Staying agile during a pandemic key to associations’ survivability

A sceenshot from the landing page of the UIA Round Table APAC conference, hosted by Seoul Tourism Organization

Covid-19 is one of the largest challenges associations are currently facing and ensuring one doesn’t become a casualty of the pandemic will be a long and uphill task, opined association heads.

Speaking at the virtual UIA Round Table Asia-Pacific 2020 last week, hosted by the Seoul Tourism Organization, association leaders said current pressing problems include declining revenues, cash flow shortages, weak membership demand and retention, uncertainty about business continuity, and the need to adapt service delivery to an online model.

A screenshot from the landing page of the UIA Round Table APAC conference, hosted by Seoul Tourism Organization

Octavio B Peralta, secretary-general of both the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations, and Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific, shared that the impact of Covid-19 has hurt the associations sector in several ways.

“These are difficult times. It’s not only about revenue now, because engagement has also become more important than ever, and finding ways to communicate and engage with your members during this time is crucial,” he stated.

Zar Gomez, regional coordinator, Caritas Asia, said: “We are used to responding to hurricanes, typhoons, or earthquakes in a certain area, but this time, the situation is on a global scale. It makes resource mobilisation (to help other communities affected by Covid-19) even more challenging.”

Caritas Asia’s 2020 budget was also cut by 70 per cent due to the pandemic. However, even before Covid-19, the organisation was already dealing with dwindling resources for funds at some of the offices.

To manage the pandemic, Gomez said that many Caritas organisations in Asia are now mobilising local resources to provide assistance in their respective countries, or are working with other faiths and faith-based organisations to maximise available resources. Others cope through networking and liaising with their governments.

Internally, a task force was also created to check on staff and their well-being, to help manage the side effects of Covid-19.

Peralta advised associations to quickly pivot to digital if they haven’t already, as it is tough to engage members without the help of webinars and videos. Associations also need to think about whether they can afford to monetise these online resources, because without physical conferences, revenue has fallen. In addition, the content must be relevant, so that it will continue to engage and stimulate conversations among members.

“Aside from pivoting to digital, forming partnerships with other associations, upskilling and developing your staff professionally, and planning ahead for the turnaround – although not too far in advance as situations can rapidly change – is also necessary now,” Peralta added.

Both Gomez and Peralta also stressed the importance of managing an association’s reserves and ensuring it stays healthy, to help associations weather this unprecedented storm.

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