• Colm Clarke

Digital Maturity in Associations

Updated: Jul 13

Our partners at Exempla have been collaborating with digital experts Belly & Brain to study the digital maturity of Associations. The main objective has been to combine expert views from association and for-profit perspectives and an overview of the insights to date was recently published in Boardroom magazine.

Article By Colm Clarke, Partner, Consultancy at Exempla Management & Consulting.


To follow up, three interactive webinars with small groups of association professionals discussed the implications, opportunities and challenges presented.


Some presentation highlights from those sessions, based on the maturity scan study, were:

  • As digital value propositions and communications become integral to the association business, another level of maturity is required to ensure return on investment and business continuity

  • The “rules of the digital game” apply equally to all organisations – for profit or not-for-profit – with customer centricity, quality user experience and data driven approaches especially important

  • Associations – even relatively small ones – often have a complex multi-stakeholder audience so there are potentially big gains to make with better segmentation of (digital) communications

  • Currently, association brands are often acronym driven and struggle to convey the impact of their mission (especially considering the diverse audience)

  • The rich content libraries and ability to continuously develop new, expert content is a real strength of associations – being able to function both as a “news channel” and an “encyclopaedia” gives great potential for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

  • Currently, associations over emphasise “hot” content with a short lifespan and are especially active, or even over-active on social media


With attendance from both professional societies and trade associations from a range of sectors, there was rich discussion around the topics presented. Some points of particular note raised were:

  • Brand consistency is a challenge with so many “spokespeople” across staff, members and volunteers, and the wide range of channels

  • The data driven nature of digital can present cultural challenges for organisations not used to very specific measures of success (or failure)

  • A careful balance is needed between “influencer driven” marketing and “mission driven” marketing

  • As digital is applied horizontally across the association, traditional/siloed structures can hold up, or negatively impact successful adoption

Exempla and Belly & Brain will continue to explore this key area for association strategy. For more information, visit their website.