4 Ways the Pandemic Changed Associations

affinity programs

As 2022 comes to a close and we look forward to 2023, it’s helpful to reflect on what we’ve learned and what we would like to focus on going forward. One of the things I’ve thought about recently is how different the world is now that we’ve experienced a global pandemic in our lifetime. I’ve also been considering the ways it impacted our industry, and how associations have changed as a result. Here are four areas that changed for the better:

1. The Value of Human Connection

A while back, I came across an article published on Entrepreneur that talked about some unexpected outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic and one caught my eye – “the fostering of real human connection.” The lockdowns and suddenly remote teams brought isolation that showed us the value of human connection in a very real way as we experienced the absence of it, as well as the importance of empathy, warmth, and compassion. Since associations are inherently about connection, this was an important lesson that can be incorporated into everything from messaging to your marketing. 

Being authentic in your messaging was important before the pandemic and now, it’s even more imperative. In a recent white paper on loyalty by Community brands, survey results indicated that among members who receive personalized content from their association, 60% say they feel extremely connected to their organization.

2. The Importance of Your Online User Experience

Another change brought about by the pandemic was a rapid increase in online activity for everything from grocery shopping to events. Many associations who hadn’t previously prioritized technology were suddenly faced with immediate demand for online engagment opportunities in lieu of in person events. 

The ASAE Research Foundation found a correlation between member satisfaction with an association’s technology and their renewal rates. In their recent Technology Success and Readiness Study, ASAE reported that among members who reported being highly satisfied with their association’s technology, 95% indicated a high likelihood of renewing their membership.

According to Access’ loyalty statistics for member and subscriber engagement, 75% of consumers are more likely to interact withbrands whose app or website allow them to transact quickly

The bar for what determines a satisfying online user experience had been rising more and more each year, and Covid-19 amplified it. If your association member gets confused by while navigating your website, they will likely leave. That could mean a potential new membership lost, or a dissatisfied existing member. Member engagement and satisfaction are imperatives for associations.

Frequently test your website and explore the user journey as if you were a member or prospect yourself. If you have any problems or concerns, it’s likely your members do as well.

3. The Need for Membership Pricing Tiers and Member Discounts

According to Deloitte, the pandemic disrupted customer loyalty strategies across the board. The financial impact to individuals and businesses alike made association members want to see more value for their dues. According to McKinley Advisors, many associations adapted variable pricing and dues levels during the pandemic to retain members in response to falling membership numbers. Additionally, they sought opportunities to offer disounts and free resources. One way associations can meet this need is by incorporating affinity programs into their member benefits offering. Affinity programs allow an association to offer their members a portfolio of exclusive discounts that are relevant to the industry and member needs.

A good example is a Cintas discount for an association whose member organizations rely on uniforms for their teams. Affinity programs are our area of expertise at Core Affinity and we’d be happy to help put together a custom affinity program for your members.

4. An Emphasis on Membership Segmentation

COVID reinforced the importance of brand targeting to specific members based on their needs. This means spending more time tailoring everything from your association’s member benefit offerings to your marketing messaging so it’s more in alignment with each member’s situation. Association marketers should strive to create more personal connections with members. One way this can be achieved is by segmenting the membership list into personas. You can read more about this in our blog, 3 Elements of Successful Association Marketing.


Among the many changes brought by the pandemic, some were much-needed for our industry and some were long overdue. From rapid adoption of new technologies to meet member needs to re-thinking the way we communicate with members, the impact has brought rainbows after the storm. Associations have prioritized finding ways to prioritize a more personal connection and give more to their members in times of need. How has your association changed post-pandemic? We’d love to hear your story in the comments.

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