For many, the start of the year is a chance to reset and reflect on our personal and professional endeavors. As you’re thinking about opportunities to introduce new ideas or positive changes in your organization, here are a few thoughts on what 2024 may have in store for associations.  

In recent months, our team has met with many industry partners and association clients who were in the midst of finalizing their strategic plans for this year, and here are a few trends and insights that emerged: 

1. Practical AI Tools to Better Manage Your Association 

You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the hype with generative AI technology. Since launching in late 2022, one of the bigger players, ChatGPT has grown considerably with 1.7 billion monthly visits in October. While there is a lot of interest in leveraging generative AI to create efficiency and automate work, you may be wondering—okay, but how do I use it and what practical applications of AI make sense for my association or nonprofit? 

To avoid getting swept up in the hype, think about the strategic ways you can leverage AI systems to support member engagement and retention. Here are a few ideas: 

  • Content creation- In sending out your annual member renewals notices, you can use an AI tool to craft a communication that is tailored to an individual member and highlights their tenure with your organization, programs they have engaged with recently and future opportunities for the upcoming year. You could also have the tool review member data and provide tailored recommendations for events, programs and other resources that may be relevant based on their membership data. 
  • Streamline data and visualization- Your organization maintains a wealth of information on members including their demographics, preferences, interests, and program and event history. While an AMS solution like ThreeSixty comes with powerful reporting and data visualization, you can augment this by using AI tools to summarize board meeting documents, identify key insights or generate visualizations and charts based on membership data or a recent survey sent out to your members. You can also create clusters or themes of data, which is helpful for understanding emerging trends in presentations at your annual conference or meeting.  

2. Thoughtful Event Planning in the Face of Rising Costs 

In conversations with industry partners, we’ve heard that many associations approved smaller and sometimes negative budgets year-over-year for 2024, and a primary driver of this is due to increasing costs for AV and food and beverage expenses at events.  

In fact, a report by CWT Meetings & Events and the Global Business Travel Association found that the cost per attendee was 25 percent higher year over year in 2023 and is expected to grow an additional 7 percent this year. While inflation has driven up most of these costs, there are options available to help you stay within your budget. 

Negotiating event contracts are an important way for event professionals to maximize their ROI, while still delivering an exceptional event. Here are a few tips to get the most of your negotiations: 

  • Share a comprehensive RFP with all potential vendors, including a detailed event budget. 
  • Obtain multiple quotes and see if your preferred partner or vendor can match pricing from the quotes you receive. 
  • Consider long-term partnership options with suppliers that can lower your cost per event because you are committing to a multi-event contract. 
  • Going back to trend #2, use an AI tool to help you generate initial drafts of event contracts, which may help save time and money during the process of legal review with your law firm or general counsel. 

There are also options to limit food and beverage costs at an event, including: 

  • Providing a more limited menu to keep food costs low, such as providing a plated meal instead of a broader buffet where food may end up going to waste. 
  • Explore timing options, such as hosting your event during “off-hours” where you can provide snacks instead of a full meal. 

In 2024, we predict that event professionals will make strategic decisions around event management and negotiate with vendors to plan and execute events that delight their audiences but stay within their (likely smaller) budgets. 

3. Selectivity with Technology Selection Consultants 

As a leading provider in the market, we regularly connect with association leaders who have used a consultant to guide their technology strategy. We’ve recently heard feedback and concerns about the overall experience, particularly with the larger, established firms, for two reasons.  

First, their vendor and product knowledge are out of date. Several associations leaders have noted that consultants haven’t done their homework or taken the necessary steps to broaden their product knowledge, understanding and expertise. Their “advice” was based upon the same dated, inaccurate product and industry knowledge that they’ve scripted for years. And unfortunately, this is consistent with our experience as a technology provider in recent years.  

As an example, Personify made two acquisitions that impacted the association technology market – MemberClicks in 2020 and GTR Event Technology in 2022. None of the established association technology consultants reached out to learn more about our acquisition rationale or planned strategy for either product. And our attempts to engage them were met with limited or no response.  

The concern is that these firms are not knowledgeable enough to objectively help their clients make informed decisions about our solutions, and we suspect this is true with competitors as well. This lack of intellectual curiosity and engagement should give any association pause before hiring a consultant and ensure that they choose one with a broad and up-to-date understanding of the market landscape – this is, after all, the expertise an association is paying for. 

The second issue is that, as firms have expanded into managed services, CIO services, IT support services, etc., they have lost the appearance of objectivity by becoming technology resellers or steering clients toward tech that their staff are trained to use. To be clear, this may be more of an “optics” problem than a true indication of bias, but objectivity is crucial to the consultant-client relationship, and many associations are questioning whether that’s truly the case. 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t say that there are exceptions to this trend and there are several consulting firms that have deep industry experience and a reputation for impartiality. But the larger point remains that the industry needs a re-set or risks losing relevance. This year, we predict that associations will carefully consider the consultants they use to guide their technology purchases. 

4. Increased Focus on Data Security and Cyber Attacks 

With data breaches becoming increasingly common across industries, associations, and their IT teams in particular, are thinking carefully about efforts to strengthen data security and prevent attacks. In 2024, cybercrime is expected to cost organizations $9.5 trillion and grow 15 percent annually in the coming years. 

In creating your 2024 data security plan, be sure to understand your technology provider’s policies including access control, encryption standards, password policies, backup and recovery plans and more. Your AMS provider should be a partner on this journey and help you continuously monitor networks, logs and security events to detect and respond to any potential breaches within the system. All of the software and applications used in your organization should be patched on a regular basis to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.   

In 2024, we predict that association professionals will: 

  • Execute stricter access controls, including multi-factor authentication, to serve as the first line of defense against potential threats. 
  • Implement annual PCI audits and regular penetration tests with internal and external stakeholders to proactively identify and resolve vulnerabilities within your system. 
  • Develop new education campaigns for staff and share how members can protect themselves against attacks, which will instill confidence that you’ve got the right team and processes in place to manage the threat landscape. 

If you’re looking for a robust AMS solution that can give your team peace of mind about data security, we would be happy to share more about ThreeSixty

5. Workforce and Professional Development as a Key Value Driver 

While the labor market cooled in the last quarter of 2023 and unemployment remained steady at 3.8 percent, many economists are predicting growth in 2024 and a labor force participation return to pre-pandemic levels. In the near term, as competition remains high for open positions, associations can play a unique role in ensuring that members take advantage of workforce training and professional development opportunities to help them stand out as a candidate. 

80 percent of professionals said that growing their skillsets and expertise is an important way to stand out in the job market. In 2024, you can ensure that your organization supports a journey of continuous learning and skill development for your members by: 

  • Move to a mindset of “resources not courses”- What we mean by this is that your goal should be to deliver content focused on a member’s need in a given moment, as opposed to pushing them to a full course. You can conduct an audit of your professional development offerings and learning management library and consider breaking courses into bite-sized pieces that can be easily consumed and targeted to a specific topic or need. 
  • Create lasting connections – Extend the connections made at your annual conference or events by creating groups in your online community for members with a shared interest, profession or skillset to network and stay in touch. 
  • Teach your members how to use a generative AI tool – You know how we discussed in trend #2 that a lot of folks are hearing about AI tools but aren’t quite sure how to use them? Host educational sessions with an expert in your industry on practical ways your members can automate their daily activities and free up their workday. 

We would love to hear your thoughts on these and other trends and predictions for association professionals in 2024. Send us your thoughts via or in our client community.