The Covid-19 pandemic crisis has hit us like a storm, catching most of us unprepared in many ways. The tourism and culture industry has been facing a serious fall and will probably be affected for several years to come. At the same time, for associations, the situation has become similarly critical since very often their main activity is the organization of international conferences. Consequently, they have had to make difficult decisions about the fates of their events for 2020 – the ones that were meant to take place between April till June have been forced to be cancelled or postponed already, but for the second part of the year, the final decision is yet to be made. Whether an association will or will not have a conference this year, one thing is sure – it will be a challenging year for both associations and their communities.

What kind of obstacles will associations be facing in the upcoming months? Indeed, one might argue that each association is different in its scope, aim, and nature itself; and therefore, will be dealing with various problems. However, it seems like the associations which are highly focused on hosting conferences will be most vulnerable. Not only will they not have any revenues from their regular events, but they will have to indirectly deal with another essential problem – a decline in numbers of their membership basement. In fact, it is not a big secret that the number of members is very closely related to conferences as members usually have the benefit of lower registration fees. And here comes the major challenge for many associations: how to set up crisis management throughout the year and what to offer members during the time of the Covid-19 crisis? Here are some of our tips.

Identify the main challenges and set goals

Identify the main challenges and set goals for your association throughout this atypical year. Do you know the common saying that “understanding your problem is half of the solution”? Great, this is most probably the first thing to be done. How it will affect your membership, financial flow of the organization, communication strategies, and of course, event planning – these are the central questions that need to be answered and strategically thought through. Once the challenges are clearly named, it should be easier to set realistic goals and adjust the next steps of action.



During this difficult period, communication is the key ingredient to success. Since it is a very unusual and uncomfortable situation for members, it should be the highest priority for governing boards to explain each step and decision taken. By doing so, the association leadership will not only be transparent but also conforming. Also, approaching your colleagues with more personalized emails from association leaders is a good strategy to strengthen one´s messages.


Target your core community and the most vulnerable groups

This will help you focus on the centre of your membership base, which will provide the association with the support it needs in return. It would be good to communicate with the community about how it plays a crucial role in the existence of the association. Highlighting the benefits of being a member or even offering some new features will be helpful in maintaining your members. Regarding vulnerable groups, they could be, for example, a group of young scholars, who need to be actively presenting their research at international conferences. These kinds of groups also make up the core of the membership base, and therefore should be taken into consideration when creating a crisis plan.

Be active, not reactive

Generally speaking, the pandemic crisis has probably become a game-changer for associations all over the world. However, that doesn’t mean they should be in passive mode, but quite the opposite. This is a great time to show the flexibility and creativity of each organization. Cancellation of a conference could be an opportunity to explore digital platforms, which serve its purpose well. Either a whole conference could be organized as an online event or it could be phased out into a series of webinars throughout the year – either way it will create a sense of constant activity. An attractive online event could also be held in the form of a discussion on Covid-19 and its impacts on the association´s field of work. For example, associations for political studies could host an online roundtable with famous political commentators discussing the impacts of the current crisis on the upcoming elections in different countries.

Go with the modern flow

Open membership access to journals to a broader audience, release transparent fundraising for meaningful projects fighting Covid-19 on your social media platforms, or start a new podcast on Spotify! There are many trends that you can apply to your association. Show the great potential of your organization and enjoy creating something new. Crisis management can be fun after all!

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