• ESAE

Tips to future-proof a Medical Association

Forty-five ESAE members working in groups addressed the challenges of four fictional but representative association case studies at ESAE's October 2020 workshop "From short-term Recovery to long-term Sustainability". We gathered the main ideas and tips for Organisations planning to pivot in order to adapt to our age of disruption and we are happy to share them with our Association Community.


CASE STUDY: Medical society based in Geneva with international scope

Membership: Associations and individuals (60% Europe, 30 % N. America, 15%Asia-Pacific, 5% S. America)

Employees: 6 (CEO, office mgmt, 1 comms, 2 event mgmt, 1 policy advisor)

Budget / Revenue Streams: €3.5M / 80 % International Conference – 20%MembershipMain Activity: 80% Annual conference – 20% representation to WHO


Case Study Scenario:


The Association was created 20 years ago as a common platform for the various national societies and toorganize an annual international conference. Since 2008, it has also represented its members vis-à-vis theWorld Health Organization.


The 2020 conference was postponed several times and is now due to take place as a virtual event in November. The fee has been reduced by 20% and participation looks likely to remain at previous levels. A parallel digital conference being developed by members is adding a high level of competition.


The Association is struggling to find its role in this changing period and the Board is trying to redefine its purpose, strategy, and business model.


ESAE community tips


How can the Association change successfully and identify new revenue streams that can support growth?


Members' needs and preferences have changed throughout the last 20 years, and the Association must keep up with these developments. The Board should conduct a thorough, granular analysis to obtain an in-depth understanding of members’ demands and stay aligned with them (e.g., through surveys and one-on-one interviews). They should also pay attention to partners, sponsors, and other stakeholders and identify what value they expect from the Society in return.


The Society should pivot its energy towards what it does best, and aim to avoid competition but foster alignment and complementarity instead. They should assess how the revenue model can be diversified and consider shifting away from being heavily dependent on the annual event. To achieve revenue diversification, the Association should look at the broader community, beyond members and partners, and identify its “customers” and prospective members.


Services like online education and publications can be monetised and accessed by members as well as non-members. Digitatilisation is key: making use of technology to create benefits, products and services that are accessible and available.


They should also design external communications to raise the Society’s profile through digital marketing.


The Society should assess its governance model and adapt in order to enable more agile management capabilities to drive much-needed adaptations. A task force could develop recommendations for aligning the governance with the required activities and output of the Association.

Many thanks to Jeroen van Liempden for moderating this discussion. ESAE members receive a full report with the advise of thought leaders and the recording of the session. Stay tuned for the rest of the case studies and join ESAE to be part of the dialogue!