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Beyond Data

How to decide what's next

In the past decade, associations have improved their data-driven decision making. They've developed methods for looking at membership renewals and conference attendance figures, parsing demographic data and using it to make decent educated guesses about what will work next year. But thanks to the pandemic, the power of data collected in 2020 to inform decisions for 2021 may be harder to trust.

"What metrics can actually deliver is somewhat limited," said Amanda Kaiser, member engagement specialist at Kaiser Insights LLC. "They measure past behavior, but they can’t necessarily predict future behavior." That goes double after a year that changed nearly everything.

Setting goals in 2021, Kaiser says, will require a shift toward more qualitative data analysis to better understand members' and attendees' pain points. To gather that data, she's not a big fan of focus groups—participants tend to go off on tangents, she said—and instead recommends one-on-one interviews in which participants are asked about their own perspectives on what's ahead.

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