Looking Forward Impact Methodology

Looking Forward®  Impact assesses critical factors affecting association members and the potential impacts on association strategy. It is one of three studies in the Looking Forward® research family, alongside Looking Forward™ Solutions and Looking Forward™ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Looking Forward® Impact is repeated annually, allowing for benchmarking of changes in the association environment over time. While the project initially began in 2012, the survey was significantly updated for 2021, including the introduction of the data dashboard for reporting of results. Beginning that year, the study also includes concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout.

Association Laboratory developed the survey instrument based on qualitative research involving executives from the Research Alliance membership, along with Association Laboratory’s extensive experience with environmental scanning on behalf of clients representing a wide range of professions and industries.

Each year, Looking Forward® Impact is distributed broadly throughout the association community via direct invitation, industry message boards, social media, and via collaboration with the company’s Research Alliance partners. Data collection dates are as follows:

Looking Forward® Impact 2022: November 10 — December 27, 2021

Looking Forward® Impact 2021: November 12 — December 8, 2020

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 are 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 are asked to identify how those issues or problems would affect their association’s strategy.

Respondents first identify their level of concern regarding each of 10 general association strategies:

“How concerned are you about each of the following association strategies over the next three years?”

Respondents who indicate concern about a strategy are 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 collects 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

Details about the response include:

Looking Forward® Impact 2022: A total of 401 individuals completed the survey, including:

  • 196 association Chief Staff Officers
  • 115 respondents representing Trade associations
  • 220 respondents representing Professional associations
  • Over 20 industries and professions represented

Looking Forward® Impact 2021: A total of 606 individuals completed the survey, including:

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