CEO of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres (MECSC) and a member of Boardroom Advisory Board, David Macadam has been instrumental in making his organisation grow, taking advantage of a booming economy and resources to be found in the MENA region. In our third instalment with the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), he recalls how far the MECSC has come from and where it’s heading.
It’s not secret; we hear it day in, day out. Associations need more members, and, additionally, they need to retain them for longer.Most of the time, you get new members through your association with industry groups and conferences that you run within your industry. But there are many more strategies to increase member acquisition, and some associations are finding ways to both recruit broadly and target narrowly, resulting in high-value returns.
Taking over the leadership of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres (MECSC) in mid-2013, the organisation was in disarray. Financially as an association we were losing money and the member morale was at an all-time low. A common refrain from our low membership base was the question, what is your value proposition? Why should I become a member of the MECSC? Being based in Dubai, branded as a ‘shopping paradise’ the world over, surely helped, but it was not good enough.
At that time the value proposition for becoming a member of the MECSC was not clearly defined. Reasons to become a member of the MECSC were few. Leading the organisation from this unsatisfactory low point was the challenge which I had signed up for. Developing a growth strategy for your association takes time. Hours can be spent on debating the best methods to use to reach prospective members, and days of content creation and campaign management. But what tactics are effective? Member retention? Member acquisition? A balanced, comprehensive growth strategy will include a mix of both.
At the same time, it is impossible to develop successful, sustainable long-term strategy without understanding the future in which your members will live and work. Whether through strategic planning or value proposition design, research confirms that associations must develop strategy based on the anticipated future of their industry or profession if they want to be successful. And this is precisely what we understood at MECSC. As we created partnerships and coalitions, as well as additional products and services, we became successful.
The MENA region is a good arena for the growth of nonprofit organisations because few currently exist in the region. Retail professionals from every corner of the region are looking to become more effective in business. Information sharing, education programs, conferencing, networking events are all important aspects of international associations. Not for profit associations in the region fulfill that promise. With a younger demographic population in the MENA region of nearly 400 million, the opportunity for growth is boundless.
Additionally, Dubai is a natural fit for hosting international associations, as it provides a platform that allows individuals and organisations alike to network, as well as tap into potential sectors that aim to serve the overall industry progression and contribute to the UAE’s economic development. In this context, Dubai Association Centre (DAC), since its establishment in 2016, has evolved to become a gateway for international associations that are looking to take advantage of a rapidly transforming city. As far as we are concerned, DAC has been very helpful to the MECSC team. The knowledgeable and talented people in the DAC provide thoughtful support and provide resources which enable growth of international associations, who stand to benefit from the innumerable opportunities the city has to offer, as well as from the growth mindset that Dubai embodies.
The full version of this article is available in the September issue of Boardroom available here.