Looking Forward Impact 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