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Guest Posts

Associations Are Going Mobile. Really?

For the purposes of this post, I’m defining “the mobile web” with a focus specifically on an association’s provision of and members’ use of web content made available via a mobile smartphone and/or tablet devices.

In July, Richard Gott gave us insight on how European associations harness the web. This month, Rich is back with a guest post that investigates if associations are really getting to grips with the mobile web.

For the purposes of this post, I’m defining “the mobile web” with a focus specifically on an association’s provision of and members’ use of web content made available via a mobile smartphone and/or tablet devices.

Let’s start with the facts as I know them: The mobile web has exploded over the past two years. This makes perfect sense as there are 435.2 million smartphone users across the globe according to Gartner (Updated March 2015: There are over 1.75 billion smartphone users now across the world). Likewise, association members generally use multiple devices at work and at home (think iPads, smartphones, etc.) And we all can empathize with being “time poor” and keen to accessing content “on the go”.

And so, how is your membership association meeting mobile demands in order to optimize member value, engagement, retention and recruitment?


At the start of the year I ‘temperature checked’ the UK association sector to establish the current state-of-play via the MemberWise Network’s “Harnessing the Web to Drive Membership Value and Growth” survey. This was completed by 316 association executives and included key questions linked to organizations’ current and future use of the mobile web.

We asked associations if they believed their members expected ‘an interactive, engaging and value-driven experience,’ and unsurprisingly 4 out of 5 organizations agreed. However, we specifically asked what role the ‘mobile web’ played in the recruitment of new members and the retention of existing members, and the impact they perceived this had on member engagement. The result?

Only 15% of organizations believed the ‘mobile web’ helped to directly recruit and retain members, however amongst larger organizations (100,000 members +) this increased substantially to 29%. This shows that larger organizations place more emphasis on the ‘mobile web’ and this may link to current/potential member expectations and/or the budget available for such activities.


There’s growing pressure for associations to deliver mobile content, however, an emerging association executive frustration is the ‘We’ve got to have an App’ mentality. However, before jumping into app-mode, do you know the answers to the follow questions?

  • Is it perceived the App will generate a new stream of income?
  • What will be the role/function of the App?
  • From a member perspective what will be the proposed positive outcome?

So, will an app drive income? The short answer is no, unless there is (or is likely to be) a strong demand linked to member requirements/demand.

Fifty-nine percent of apps created do not cover the costs of development and 68% earn less than $5,000. On top of that, a staggering 80% of apps do not generate enough income to support a stand-alone business.

An app will not save your association. Focus more on your core member value proposition.

The second and third questions I mention above (app function and positive outcomes) depend on your association’s key role. The very nature of an app is to provide quick access to information, support and two-way communication whilst ‘on the move’. If your organization’s key role are any different, you may want to consult more widely before investing in an app.


Only a quarter of associations currently provide mobile apps (via the Apple iStore). During MemberWise’s recent national web conference, “Harnessing the Web 2013”, we held an expert panel of leading membership and web experts. There was a unanimous consensus that apps are not the way forward and rendering online content for multiple devices via flexible content management systems (CMS) was preferable and more economical.

As we have seen, associations are undecided from a member recruitment and retention perspective, though 54% believe the mobile web will soon play a part in enhancing online member engagement (note: it has already started). More than 75% of associations confirmed they will be ‘ramping up’ their mobile offering within the next 3 years.

The fact is, he mobile web is playing more of a role in our members’ lives and if there is an expectation that content should be delivered via this medium there is a need to at the very least ensure it is rendered across all devices. Failure to do so will impact negatively from an online member value perspective and could have further impact on member satisfaction, engagement and member recruitment and retention.

So I ask you this: How is your association planning to use the mobile web in the coming year? Let us know as part of the MemberWise “Harnessing the Web” benchmarking survey.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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