Winter comes to a close this Saturday, March 20, the spring equinox—a time for new beginnings. On the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, we’re eager for a new season. Let this spring equinox renew your association spirit and inspire you to fulfill your personal and professional missions.
Centuries ago, the new year began on the spring equinox. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac because the astrological year begins on the spring equinox. The Persian New Year (Nowruz) begins then too.
Since we’re Irish, it’s natural for us to think back to the ancient Celts who saw the spring equinox as a sacred time of transition. It was a time to honor the natural cycle of renewal, celebrate surviving another winter, and welcome the arrival of spring.
Although battle-scarred, you survived the year-long pandemic winter. Layoffs may have depleted your association ranks, but you’re still kicking. Having been tested by the toils of the past year, you’re stronger and wiser. You’ve stretched your comfort zone, and it didn’t snap.
As daylight increases in the weeks ahead, commit to looking at the future with fresh eyes. Choose to enter spring with renewed energy and optimism.
Plan ahead by reflecting on what flourishes in your garden
During the winter, gardeners peruse seed catalogs and reflect on last year’s garden as they make plans for the coming planting season. Some keep a gardening journal so they can remember which seeds and transplants flourished, what pests and weather they encountered, and what they would do differently next year.
One year ago, in our first post about the pandemic, we wrote: “Your association has a critical role to play in serving an emerging and different set of member needs during the COVID-19 crisis.” Back then, you were entering unfamiliar territory and couldn’t rely on what you knew about members. You had to ask and listen so you knew how to prioritize projects in response to those new member needs.
Your listening methods probably changed too. Associations sent out frequent pulse surveys and hosted virtual town halls and other events for the first time. In virtual meetups, you listened while members talked shop about new challenges.
We said back then, “It’s also a time of opportunity—a time to experiment with new ways of member engagement.” How did you meet those new needs for education, networking, and advocacy? How did those experiments go? What did you learn? What did your members, attendees, and customers say about your efforts?
A year later, change persists. It always will, so thankfully you’re better at it now. Some businesses were permanently transformed by the shift to virtual delivery of products and services. Some will continue to allow staff to work remotely, while others will ask staff to return to the office. How are your members adjusting? How will their needs change in the coming months?
In a remote work setting, young professionals lost opportunities for informal education and industry indoctrination. Without the office watercooler, people also lost opportunities for idea sharing. How can your association fill in these gaps as members and others in your market continue to adjust to changing conditions?
Set aside time for spring cleaning
During the spring equinox in ancient times, people followed rituals for cleansing out old energy in themselves and their homes. A 21st century cleansing involves getting rid of things that no longer serve you, your members, or your association. Clean out the weeds, so new blossoms have space to grow.
2020 was a good year for getting rid of no-longer-valuable sacred cows, but if they’re still hanging around, see what you can do to put them out to pasture for good. Your association tried many new things last year, but the 2020 way doesn’t have to become the standard way of doing something.
Plant something different this year and see how it grows. Try new educational formats, online member meetups, approaches to sponsorship, and marketing opportunities for supplier members—because, seriously, did any of them really like what you offered last year in your virtual expo?
Tend to the plants in your care
Last year, in the second week of the pandemic, we wrote about helping members cope with the economic impact of COVID-19. The business conditions for your members and association are still in flux. Is your association still indispensable?
Lately we’ve been hearing about a drop in attendance at virtual events. The reasons aren’t yet clear. Perhaps the drop is because of virtual fatigue now that the novelty has worn off. Perhaps busy professionals don’t see sufficient value for the investment of their time and/or money.
Find out if people are investing their limited budgets elsewhere. Are employers still paying for membership and professional development? Is there a better model for providing the resources they need? For example, employers may prefer paying for a learning subscription rather than a membership.
Promote online education and credentialing programs as a form of career insurance. Remind members about the market value of having a credential beside their name.
Do sponsors and exhibitors still see the value in what you offer, or are they planning to invest their marketing budgets elsewhere? Don’t wait for them to tell you, schedule a conversation about marketing goals with them.
If disruption in your profession or industry is causing people to leave jobs, do you have career resources to help them get on their feet again? Women have taken the brunt of pandemic disruption, leaving their jobs because of parental responsibilities. How can you help them stay in the loop, grow their network, and keep up their skills?
Fertilize your soil and renew your association spirit
Dozens of studies have found that people are working longer hours with blurred work/life boundaries. You, your volunteer leaders, and your members need to fill the well and renourish.
Members need peer support and wellbeing education. Sure, wellbeing resources are easy to find, but your association can provide industry- or profession-specific resources. You can facilitate community and connection by hosting weekly virtual meetups for different membership segments and interests.
Tend to your personal garden too. You can’t support others if you’re running on empty. Find healthy ways to lower the volume on the stream of nagging thoughts and spiraling worries that overtakes your brain. Calm your monkey mind with mindfulness practices, journaling, exercise, and play. Get into the spirit of this new spring season, a time of transformation and renewal.