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Associations Struggling Through Pandemic; Study Says 1 in 3 Could Close

Updated: Mar 5

The last twelve months have been tough for just about everyone due to a variety of reasons. Loved ones have passed away. Remote education for a full year has been more than our kids can handle. Restaurants across the country have shuttered due to government restrictions. Businesses large and small are closing, especially if they relied on brick and mortar operations. However, one sector whose struggles have not been widely reported is the one with nonprofit organizations, associations, trade groups and societies.


Yesterday, a study was released of over 300,000 nonprofits across the country. 38% of those studied acknowledged that they are in danger of closing with a continued, prolonged crisis as a result of the pandemic. See the story here.


Many nonprofits, larger ones in particular, have kept up with fundraising because of their prowess and have also been helped with government funding. They should be commended for surviving the storm.


However, there are thousands upon thousands of small and middle-sized associations and trade organizations with budgets between $50,000.00 and $500,000.00 who have not fared as well. These smaller associations provide critical services but they don't have full-time staff and, as a result, cannot access Covid funding.


Smaller sized organizations like this rely on annual trade shows, annual meetings, or in-person continuing education seminars for their funding. Since March of 2020, there have been none. Hence their financial crisis.


Here are three things small trade groups, associations and societies can do to start turning things around in 2021:


  1. Don't be afraid to hold your events virtually and charge the same amount you would if they were in person. You may need help with this and it may cost you money. But don't let technological challenges get in the way of your necessary association business.

  2. Stay in constant communication with your members and ask them what they want to see most from your organization. Send out a survey monkey or a poll through google - which is free. The most important thing you can do is stay in touch with your members.

  3. Change is in the air. It's true, most people don't like change. But the pandemic has caused organizations of every size to change the way they operate. Assemble your leaders and hold a strategic planning meeting to brainstorm on changes you can make to do things better and more efficiently. And think hard about new opportunities that the pandemic has provided.

Associations and trade groups need not just try to hold on for several more months until we can get back to "normal". Adapt and change is the key. It may not be fun - but it may be time.




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