AI: Association Intelligence

“AI is not only artificial intelligence, [but] it can also be association intelligence,” said Christian Britto of, a US-based company that uses artificial intelligence to increase member engagement in associations.

So what is artificial intelligence?

“Think of AI as intelligent computer programs that try to mimic human intelligence. These programs analyze data, discover patterns, make decisions, and handle tasks as humans would but they do it more quickly and accurately,” said Britto. He added: “The most common type of AI is applied [or narrow], which is designed for a specific task, e.g., recognizing facial images, operating a vehicle, or trading stocks. Actually, we already experience AI in our daily lives—Facebook tags, Google search, a book recommendation from Amazon, or a film suggestion from Netflix.”

How does AI relate to associations? One of the “pain points” of associations is member engagement (see my column on October 11, 2017, “Association Pain Points”). Too often, Britto said, “Engagement means one thing to an association and a number of different things to its members. How do you realistically engage members with all their different needs and interests, and different ideas about how they want to be engaged?”

“Until now, an association’s ability to engage with a member has been limited. One-to-one communication has been impossible. Traditional engagement efforts center on activities like conferences or volunteering, which happen infrequently or require a high commitment of time and/or money on the member’s part,” he added.

“Online communities are seen as a way to engage more members on a more frequent basis, but they have limitations, too. If members participate at all, they’re usually ‘lurkers’. Only a tiny fraction is active community members, maybe 3 [percent] to 5 percent on a good day.”

So what do you do? How do you give members an association experience that’s personally appealing and relevant, and an experience they can’t get elsewhere?

Britto suggested: “Help them develop an association habit. Get them hooked on you. Become indispensable. Habits aren’t easy to develop, but once they become part of a person’s lifestyle, they’re transformative. An association habit is most likely to take hold through frequent episodes of engagement—engagement on your members’ terms. Find a way to become a small part of their lives every day. Regularly provide membership value in a way that doesn’t require a high commitment of time or money.”

This is where AI comes in. AI taps into the untapped potential of your association’s data—the data in your member relations system, as well as e-mail marketing and marketing automation platforms. For example, AI can use data to discover correlations and patterns and then predict what a member would want to read every morning. It can look at a member’s past behavior and social graph to recommend webinars or conference sessions they’d want to attend. It can suggest publications or online learning programs to purchase. It can identify members who’d want to connect with each other for a mentoring program, peer discussion group, or mastermind group.

AI isn’t a technology of the future, it’s here now, and within your association’s reach!


The column contributor, Octavio Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific, and CEO and founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE is holding its Sixth Associations Summit on November 23 and 24, at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center. The event is hosted by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and supported by the Tourism Promotions Board. PCAAE enjoys the support of ADFIAP, TPB, and the Philippine International Convention Center. E-mail [email protected].


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