Business View Magazine | February 2021

13 BUSINESS VIEW MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 2021 events virtual as possible. With this switch came new and heighted security concerns. Member privacy has always been paramount for associations; in a virtual setting, with members logging in from multiple locations and conveying and submitting information through digital channels, ensuring the security of everyone involved has become an even greater concern. With additional cybersecurity requirements come additional costs – creating a need for funding that associations haven’t had access to. • Relationship Management: Simply converting events from one format to another isn’t enough. When events go virtual, it’s more than the literal physical connection that is lost. There is also a loss of opportunity: no chance for water-cooler small talk, no chit-chat over dinner, no truly natural moments for good old fashioned getting to know one another. For associations, this has been a two-pronged challenge: how to make sure virtual events are still providing networking and support value for members, and how to maintain close relationships with members and other stakeholders when those in-person moments have been removed from the equation. Now, the unique positioning of industry and professional associations brings both challenges and opportunities. Associations have the chance to play a key role in providing the industry-specific peer support that professionals crave, but it will require a strategic approach. Considerations for Associations in 2021 With vaccines being distributed and a positive global economic forecast as the U.S. heads toward economic reopening in 2021, businesses and organizations can approach this year with a more hopeful eye, as market forces give them a chance to breathe after months of strategic pivoting and recurring uncertainty. For associations, this means an opportunity to rebalance their sheets and consult with their advisors and CPAs on reducing spending and recovering lost revenue. It also means time to take a step back and proactively plan for what’s ahead: • New Funding Opportunities: In late December 2020, Congress voted to expand PPP Loan Eligibility to qualified 501 C (6) organizations. This opens up new opportunities for industry associations to balance some of the revenue loss experienced due to cancelled or postponed events. Associations should discuss funding opportunities with their accountants, who are already well-versed in the PPP Loan Program for their charitable non-profit clients and can help them apply for this funding as early as possible this year. • Hybrid Models: Associations can expect more fully virtual meetings and trade shows, along with hybrid online/in-person events. They need to be careful to not silo members and must be creative in allowing opportunities to promote programs across audiences, no matter the format of attendance. Creating an integrated member experience will be key to maximizing value. • Increased Spend: Integrated programming will also give associations an opportunity to marry revenue streams, which will be crucial as they continue to take on an increased tech spend for things like cyber security, virtual communication tools, and more. Associations should consult with their financial advisors on ways to curb these added expenses with strategies like increased event sponsorship opportunities and applicable loan and credit programs. • Regulatory Issues: Associations also need to consider ongoing regulatory and compliance matters - especially as they pertain to virtual meetings and shows. For example, the IRS has safe-harbor provisions in place for in-person meetings and trade shows, so associations that follow these provisions can feel confident these events are not subject to Unrelated Business Income Tax. However, the changing format of these meetings calls into question whether the safe harbor provisions still apply. Also, many states are still evaluating and OPENING L INES