The Future of Associations, Nonprofits and Events

The Covid-19 pandemic has created new challenges that required organizations to make increasingly difficult and complex decisions, but the good news is that many associations and nonprofits have been resilient and evolved their strategies to reach people in new ways. For most, 2020 called into question the assumptions we had about the way we work, the way we interact and how we grow our businesses.

Personify wanted to understand the impact of these changes for associations and nonprofits and the new tactics, channels and strategies they have embraced to provide value for members, donors, volunteers, attendees and exhibitors. We commissioned a research
study to create a clearer picture of:

  • Perceptions of membership and what’s changed in the past year
  • Programs and outreach techniques most effective in reaching members
  • Rise of virtual events: what’s working and what’s not
  • Value of digital networks and community
  • Differences observed among association members and staff

While each organization is unique, Personify believes our findings can inform membership organizations, nonprofits and event professionals as they look to develop strategies designed to support the long-term growth and success of their organization. Survey questions were explored with nearly 1,000 association and nonprofit members and staff in the United States in December 2020.

A Preview of Findings


Association membership is valuable (maybe more than ever)

93% of respondents said that it’s important to be part of an association, a 6% increase from when we asked this question in a 2018 study.


Virtual engagement is here to stay

85% of attendees want virtual and hybrid options in the future, even when it’s safe to resume in-person events.


Online communities are growing

44% of members report that it’s become more important to have an online member community in 2020 than in previous years.

Deep Dives Into Specific Topics

Explore specific topics from the research findings with actionable tips and suggestions to drive engagement and deliver more value to your members, volunteers, attendees and exhibitors.

Accelerate Digital Strategy Initiatives for Members

While digital transformation is not new, 2020 was the year that it became real for many organizations. 70 percent of corporate directors say that the pandemic created an urgent need to accelerate digitalization efforts and they had to quickly develop strategies to meaningfully connect in a digital-only world.

Association Events for 2021

Associations derive a significant portion of their non-dues revenue from hosting events, conferences and trade shows. As the pandemic forced the closure of most in-person events, organizations had to accelerate and implement a digital-first strategy–from virtual events, online communities, webinars and more.

Additional Resources

The Journey Ahead On-Demand Webinar

Understand the preferences, challenges and evolution of how to engage your members.

American Trucking Associations Case Study

An IT Expert Shares Tips on Building Your Association’s Workflow for Virtual Events in 2021.

Association of Government Accountants Case Study

An Events Expert Shares Advice for How to Succeed in an Ever-Changing Business Climate.

American Academy of Optometry Case Study

How AAO quickly shifted to a virtual experience with Personify’s virtual event solutions.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice Case Study

In the face of COVID-19, one organization is using technology to meet the moment.

Your technology investments play a crucial role in supporting the long-term growth and success of your organization. Learn how Personify’s solutions can help.

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