Final Coat: Benchmark Study Shows NWFA is Doing All Right

Associations exist to bring people with common interests together. Most often, the most valuable member benefit is access to a live meeting of peers for networking and doing business. So, for the last two years during the COVID-19 era, it has been challenging for NWFA to serve our members in an isolated world.

Sure, we were able to add new digital products – webinars, podcasts, digital meetings, tradeshows, and Zoom groups. But without live networking until this July’s Expo, there were no measurements to see if we were functioning effectively as a trade association in this environment. For all associations, lockdown slowed down their main revenue generators – the annual meeting, magazine and digital advertising, and membership renewals. A further challenge is tracking where members have landed and finding ways to identify new members as “The Great Resignation” takes effect in these later days of COVID.

In late August, the Association Advisor issued its 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, giving us a way to see how the NWFA is stacking up compared with other associations in dealing with the pandemic. The report noted, “even as associations slowly emerge from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, most have not been able to fully resume holding, or have just begun to hold, live events – typically their No. 1 source of member engagement, non-dues revenue and branding. In response, virtual and hybrid events gained significant traction in the past year, as did most other digital and social channels.”

Check. 100% true for NWFA.

The study went further in saying: “As opposed to 2020, associations made significant progress transforming their live events into virtual ones in 2021…Three-fourths of respondents (72 percent) agree that video is now part of their overall content strategy, and more than 90 percent of respondents now offer some form of virtual conference option for members.”

Check. 100% true for NWFA.

And, “despite the largest increase in history of touching members electronically, an average of 32.6 times per month, effective communication is down,” noted the study. “Most reported continued struggles with information overload, communication clutter, communicating member benefits effectively, customizing communications for different member segments, engaging with young professionals, and overcoming spam filters and other technical barriers to their communications. As a result, half of respondents (56 percent) felt their member engagement had improved over the past 12 months, and one in four felt their member retention (27 percent) or non-dues revenue (25 percent) efforts had improved.”

Check. 100% true for NWFA.

Engagement in digital formats is off the charts, especially in our online university (usage has more than doubled during COVID), and our member retention is the best it has ever been.

The study closed by saying that no event “has had a greater impact on the association world than the COVID-19 pandemic – and the economic fallout that it triggered…COVID continued to be a significant headwind for associations in 2021 as face-to-face gatherings are a critical part of the member engagement experience. But unlike 2020, associations made great strides in turning their live events into virtual ones in the first half of 2021, when this survey took place and when many associations began offering in-person events again.”

“That being said, even as the economy improves and the vaccination rollout continues, nearly half (45 percent) say members are still highly distracted by the effects of COVID, nearly half (45 percent) reported difficulty getting member acquisition and member renewals to pre-COVID levels, and nearly two in five (37 percent) say the pandemic is still making it difficult to bring member engagement back to pre-COVID levels. ‘Safety and health’ ranked among the five most important topics to members for only the second time in the 10-year history of our survey.”

Check. 100% true for NWFA.

Until COVID, we worried about safety around saws and power tools and masks solely for dust protection.

This issue of Hardwood Floors magazine provides a snapshot for you to compare your business to how the industry is doing as a whole, so it seems like a great time to show you our own benchmarks as well. While our focus is always on how to help you succeed in your business, you can see that the association world’s pandemic challenges have been fairly opposite of the booming business and labor shortages many of you have experienced. While the NWFA doesn’t expect to be fully recovered until after the 2022 Expo in Tampa, April 12-14, this benchmark study shows that your association is doing all right.

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