What does the future hold for the association world next year?

By: Ashly Stewart, Content Marketing Manager

We know that we still have over a month before the new year, but we couldn’t help but break out our crystal ball and sneak a peek into the top association trends of 2022.

While the future is still being written, here are a few trends that are already starting to influence the way association leaders approach growing their membership, building community safely, and generating revenue in creative ways. 


The top 4 association trends of 2022

1. Non-dues revenue brings its fair share of challenges — and results 

2021 proved to be a challenging year for generating revenue. With events being canceled or some associations going virtual and seeing lower attendance, non-dues revenue looked like a promising path for organizational growth.  

In a recent report, however, only 25% of respondents saw improvement in non-dues revenue generation in 2021, and almost half feel their inability to generate non-dues revenue from their communication channels is a serious or significant challenge. 

Many experts attribute this lack of confidence in securing non-dues revenue to the significant cultural shift that has to occur in organizations in order to get a good stream of non-dues revenue flowing. It takes good data, a knowledge of your member channels, and knowing how to best use your resources to make it work.  

But it is working for some. After taking a hard look at where their members and partners enjoy spending their time and are most apt to show support, associations have turned to digital sponsorships, job boards, and on-demand content. In offering these new ways to connect, find new opportunities, and learn more about the things they care about, associations can add more value to their members and grow their organizations in creative ways.  

In 2022, associations will continue to experiment with non-dues revenue based on their experiences last year, and others will continue to expand their non-dues revenue streams. 

2. In-person events are back, and safety protocols are a must 

Back in July 2021, 76% of meeting planners had already determined that their next event would be in-person. Granted, the Delta variant and varied mask mandates and vaccine policies have shifted a few things, but data like this proves that the desire for in-person events is strong. And for Personify and associations we serve, we believe that if there’s a will, there’s a safe way

Here are some trusted resources and ideas to consider as you implement the best safety policies for your in-person events:   

Trusted COVID-19 resources for U.S. events  

Trusted COVID-19 resources for international events  

Maybe the most important thing to keep in mind for safe and successful events in 2022 and beyond is to take your research and your best ideas to your members. If you’re weighing the type of event you’d like to host, the size of the event, the event activities, etc. survey your members to gauge their levels of comfort and interest. 


3. Associations continue to build communities online 

Even though online communities have been steadily rising in popularity over the past years, they have been viewed by many in the association world as a “nice-to-have” digital space, mainly for younger members, and managed by staff…whenever they get a “spare minute.”  

But as we were forced to socially distance and our favorite events were canceled or delayed last year, online communities became a lifeline for associations and members to connect in meaningful ways. So what do association online communities look like in 2022?  

  • Online communities become a hub for learning and tutorials. Whether an association wants to offer casual tutorials or more formal webinars and workshops, online communities will be THE place to promote learning opportunities, easy sign-ups, and discussion groups that allow members to learn from each other in new ways. 
  • Online communities become a place for member appreciation. From monthly member spotlights to member appreciation forums, communities will become a positive place for members to give and receive some praise.  
  • Online communities become an extension of in-person and hybrid events. Associations can increase event attendance by creating early access to events in the month (or months) leading up to an event. You can also use your online community to enable members to stay connected with others members after the event is over to increase member engagement.  

4. Crisis management evolves into an agility approach  

While many of us found it difficult to survive parts of 2022, many associations saw the need to start resiliency planning — a good response to a global pandemic that no one was prepared for. As we move past 2021, associations will be refining their crisis management plans as they have time to reflect on what worked and what could be improved on when it comes to their approach to change.  

We’ve seen associations take on a more entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to their staffing, processes, technology, and approach to growing their membership and revenue. Much of these more innovative approaches come down to creating cultures of agility that better allow associations to respond quickly and thoughtfully to change – whether that comes from the wider economy, member feedback, board requests, and more.  

See what else the crystal ball has to say about association trends in 2022

This post is just a peek into the biggest trends we’ll see changing the way associations and nonprofits serve their members, build community, plan events, and grow their organizations.  

Register for the webinar on Thursday, December 2, at 12:30 ET to hear from Wes Trochlil, President of Effective Database Management, and Erin Sullivan, Director of Marketing at Personify, as they reveal the top association trends for 2022 and talk about what they mean for your organization.