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Can Associations Benefit from Business AI, Big Data, and Other Tech Innovations?

Can Associations Benefit from Business AI, Big Data, and Other Tech Innovations?

Is Your Association Using AI?

AI tools are becoming ubiquitous. From Netflix selection menus to route-planning, AI is present in our lives in frequently overlooked ways. Businesses are starting to use AI, too. Business schedules, bill calculations, and customers outreach represent only a few possible commercial applications. AI also represents a valuable tool for the association sector.

AI can be used to benefit an association organization's goals in several ways. These include:



Associations succeed or fail on the strength of their members. Members' drive and ambition translate directly to the organization's performance. AI recruitment tools can identify candidates for organization volunteer roles from the wider membership (and beyond.) Practically, this means coordinating large amounts of data and screening candidates to compile long and short-lists. This ultimately delivers candidates whose career goals align with organizational goals. Such candidates will bring value to the organization via their volunteer contributions. AI can similarly be used to better target prospects for membership.


To maximize the potential of volunteer and employee skills and talents, associations can use AI analysis to establish trends and patterns. This data can be compared with the wider employee population. This information can help place the right people on the right positions or committees. AI analysis may also help identify skill shortages and productivity problems.


AI can change the way associations handle interactions with employees, members, and prospects. Essentially, AI chatbot programs can be used to handle initial queries. They can screen HR requests and point people towards the correct department. Such chatbots can also outright handle the query.


AI analysis is great for tweaking an association's performance and strategy to maximize how productivity affects budgets and outputs. AI can be used to boost compliance, decision-making, speed, and efficiency in all processes.

Actionable Insight

One of AI’s unique capabilities is to provide a deeper level of long-term analysis of crucial data. This process enables an organization to learn from that data. Such ‘deep learning’ can help predict future trends, formulate strategy, and determine what kinds of action an association should consider for delivering future success.


Do Associations Need Big Data?

The Big Data revolution is changing the business world. However, the applications of Big Data in association organizations are not necessarily as obvious. While for-profit businesses leverage data to increase profit margins, the goals of not-for-profit associations are different. Such goals are typically achieved with fewer resources. While associations seek to generate profits, their priorities include advocacy, member engagement, and a focus on improving the core member services they deliver.


What Does Big Data Mean for Associations?

We traditionally think of Big Data as something multinational corporations use to wield global reach and influence. And yet, the advance of technological tools has created a range of opportunities for smaller organizations, associations and other not-for-profits to share the benefits. The challenge is identifying the problems they need solutions to. They must then explore the ways Big Data can help with that process. So, what kind of challenges can Big Data help associations overcome?


Big Data Challenges

The opportunities Big Data represent go hand-in-hand with its challenges. As the data needs of HR departments grow, the tools required to take advantage of it must keep pace. To unlock Big Data's potential, associations must adjust their HR deployments. They must also integrate new technology, and recruit or train employees to use the software and tools. Understanding how to use Big Data is as important as developing the capability to analyze it.


Create Awareness

Associations need to reach potential members (plus other types of customers) on an ongoing basis. Big Data can be used to create and target awareness campaigns to reach people ideally suited to the association. Practically, this means engaging with certain regions and demographics, and so on.

Engage Employees and Members

Bringing effective employees into an association means finding the right candidates. Big Data can help with recruitment campaigns, specifically in the search for certain skills and talents. The same might be said for identifying potential new members beyond your primary market.

Unlock Data

Associations may be holding a wealth of collected data but lack the means to exploit it. Big Data tools unlock that potential. Such tools also help associations use their own data collection resources against the backdrop of a wider data landscape. Doing so will enable them to offer more value to members more easily and to remain competitive.


Big Data analysis can be implemented in a way that identifies and resolves productivity problems in internal administration. This is achieved by applying information gleaned from the wider sector landscape to a localized, association level.

Research and Strategy

Big Data represents a chance for associations to participate in "deep learning" strategies. Doing so means identifying areas of research that might be beneficial to the organization's needs. Such strategies may also help organizations make better decisions with an influence on long-term success.


How Associations Can Innovative with Technology

Associations have different objectives than their commercial counterparts despite their own need to generate revenue. The roles played by associations and similar organizations in serving communities or special groups of people still require funding. While the focus of associations may fall on membership and revenue reinvestment, there are plenty of ways technology can still play a role in this process.

Practically, associations can use technology to improve internal processes, efficiency, revenue streams, and cost savings to achieve their goals:


Revenue Building with Digital Tools

Technology can help innovate new ways of generating and improving revenue streams beyond conventional routes. Web-based revenue generation channels can be innovative and disruptive, for example, and can reach new demographics.

Exploiting Cloud Computing

Associations may transform their efficiency and resource needs by exporting portions of their deployment to cloud computing platforms. Uses for the cloud range from email solutions to data storage to payroll processing.

Engaging on Social Media

Associations can revolutionize membership and prospect outreach and brand awareness. They may do so by seizing social media's innovative and constantly changing potential.


Cyber-security is a vital component of all business tech-deployments, including those used by associations. Protecting data is a vital part of success for any organization with digital assets that need protecting. This is especially true of securing member information.

Sharing Ideas

New technology, especially communication platforms, allows associations to disseminate and share their ideas in innovative and unprecedented spaces. Arguably, the more exposure an organization's message receives, the more likely it can serve its objectives and members.

Public Relations

Beyond reaching a wider audience, technology can improve how associations talk with members, volunteers, prospects, and other customers. Public relations are made easier and more engaging with new tech tools.



Sandra Sommerville brings over 18 years experience to her role as Group Human Resources Manager for activpayroll, with experience in customer service, data protection, dispute resolution, and succession planning across the education and food retail industries. Sandra’s expertise lies in delivering HR solutions, and driving business growth, by identifying and developing professional talent.



At this year's CSAE Conference in Ottawa, David Florio's' session, "Good Cybersecurity Doesn't Have to Be Costly or Take Years to Build" discusses some of the privacy and security issues associations are facing. As Big Data continues to get bigger, the harm caused by cybersecurity breaches also increases. David's session addresses what organizations can do to protect themselves now—and in the future.



Sandra Sommerville, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity


Membership, Guest Contributor, Web / Technology



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