Marketing For Associations…why marketing is crucial to association management

I am delighted to report that the wonderful folks at Association Magazine which is the voice of the Canadian Society for Association Executives has just published an edition dedicated mostly to Marketing for Associations. This is terrific news as I have always felt that  Associations need to adopt the Marketing approach to doing their work.

Here is  the line up of contributors to this special issue:

It’s Time To Become More Marketing-Oriented
by Jim Mintz
Read article…

Branding: It’s About Making and Keeping Promises
by Jess Abramson
Read article…

From the Desk of a Not-for-Profit CEO: Why Marketing is Now a Dedicated Function at RCC

by Diane J. Brisebois, CAE
Read article…

CAE® Students Discuss…..Market Segmentation
Read article…

I am also delighted that I was given the opportunity to write the lead article in this publication.  Here are a few excerpts from my article.


A number of years ago, I was asked to make a presentation to the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) on the topic of marketing for not-for-profits with an emphasis on associations. My contact at CSAE felt that marketing should be a major focus of associations but was under the impression that is was rarely applied to any significant degree.

At that time, I looked at some of the key functions associations undertake, and made a connection between marketing and these functions.

Here are some of the areas where I felt that marketing is relevant to an association.

  • Defining what product/program/service an association can offer to its clients as well as getting customers/clients to buy or use them (i.e. sales strategies)
  • Revenue generation, including fundraising, alternative revenue strategies through sponsorships and affinity programs and commercial partnerships
  • Advocating/lobbying policies to key stakeholders (e.g. government)
  • Training staff to be client friendly
  • Executing attitude/behaviour change campaigns e.g. social marketing/public education/outreach
  • Executing integrated marketing communications campaigns: direct/database marketing, advertising, promotional activities, on-line/digital marketing, event marketing, exhibiting/trade shows, public relations publicity, education materials, print, videos etc.
  • Enhancing the image and branding of an association
  • Marketing campaigns to retain existing members, find new members and volunteers
  • Communications programs to existing membership (newsletters, e-letters etc)

Recognizing the growing importance of marketing in the public and non-profit sectors, the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing and Phase 5 conducted a study in May 2006 to assess the health of the marketing function. We surveyed 600 professionals in marketing-related positions in government and non-profit organizations across Canada.

What we found was that both of these sectors are more focused on tactics and implementation rather than on strategic marketing and planning; they do not employ a proactive, systematic approach to identifying high value, client-centered ideas and turn those ideas into new products, programs and services; they tend not to measure or improve results and ensure accountability of marketing expenditures; they do not support the marketing function either in terms of funding or culture; and they have difficulty attracting, training and retaining staff with marketing skills given the culture and lack of organizational support.

You can get the full report at

So what are the implications for associations? There is clearly a need to examine the process by which associations develop and manage products, programs and services. Marketing management systems and practices must be adopted from the planning level on down. Measurement systems must be put in place to track success against marketing objectives and make necessary adjustments to improve performance.

Many associations identify marketing with revenue generation and communications. While marketing can assist in these areas, it may be more valuable for other objectives of associations such as improving relationships with members, and serving clients better and more importantly being more strategic in implementing programs. Marketing can offer associations a comprehensive, integrated and innovative approach to improving levels of client satisfaction, attraction of resources (both financial and human), and improving the uptake of products and services – in short, a better way to manage associations.

If you know of any great articles or have   who have some valuable information on this subject please contact me.
BuzzNet Tags:

marketing, associations, non profit marketing, association management,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 × three =