5 Reasons Your Association Is Failing

Failing Street

Your nonprofit association used to be at the top of the charts.

It was the go-to organization for information, education and networking in your industry, cause or profession. Your annual meetings registration list read like a Who’s Who of those in the profession. The movers and shakers touted your benefits.

Yet in the past couple of years, something has changed. Your membership declined. Your membership retention rates decreased. Your annual meetings have reached a plateau. Few purchase your webinars.

5 Association Rubber Stamp Failures

Here are five reasons your nonprofit association is failing.

1. You are not unique.

With social media and social networking, anyone can form their own community of likeminded individuals.

Your association is no longer the only group in town. It is no longer the only one offering information, education and connections to likeminded individuals.

Now people can get free information, free education and don’t have to pay a gatekeeper to find likeminded individuals.

So what else do you have to offer?

2. Your value is worthless.

Ok, ok, you send an annual value statement to your membership trying to convince them why they should pay $375 (or more).

Guess what? Most don’t use those services that you say are worth ____ (fill in the blank) dollars. Unless you can prove personal ROI for each member, you are wasting your time.

Telling people that they should join your association because of your lobbying efforts is not enough. Telling people they should join to help the profession move forward is not enough. Telling people that it is their duty to support the industry is condescending…and not enough.

You need to increase your value to each member personally.

 3. Your website sucks.

“What? We update it at least every other week. You mean our Website that is connected to our contact management system and database is not good enough?”

Yes, that is exactly what I mean. They all look alike these days.

Bottom line, it is ugly and difficult to navigate. It is sterile. It does not invite people to engage with you and your leadership.

It repels visitors.

4. You don’t support social sharing.

Your information is behind the membership wall. Members must login to read it.

The information in your magazine and newsletter is for members only.

Readers are finicky and lazy. If members cannot access your information with one click they probably are not reading it. If they can’t share it with one click, others don’t know the value of your content.

You have created your own information black hole.

5. Your education offerings stink.

Your own suppliers and vendors are your competitors today.

They are offering quality free education to your members and prospects on a regular basis. They are paying thought leaders to present. They are ensuring that the presentations have high value, are enticing and engaging.

You are promoting average industry speakers that present average information using below-average PPTs with average presentations.

Let’s face it. Either you step up and start investing in education or get clobbered by your competitors.

What are some of the other reasons associations are failing? What are some reasons you did not renew your membership with an association?

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  1. A Weedman says:


    WE have been working with state and local associations for over 15 years and I have to say, you, like me, tell it like it is…unfortunately many dont want to hear it, and they continue business as usual. We are working with a totally different vision and mindset that will assist associations with sales, marketing, communication etc. that will build their brand and ultimately the value they provide.

    I cannot tell you how right you are! Great article.


  2. Ed Baker says:

    Jeff – I especially love #2, as it is so critical and ties into all the others. All the points you raise also relate to one you have left out – anticipate, plan, & embrace change. It’s hard to step outside your comfort zone. If you have a process that has produced success for 10+ years, why change? It will work for another 10 years, right? Before too long you are a broken record and your members are jumping ship.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      ‘@A Weedman
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Appreciate it.

      Thanks for adding “Anticipate, plan and embrace change.” That’s a great addition to this list. Yes, unfortunately, many associations have become a broken record in a day of digital music from iTunes.

      Thanks for reading and commeting too.

  3. Sarah says:

    The financial factor is specially true. People are less likely to pay for a community membership when they can join a facebook group for free and do all sorts of activities. Increasing value to each member personally may be the only way to combat that factor.

  4. […] Hurt calls out associations in “5 Reasons Why Your Association is Failing.” Right on, […]

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