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In today's data-driven world, associations have access to a wealth of information that can help drive their success. However, to harness the true power of data, associations need to be able to access that data, efficiently manage and utilize it. That's where a Common Data Platform (CDP) comes in.  

Understanding the Value of Association Data 

Before diving into the role of a CDP, let's first understand the value of association data. Data is often described as the fuel for artificial intelligence (AI). Without quality and accessible data, AI applications cannot thrive.  

Imagine a scenario where your association wants to use AI to predict member churn. You would need a significant amount of data, such as engagement history and purchasing patterns, to train the AI model effectively. Without access to this data, the AI model would struggle to make accurate predictions. 

Association data comes from various sources, including membership databases, website user activities, meeting registration systems, email tools, and collaboration platforms. Each of these sources provides unique insights into member behavior, preferences, and needs. By harnessing this data, associations can: 

  • Personalize their communication and services 
  • Optimize their website design 
  • Inform product decisions and marketing strategies 
  • Improve internal collaboration and efficiency 
  • Enhance customer support

Data-driven decision making enables associations to make choices based on evidence and insights rather than relying solely on intuition or anecdotal evidence. Ultimately, leveraging data can lead to better outcomes for associations and improved member satisfaction. 

Related: What is a Common Data Platform and How Can it Transform Associations?  Learn More >

Common Data Management Challenges for Associations 

Despite the valuable insights data can offer, associations often face challenges in effectively collecting and managing their data. Stemming from a variety of sources from limited resources to outdated tech stacks, these challenges prevent associations from leveraging one of their most valuable assets - data. 

A primary challenge arises from the sheer volume of data from disparate sources. Associations generate data from multiple platforms and tools, each with its own data format and structure. Transforming, cleaning, and integrating this data into a single repository can be a complex and time-consuming task.  

A compounding issue is the use of proprietary systems, such as Association Management Systems (AMS) or Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM). These systems store data in a proprietary format, sometimes with limited access. The format and the access restrictions can make it difficult for associations to utilize the information effectively. While some methods for data access may be available, such as exporting data or using APIs, the proprietary format and storage ownership belonging to the vendor can limit associations' ability to build upon their data without being locked into a specific vendor. 

Once associations have their data in the right places and in the right formats, they must engage in continuous data hygiene efforts to combat data decay. The deterioration of data quality over time hinders associations' ability to trust the accuracy and reliability of their data. For example, outdated contact information can drive up expenses and decrease the effectiveness of communication efforts. 

Related: What is a Common Data Platform and How Can it Transform Associations?  Learn More >

Introducing the Common Data Platform (CDP) 

A Common Data Platform (CDP) is a solution that resolves many of the challenges associations face in managing and utilizing their data effectively. It provides a centralized repository where associations can integrate and consolidate data from various sources, such as membership databases, collaboration tools, email platforms, and more. The CDP ensures data consistency and accuracy while offering a holistic view of association data. Importantly, a CDP should not provide any line of business functionality like membership or event processing. It is largely a read-only data store. 

MemberJunction is one example of an open-source CDP that allows associations to bring data from a wide range of sources into one consistent and usable format. Unlike licensed SaaS products, MemberJunction is free to use and open-source, giving associations the freedom to build upon a foundation they truly own. Once the data is in a stable location, associations can add analytics, AI capabilities, and workflows on top. Enriching their toolset on top of their data no longer means getting more and more closely tied with one or more proprietary products. 

Related: What is a Common Data Platform and How Can it Transform Associations?  Learn More >

Benefits of a Common Data Platform 

While the transition to a CDP may not be simple or without obstacles, the potential benefits for associations – especially when it comes to meeting member expectations – are huge. 

  • A CDP enables associations to have a comprehensive view of their data. By integrating and consolidating data into one central repository, associations gain a holistic understanding of member behavior, preferences, and needs. This comprehensive view not only facilitates data-driven decision making but also allows associations to identify trends, patterns, and insights that can drive their success. 
  • A CDP enhances data accessibility and usability. By providing a fixed and easily navigable format for data, associations can efficiently access, analyze, and utilize their data. Data tools and AI models can sit on top of the CDP, enabling natural language querying, pattern identification, and various analytic capabilities. This ease of use empowers associations to make data-informed decisions and uncover valuable insights that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. 
  • A CDP promotes data integrity and minimizes the risk of rapid data decay. By managing data in a common repository, associations can establish strong data governance practices and ensure that data remains accurate and up-to-date. When data integrity is maintained, associations can trust in the quality and reliability of their data, leading to more confident decision making. 

Developing a Data-Driven Culture 

Implementing a CDP is just one step towards unlocking the power of association data. Associations must also foster a data-driven culture within their organization. This involves promoting data literacy among staff, educating them on the importance of data and how to access and use it effectively. Encouraging staff to consider data when making decisions can create a culture that embraces the power of data and drives continuous improvement. 

Associations should also invest in data management and analysis tools to support their data-driven efforts. Implementing a CDP is a significant step, but associations should continually review and analyze their data to identify opportunities for growth and improvement. Data-driven decision making should be an ongoing process that evolves alongside the needs of the association and its members. AI applications can aid in this process by assisting in identifying trends, patterns, and predicting outcomes based on historical data. 

Next Steps for Leveraging Your Association's Data 

Association data holds immense potential for driving success and creating meaningful member experiences. By implementing a Common Data Platform, associations can overcome the challenges of data management and unlock the power of their data. A CDP provides a centralized repository, ensuring data accuracy, consistency, and accessibility for informed decision making. 

To learn more about how AI can revolutionize association management and unlock the full potential of your association's data, download our free book "Ascend: Unlocking the Power of AI for Associations." This book delves deeper into the world of AI and provides valuable insights and practical strategies for associations looking to harness the power of AI. Don't miss out on the opportunity to transform your association with AI – download "Ascend" today! 

Dray McFarlane
Post by Dray McFarlane
August 1, 2023
For almost two decades, Dray has worked with associations of all sizes and specialty areas as a project manager, developer, software architect, and business analyst. He loves getting to dive deeply into the goals and challenges of associations and create technology solutions to support people doing good for the world. After working at every level of association support—from start-up management to business growth modeling— he co-found Tasio with Thomas Altman as a way to use the latest in Artificial Intelligence tools and techniques to help associations with things like: • Member Engagement and Retention • Data Analysis and Prediction • Content Management and Creation To learn more about Tasio, visit