Top Challenges Facing Association Executives and Staff

Association Job ChallengesThe 2021 Association Industry Survey results revealed similarities in the challenges facing associations. The report includes detailed comments from respondents about their organization’s struggles. Regardless of association size or budget, the top 3 impediments were consistently time, money, and technology.

We asked: “What would you say is the #1 impediment to doing your job?”


The top 15 responses were:
    • Time
    • Money
    • Technology
    • Staff
    • Events
    • Face-to-face interaction
    • Processes/Operations
    • Board of Directors
    • Member Engagement
    • Remote workforce
    • Other/Miscellaneous
    • Government
    • Leadership
    • Uncertainty
    • Volunteers

Respondent comments included:


Tight funding due to 2020 event cancellation has resulted in the Board being more cautious than usual. They’re reluctant to try new things, even to expand our development pie or member engagement. I feel like we need to be bolder now more than ever, but it’s a battle.

Lack of sufficient funds to develop and upgrade training programs.



Too much on my plate. I can’t fully commit to any one thing.

Time wasters: institutional exercises that add no value.



Low-quality data and access.

Not fully understanding how to use technology and software programs to maximize efficiency.

Our technology needs a major update.



Insufficient staffing for our strategic plan.

Too much to do and a lack of skilled staff to delegate tasks.



In-person events help keep existing memberships and foster new relationships to gain new members.

It has been very stressful to find ways to engage members without in-person events.


Face-to-Face Interaction

Lack of in-person meetings with staff.

Membership sales and retention are relationship-based, and it has been more difficult to connect directly with members and prospects.



Administrative strangulation… employee manuals, office templates, timely marketing content for social media.

Day-to-day needs preventing more big picture strategic planning work. Being bogged down with grant reporting, financial needs, personnel requirements, etc., prevents advancing our strategic goals.


Board of Directors

The politics of some Board members; some serve their own agendas with a total disregard for the association’s strategic plan and budget.

Poor communication from the Board of Directors; slow responses or indecision.

The high turnover rate of the Board of Directors.


 Member Engagement

COVID-related member disinterest because they’re too busy or don’t care and don’t see the value.

Lack of engagement among members makes it hard to secure non-dues revenue sources.


Remote Workforce

Reduced communication. Things like walking down the hall or picking up the phone to ask someone something are no longer possible. Communication has to be planned.

Lack of office collaboration – no “water cooler” opportunities.



Difficult to know that our members are suffering, and we can only do so much to help them.

Different priorities among fractioned membership.

Getting our team “on the field” at the same time.



We need broader support from elected officials. Our community is progressing forward without any formal strategy or vision and thus is grasping at straws in hopes of being successful.

The struggle due to governmental agencies not returning to work/office hours. Our state continues to be largely locked down with lots of restrictions on all industries.



Lack of focus among senior leadership. As an organization, we try to do too much instead of focusing on fewer initiatives but doing them exceptionally well.

Not enough resources nor a supportive leader. No real teamwork.

Management tying my hands.



Not being able to plan accordingly for 2021.

The uncertainty of the future of scholarly publishing.

The unpredictability of COVID.



Limited availability of volunteer leaders.

Inconsistent volunteer leadership creates a lack of understanding of the role and value of staff.

Volunteers getting “in the weeds.”

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To see all of the association staff responses, download your copy of the report here: 2021 Association Industry Trends Survey Results.

Also, take a look at the on-demand, in-depth Q&A results webinarwith Teri Carden, founder of ReviewMyAMS.


SEE ALSO: Interesting Trends in 2021 Association Industry Survey Results


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