ll use it. Associations must become more “knowing” – members expect it.

Some of this new data will come from a return to the basics – talking to members and asking them questions. This will require a shift in staff responsibilities, letting go of the old to make room for new practices.

Volunteer management will become more of a focus in 2013. The old methods are no longer effective or satisfying. Associations will experiment with new ways to create and market volunteer opportunities, deepen the leadership pool, and prevent volunteer burnout.

Associations will microsize programs and offer low-time commitment bites, for example, 20-minute webinars, short blog posts and videos, and micro-volunteering (ad hoc) opportunities. 

In 2013 members expect their association to be in their pocket so associations will become mobile-friendly. Many will develop responsive design websites. They’ll become more responsive on social media too. Instead of one person or department handling social media, ownership will seep throughout the building. Lobbyists, meeting planners, and education, membership, marketing, public affairs, and communications staff will all use social media to learn about and engage with members and other important people, like the press, policy-makers, exhibitors, sponsors, advertisers, and prospects.

Associations will start to play a unique role in their members’ lives — content curator. Members need trusted information filters. Who better than associations? Don’t let someone else steal that from you. The content competition is fierce. We’ll see staff collaborate across departments to create, curate, repurpose, and revive content.

In 2013 associations will break down the walls and invite participation from the periphery. Members who are already used to crowdsourcing will be eager to have a say, provide their feedback, and get more involved with association business by using technology like voting, polling or survey platforms.

This will be the year of MicroInnovation. I learned that word from Rohit Bhargava; it’s one of his 15 marketing trends for 2013: “We generally live in a world that celebrates the big idea and always encourages everyone to have more of them. Yet many business gurus who focus on innovation within companies all agree that often it is the small ideas that create the biggest impact.” Rohit talks about innovative tweaks to existing products. I’m thinking more about procedural and tactical changes that can start shifting a culture from within.

The best association talent will end up in organizations that provide space for employees to learn, grow, and do their best work. Associations will offer flexible work arrangements along with BYOD-friendly IT policies that ensure security yet enhance productivity.

Predictions or hopes? These aren’t all huge changes, but they’re all doable. Not easy, but doable with a shift in focus and resources. Wishing all of you success in the New Year!

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who knows it’s easier for me to talk the talk, than for you to walk the walk. I promise to keep rooting you on.