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Events, Associations, Covid and Crises

COVID-19 and the subsequent public health and safety measures have prohibited in-person gatherings for most of 2020 and will continue to do so for the near future. One of the worst-hit sectors is the events industry: the ban on mass face-to-face gatherings has meant no concerts, sporting events, festivals and, specifically for associations, no conferences, exhibitions, dinners, award ceremonies and so on. For the vast majority of membership organisations, events are integral to their value proposition and a significant income generator. There is therefore an inextricable relationship between these two sectors and, arguably the pandemic has exposed some organisations’ over-dependence on events for maintaining financial sustainability but also for defining their core identity, whereby the need to sustain income has resulted in some associations operating as quasi-event management companies, rather than membership-focused organisations.

What does the loss of in-person events mean for associations? As part of our commitment to raising awareness of the issues impacting (and advocating on behalf of) our members and the wider membership environment, we have published a white paper articulating the economic impacts on the association sector following the near collapse of the events industry during 2020, acknowledging the obvious impacts but also highlighting lessons learned and advocating fresh approaches to member engagement (and ergo the resilience and sustainability of the association sector).

We all know that our sector generates significant socio-economic value but as we continue to face a myriad of uncertainties, we must ensure our sector’s voice is heard, our impact acknowledged, and our value recognised; and so through publication of this and future white papers, we seek to promote the pivotal role that membership bodies will play in contributing to economic and social recovery throughout the 2020s.

About the author

Andrew Chamberlain

Andrew is a former association chief executive, and for 15 years he held c-suite leadership positions in professional associations and membership bodies across the UK. He travels internationally to provide specialist support on non-profit leadership, governance, and strategy. He is the founder of the Cambridge Governance Symposium; author of the NETpositive Governance™ model; and co-host of the weekly podcast Association Transformation, and (with Cindy Sparrow) the weekly podcast Good Enough for Jazz (both available on Apple podcasts). He is a vociferous advocate of mental health awareness and wellbeing, irrespective of professional contexts or social norms; and a committed proponent of social responsibility and sustainable development. 

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