Associations have always been about the concept of strength in numbers. That hasn’t changed. Today’s associations employ more than 1.3 million people and the association industry generates $142 billion in total revenue. There is no reason to believe that associations will become obsolete as long as they continue to contribute in meaningful ways to society and, not incidentally, to the U.S. economy.

That does not mean there won’t be any changes. People can access and interact with their associations in ways that earlier generations could not even dream of doing; technology in the form of the internet and smart devices has made it necessary for every organization, including associations, to do things differently than they’ve been done in the past. Leading associations have figured this out and have changed their game plans accordingly. Anyone who wants to help an association thrive has to do the same.

If an association wants to increase its membership, the key is giving members at least one important thing they happen to value. Socializing is inevitably a big part of that; people like to get together and build relationships and friendships. Education is important, too.

The benefit of providing members with resources they value is especially critical because that also positions the association in such a way that it can more easily attract new members and retain the existing ones. It is (or should be) a virtuous cycle. The association attracts attention as an organization that has the insights necessary to help its members become more successful. It becomes a thought leader, in other words.

How exactly can an association achieve the goal of becoming a thought leader? The best way is to create or find useful, first-rate resources for its members, and then be ingenious about giving association members access to those resources.

No association will thrive if the only benefit it gives its members is a single annual meeting. Today, people expect to interact with associations and fellow members throughout the year. Interacting is easier when you provide everyone with interesting subjects to talk about and study. This can be done with

Not only can these different means of communication deliver news to members, they also provide an opportunity to put that news into context, especially in terms of how it affects members.

It’s important to get members to join an association, but that is (or should be) just the beginning of the story, not the end. You can provide members, and to some extent the general public, with frequent touch points. Use those touch points to make it easy for them to decide that the association is the primary place to get useful information about their profession and their industry.