Looking Forward dashboard

Looking Forward 2021 Data Dashboard

The most recent, relevant and customizable data to inform your decisions is critical in a dynamic and uncertain environment.

For 10 years, Association Laboratory has produced our annual environmental scan of the association strategy environment – Looking Forward.

This year, it will be critical for association leaders to make faster, better decisions. You will need to know what the future looks like now, not later.

Looking Forward data is now provided via a customizable dashboard, allowing you to focus on the segment of the association sector most critical to you, your staff and Board. See what issues are impacting members and identify the most likely challenges you’ll face. Then download the custom report to guide discussions with your team and volunteer leaders.

Not sure how to get started with those conversations? We are providing you with a discussion guide and high-level Executive Summary of the Looking Forward 2021 data, complete with sample agenda, worksheets and how to program a Zoom meeting to have these discussions. To download the discussion guide, click on Looking Forward 2021 Executive Summary and Discussion Guide.

How to use the dashboard

The homepage of the data dashboard displays top-level results of the Looking ForwardTM 2021 data. Clicking “Explore” in each chart will allow you to dig deeper into that topic area.

Each chart has a book icon in the bottom right corner, which allows you to see the question that was asked of respondents. 

In addition, once you clicked “Explore,” you will see a list of filters along the right side of the page. These filters allow you to adjust the data set by annual budget, member size, organization type, location, profession and organization type (meaning professional or trade). 

At the bottom of each page, the printer graphic allows you to print a PDF of the page to use in conversations with your Board.

Looking Forward 2021 Methodology

Looking Forward™ assesses critical factors affecting association members and the potential impacts on association strategy. Concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout are included in Looking Forward™ 2021.

Association Laboratory developed and deployed an online survey directly and via collaboration with the company’s Research Alliance partners. Data collection took place between November 12 and December 8, 2020.

Response options for Looking Forward™ 2021 were informed by qualitative research involving executives from the Research Alliance membership, combined with Association Laboratory’s extensive experience with environmental scanning on behalf of clients representing a wide range of professions and industries.

The study assesses factors affecting the association environment in six domains:

  • Economic Factors ­— issues regarding the financial and competitive outlook of association members’ industry or profession.
  • Information & Technology Factors — issues regarding the technology and communications underpinning industry and professional activity.
  • Workforce Factors — issues regarding the movement, engagement, and competencies of workers in association members’ industry or profession.
  • Government Factors — issues regarding the relationship between association members and local, state, and federal governments.
  • Global Factors — issues regarding relationships between individuals, companies, and governments across international boundaries.
  • Uncertainty and Adaptation Factors — issues regarding association members’ psychological outlook and their response to rapid and unpredictable change.

For each domain, participants were shown a list of issues and asked to select up to five that would most impact the members of their association over the next three years:

“Which of the following will have the most impact on your members over the next three years? Select up to five.”

Following selection of the issues likely to have the greatest impact on members, respondents were asked to identify how those issues or problems would affect their association’s strategy.

Respondents first identified their level of concern regarding each of nine general association strategies:
“How concerned are you about each of the following association strategies over the next three years?”

Respondents who indicated concern about a strategy were asked a follow-up question about their specific concerns, such as:
“What are the most substantial barriers to the success of your membership strategy? Select up to three.”

The survey also collected information including:

  • Changes in the competitive landscape and sources of competition
  • General economic outlook for members
  • Government jurisdictions with the greatest policy impact on members
  • Importance of various Mission-based strategies to association success

A total of 606 individuals completed the survey—the largest response in the history of the Looking Forward™ series. The response includes:

  • 344 association Chief Staff Officers
  • 184 respondents representing Trade associations
  • 375 respondents representing Professional associations
  • Over 20 industries and professions represented

Association Laboratory's Research Alliance

Alliance LogoAssociation Laboratory is proud to be the founder and leader of the Association Laboratory Research Alliance.

The Association Laboratory Research Alliance is a collaboration of more than 20 state, national, specialty and global societies of association executives designed to investigate, lead the discussion of and provide insight into the future of the association business model. Since its inception, the Alliance has investigated the forces shaping association members and the implications of these forces on association strategy. In addition, the Alliance provided an analysis of the strategic and economic impact of COVID-19 on the association sector and acted as a clearinghouse for vetted information informing association decision-makers. The following groups comprise the Research Alliance:

  • American Association of Medical Society Executives
  • Association Forum
  • AMC Institute
  • California Society of Association Executives
  • Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives
  • Colorado Society of Association Executives
  • Empire State Society of Association Executives
  • Florida Society of Association Executives
  • Global Association Hubs Partners
  • Georgia Society of Association Executives
  • India Association Congress
  • Indiana Society of Association Executives
  • Iowa Society of Association Executives
  • Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives
  • New York Society of Association Executives
  • Ohio Society of Association Executives
  • Philippine Council of Associations
  • Tennessee Society of Association Executives
  • Wisconsin Society of Association Executives

Association Laboratory's Strategic Partners

CE21 is a cloud-based technology and services company providing a full-service Learning Management System (LMS) that delivers distance education, online registration and physical product sales solutions to professional education verticals including: Legal, Accounting, Health Care, Insurance, Business, Education Content Providers, Professional & Trade Associations and Non-Profit Organizations.

CE21’s award-winning LMS can help your organization deliver a best-in- class e-learning experience designed specifically for your most important customers–your learners. Built for today but designed with the flexibility to take on tomorrow’s changing needs, CE21 provides an elegant, mobile-optimized learning environment that will transform your organization into a 24/7 on-demand value provider.

For more information, visit CE21.com.

Nucleus is the official Data Analytics Solution to the Association Research Alliance. 

The Nucleus data analytics platform was built specifically for associations and is designed to meet the unique needs of the member industry. It aggregates the vast amounts of powerful member data currently stored in different systems across member-based organizations (AMS, email marketing, events, learning management, online community and more) and makes insights into this data available to everyone: staff, leadership, components, the board – and even members.

The “Looking Forward 2021” data dashboard is Nucleus, specially configured to show this important environmental scan information and allow you to explore it. We are thrilled to have been chosen as the official data analytics solution of the Association Laboratory Research Alliance and hope you enjoy this new way to benefit from the Looking Forward study.


We invite you to browse the Analytics for Associations Success Kit to learn more about Nucleus and to contact us to discuss use cases at your organization at analytics@gravitatesolutions.com