Our most important strategic partner is digital agency Granite 5, whose focus is the membership sector.

Last year Granite 5 published a report based on quantitative internet research into the trends membership organisations needed to do something about. This time they wanted to understand the market in a more personal way by interviewing the people who actually run membership organisations in fast-changing circumstances.

Rise Above specialises in leadership strategy and coaching, which requires frequent conversations with leaders. We conducted interviews with leaders of professional services organisations and trade associations, which form 80% of membership organisations, and also with those from the remaining 20%, which includes key sectors such as sport and leisure.

In this pandemic year the private and the public, the personal and the impersonal have been collided, liberated and constrained as never before. Everything is exposed to the light.

This is the management summary of its six sections:

1. Belonging Together

Members want to be part of something bigger than themselves, but that isn’t enough in a pandemic. Membership organisations have been forced to clarify, justify and make more relevant what they do.

2. Leading Apart

There is a new blend of leadership qualities emerging from the pandemic, and perhaps a new kind of leader. The most successful leaders of membership organisations have five qualities in common.

3. Pandemic Good

The best thing about the pandemic for membership organisations has been the acceleration of digital transformation, but this will not guarantee success. Digital excellence is the gearbox and transmission, but it is not the whole car.

4. Pandemic Bad

Everyone is in difficult circumstances. Leaders have to take responsibility and have the strength and stamina to mentor team members honestly and empathetically. Leading with kindness is a human and strategic necessity.

5. A Changed World

Membership organisations need to be more agile, more ambitious and more willing to try things. They should be focused outwardly on the reality of members’ lives, not looking inwardly at the organisation.

6. A New Model

Membership organisations must re-evaluate their business models as members’ lives change. The goal is one inclusive, flexible, innovative, digital-savvy business made up of members and staff, doing what members really need.

Today is a day like no other. Tomorrow will be the same.

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