AI for Associations: How to Supercharge Your Member Strategy

A better member experience starts with personalization—one area in which artificial intelligence shines.

Just a few years ago, artificial intelligence (AI) seemed cold and distant, reserved for Silicon Valley tech startups, if not sci-fi thrillers. But that’s no longer the case. AI is very much here and now, applicable across industries and in everyday circumstances.

“AI involves the ability to take large sets of data and analyze them to make predictions,” said Forj CTO Mark Unak, an accomplished veteran in enterprise software, data analytics, and AI, whose work includes the architecture of AT&T U-verse. “Today, every company is a technology company in some form—they just specialize in different types of data. State Farm, for example, specializes in auto insurance data.”

In the past, a single insurance company could require thousands of actuaries to estimate the financial consequences of risk. With AI, machines analyze loss patterns and provide predictive outcomes at scale for insurers. The result is a streamlined customer experience, from the application process to claims processing.

The technology’s impact is not limited to the insurance space. In fact, it’s so impactful across industries that “84% of C-suite executives believe they must leverage AI to achieve their growth objectives,” according to Accenture.

The association world is no different, and it’s ripe for the type of transformation that AI enables. By leveraging AI-powered platforms, associations can simplify the user experience, identify unmet needs, and boost personalization, in turn attracting and retaining members and sponsors.

Use AI Effectively—and Ethically

Associations face tremendous competition for the mindshare of current and prospective community members in an era of information overload.

“The proliferation of content on the internet means associations aren’t the only source of information relevant to their communities—but they can compete to be the authoritative source,” Unak said. “AI is an essential component in helping associations stay relevant amid dramatic shifts in member expectations.”

Some AI solutions employ a layered approach to analytics that gives leaders a deep understanding of their communities’ attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs. These insights are powerful tools for optimizing engagement, personalization, and stickiness, keeping members coming back to the platform and their association.

The key to AI is to use it ethically. Ethically-implemented AI solutions measure and evaluate the quality of data and algorithms and securely analyze data without connecting it to personally identifiable information.

“There's a strong degree of skepticism in the market when it comes to the ethical practice and practical application of AI—and rightfully so,“ Unak said. “You don’t just employ AI for AI’s sake. It's about solving real business problems without creating bias or harm.”

Do More with Less

Research from PwC reveals that 48% of U.S. consumers “point to friendly, welcoming service” when defining successful customer experiences; 32% point to “up-to-date” technology. The consulting company recommends “closing that gap by finding the sweet spot — where technology complements the human element of customer experience without creating new frustrations.”

That’s the beauty of AI: It empowers associations to provide relevant, personalized experiences at scale without placing unnecessary burdens on members. As one example, associations can transform existing data from chatrooms, forums, webinars, and other digital communication venues into powerful insights about their members’ needs and interests.

Associations can also use AI to generate and analyze transcripts of conference sessions, providing a greater understanding of engagement levels between speakers. The technology can take data from chatrooms running alongside virtual sessions to identify positive or negative sentiments correlated with specific segments of a presentation. AI can also identify content that is most relevant to certain members and serve that up to members with similar characteristics. 

Through the power of such information, association marketers can better customize outreach efforts and sponsors can generate more targeted leads. Best yet, AI allows users to analyze large datasets in a snap—no manual spreadsheet work involved.

“You're automating the processes, and you're doing it on a software-as-a-service solution that becomes increasingly smarter when it comes to what the member needs based not only on what they've identified as an interest, but their overall set of behaviors in the application and the community,” Unak said.

Ultimately, AI enables associations to better serve their membership.

“It’s about appreciating the reasons members belong, respecting the finite time they might have in any given week to engage with the community, and personalizing the experience to make it most effective.”

Forj, a leading member experience platform connecting professional community members for the common good, brought on Mark Unak as CTO in October 2021. The move added more than 25 years of experience in architecting and building technologies to solve a wide range of industry and use cases generally focused on high-trust, high-value transactions and experiences.