Some associations are very good at figuring out the key activities of their members, and developing services around them. These services target something that each member does individually anyway, but they realize significant benefits from joining in a group version. They are centralized services.
Race for Relevance, the ASAE book being read by nonprofit boards across the country, highlights the use of technology to provide centralized services. For example, The Texas Trial Lawyers Association developed a centralized deposition service, which now reaches over 85,000 lawyers and generates revenue for each member association. In addition it provides a real incentive for lawyers to join their local trial lawyers association, since membership is required to use the service.
Another area of successful centralized member services is the college application services for the health professions. The associations of graduate schools of medicine, osteopathic medicine, dentistry, nursing, public health, podiatry, and veterinary medicine have online systems to accept and deliver applications to their member schools. These services are win-win. The applicants have a streamlined service with clear deadlines, requirements and communication. The institutions have state-of-the-art software provided by the central association. And the association has a service, which generates both significant revenue and great value for members.
Particularly if your members are institutions, they will have operational needs in common. But even for associations with individual members, there will be things that they do that you can provide better, quicker, cheaper, or more effectively through a centralized service.
So imagine your centralized X service. What will it do? Will it be a centralized HR service, a centralized auction service? Exhibit? Rental? Survey? Legal? Consulting? Ecommerce? Communication? Bidding? Installation? What is it that you can help your members do better than ever before?
*Moira Edwards CAE is a consultant who helps non-profits use technology strategically to create member value.