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A new study by CliftonLarsonAllen and the Association Forum of Chicagoland confirms the significant economic impact of associations and member organizations.

Study Spotlights the Economic Power of Associations

  • 11/27/2012

Study Spotlights the Economic Power of Associations

Associations and membership organizations are groups of like-minded individuals or businesses that band together to promote common interests or a charitable mission. A new study by CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) and the Association Forum of Chicagoland (AFC), confirms the long-held belief that associations are also an economic powerhouse that continues to grow and change with the times.

The study shows that associations pump billions of dollars into local economies, connect members and business partners, provide education to advance hundreds of industries and individual careers, and dramatically impact their communities.

A microcosm of the nation and the world

The growth and impact of associations is exemplified by thousands of nonprofit and for-profit groups headquartered in the Chicago area. They are a dynamic microcosm of associations across the country and around the world. There are more than 1,600 nonprofit associations in the Chicagoland region, in addition to hundreds of governmental and for-profit organizations. They spend money connecting members with business partners, the community, educational opportunities, and the government.

Early in 2012, CLA and AFC launched a project to discover how associations in AFC’s region impact the regional economy. The results affirmed many of AFC’s assumptions and exceeded others.

For example, we learned that Chicagoland associations spend more than $10.3 billion annually, provide more jobs than Chicago Public Schools or the City of Chicago, and have nearly twice the number of employees as Cook County. These jobs pay an average salary of more than $65,000, with 84 percent of associations planning to give raises in the next two years.

The power of associations

CLA gathered information from the Form 990 and other public records, and conducted surveys with AFC members and nonmembers. The resulting data revealed some surprising insight on the economic impact of associations and member organizations.

  • Chicagoland associations have more than 27 million individual members and 250,000 corporate members.
  • Each year, more than 16 million association members attend conferences, conventions, or annual meetings.
  • Associations connect area businesses with tremendous revenue opportunities; 5.5 million people come to Chicago each year for events hosted by Chicagoland associations. These associations directly spend more than $900 million hosting the events, and attendees spend an additional $7.1 million on hotels, transportation, and entertainment in the area.
  • Chicagoland-based associations strengthen business partnerships, annually spending $40 million on accounting services, $55 million on insurance, and $80 million on legal services.
  • Associations spend nearly $710 million annually on education programming for members.
  • Chicagoland associations are shaping the future of collaboration and nontraditional business partnerships. For example, 15 percent of associations now handle IT collaboratively and more than 52 percent outsource IT in some capacity.
  • Associations in Chicagoland provide members with meaningful ways to impact the community. In 2010, staff and members contributed more than 945 million hours of community service, and $125 million in charitable giving.

Although Chicagoland is known for being the home to some of the largest associations in the world, the impact of associations is not confined to that city. The numbers will change, but any city that is home to active associations will likely have a meaningful impact on the community.

How we can help

CliftonLarsonAllen serves more than 1,000 associations and a total of 6,000 nonprofits across the country. This experience gives our professionals unique insight into the needs and concerns of these important organizations. Contact us for assurance, tax, and advisory services.

Download the complete report, The Power of Associations: An Economic Impact Study of Chicagoland Associations.

Kelsey Luers, Nonprofit Consultant or 612-376-4657