Data to Drive the Future of Associations

In the ASAE Research Foundation’s centennial research initiative, Impact Every Day, both association professionals and association members and other stakeholders rated the role of associations highly across all areas. Additionally, survey respondents recognize a need for associations to maintain an active role in education, protection, and the workforce in the future. For nearly all activities, the role of associations is seen as very or extremely important in the past and present. And respondents said the need for association engagement and action will be even greater in the future.

Key Findings

These roles were assessed as very/extremely important for associations in the future by the greatest percentage of respondents:

  • Serving as a trusted source of information (92.2%)
  • Establishing and/or distributing standards of practice to the field (87%)
  • Promoting the value of the field to society (84.7%)
  • Providing access to the most up-to-date information in the field (84.7%)
  • Gathering, analyzing, and publishing data on trends in the field (83.6%)
  • Attracting competent people to the field (83.2%)
  • Advocating for the industry (82.9%)
  • Promoting ethical behavior (82.1%)
  • Advocating for high ethical norms and standard (82.4%)
  • Providing standards or guidelines that support quality (81.9%)
  • Conducting research on significant issues affecting the field (80.5%)
  • Promoting greater public awareness of contributions in the field (80.4%)

Comparing averages across the three areas (education, safety and protection, and the economy and workforce development), there was a marked jump in the percentage of respondents who rated associations’ role as very/extremely important at those time periods:

  • Education: past/present 56.1%, future 76.6%
  • Protection: past/present 53.5%, future 75.2%
  • Economy/workforce development: past/present 51.1%, future 76.3%

In education, these activities had the greatest increase in importance from past/present to future:

  • Improving the knowledge or education of the American workforce (+32%)
  • Promoting ethical behavior (+25.5%)
  • Supporting mentoring opportunities (+25%)

In protection:

  • Promoting trust in American institutions (+32.6%)
  • Working or developing infrastructure to protect digital privacy (+28.2%)
  • Influencing legislation and regulations that affect the field (+28%)
  • Setting standards and addressing inequalities (+25.9%)

In economy/workforce development:

  • Attracting competent people into the field (+33.1%)
  • Promoting greater public awareness of contributions in the field (+27.5%)


To date, associations have addressed important issues in a range of critical areas related to society, the fields they represent, and their stakeholders’ needs. What stands out is that, across the board, association stakeholders and association professionals believe it is even more important for associations to continue to address issues in education, safety and protection, and the economy and workforce development in the future.

The complete data analysis will be available in fall 2020.