In just the two years since Jerry Jasinowski retired from the National Association of Manufacturers after 15 years at its helm, during which time he became one of the highest profile trade execs in town, he says a new era has unfolded in the association world. Jerry’s remained in town witnessing it as a full-time professional board director, focusing on best practices at industrial companies. At his house last week in DC, he described for Bisnow six key new trends that he says not enough people recognize.
What an amazing picture: Jerry, in his living room, actually sitting down! Otherwise, he remains his hyperactive self: tennis three times a week at St. Albans, yoga five times a week at Sport LA and Unity Woods, and a full work schedule.
- Composition. There’s been a huge expansion of associations representing new areas like biotech, private equity and hedge funds, while traditional interests like manufacturers, chemical and autos have retrenched because of downturns in their sectors and flat membership dues.
- Global integration. Because of America’s role in the world, associations are forced to meet challenges of competition from Europe and China yet simultaneously establish a presence in the European Economic Community and Far East. They have to spend a lot more time creating international standards for how products should made and distributed. The trend is illustrated by the fact so many associations have created committees to focus on the full range of global issues; and the challenge is illustrated by the recent food safety issues in China.
There he goes again, back to form, jumping on the phone. Jerry got away this summer to Shanghai, as a member of the Timken board, and with his family to Santa Fe for hiking and opera. They normally go to Provence, but his son, a sophomore at Brown, was due back at football camp and his daughter needed to start her new marketing job at Booz Allen.
- Application of technology. The reality that associations must have a presence on the Web has moved them to put not only a ton of information there, but also to conduct many of their services in electronic form, such as membership development, legislative alerts, and even committee meetings. Every association today, Jerry says, has to be a virtual association.
- Product development. Associations are forced to meet the realities of a niche world where you have to focus products and policies on highly specific groups and segments. For example, Jerry’s wife, Isabel, who runs the Goodyear office here, sits on a committee that deals with rolling-resistance standards for tires.
- Utilization of people. Associations continue to have full-time personnel for core activities, but increasingly outsource important back-office functions like IT and publishing, and supplement lobbying through outsourcing as well. The core staff requires higher skill levels and more training.
- Lobbying techniques. Associations have radically changed their approach to lobbying, and although this change has been in the works for 10 years, it’s particularly changed recently. Nowadays, it’s much more technical and specific. And because of partisan divisions, associations are forced to cover their bets more, and move policy by means of engineering grassroots support or opposition. The Internet has become a key tool in spreading messages and activating members.
Mais quel art collector! The authentic Toulouse Lautrec above Jerry's fireplace depicts a café dancer. Isabel’s mother came from Paris; her father even got the Legion of Honor for running the underground in World War II. OK, enough chitchat, Jerry. Go play tennis!