Association Education: Top Insights from Cadmium’s Educational Panel with NXUnite

Association education

One of the most impactful ways associations bring value to their membership bases is through educational offerings. On NXUnite’s “Let's Learn: Creating Educational Programs for Association Members'' panel, Cadmium Director of Education and Engagement Cristyn Johnson was joined by Saravana Sivanandham of Absorb LMS and KiKi L’Italien, Association Chat creator, to discuss association education. 

During this educational discussion, the panelists dove into the ongoing value of association learning programs and resources. From sharing industry updates to providing a community for connection, associations play an essential role in professional development. 

Here are three major questions addressed by the panelists:

  1. Why are education programs important?
  2. What value do association education programs bring to members? 
  3. How can associations best meet member needs? 

Why are education programs important?

The panelists began by discussing the importance of education programs. Cadmium’s Cristyn Johnson noted that the pandemic saw a shift in the association space. As associations and members reflected on their needs, they found that a transition in program delivery method was necessary to address the move to a virtual and hybrid association landscape. 

Even as delivery methods change, however, members continued to prioritize the same programs. Association members remained most interested in education.

Cristyn offered an anecdote from her experience working with associations.. At her organization, educational programs were offered at no cost as a membership benefit. People would forget to renew their membership each year, but when they saw a webinar or training program they were interested in, they would renew membership instead of paying the non-member education fee.

Education is the most tangible benefit for association members. It is useful for daily work and allows members to develop skills applicable to other sectors. Cristyn noted that the return on investment for education may not be a calculable dollar amount, but a qualitative measure of the value it brings to members’ lives.  

What value do association education programs bring to members? 

KiKi L’Italien of Association Chat expanded upon Cristyn’s insights, detailing reasons association members find educational programs so valuable. Noting the recent news coverage of the expense of higher education, KiKi stated that associations make valuable educational resources more accessible. 

Reflecting on her own experience at the American Society of Association Executives conference, KiKi shared her decision to pursue a Certified Association Executive certification instead of a master’s degree. She found that this was the most straightforward way to show her commitment to foundational knowledge in the association industry. 

Credentials offered by associations are an effective way to signal field expertise and dedication without the cost of higher education. They also help members develop skills that will grow their knowledge base, advance their careers, and remain relevant as industries change over time. 

How can associations best meet member needs? 

Throughout the panel, the speakers emphasized the importance of collecting feedback from association members and volunteers. To ensure that member needs are being met, it is important to regularly assess programs and ask members about their experiences. Cristyn observed that tactics that were effective five years ago may no longer work today, highlighting the need for regular member input.

To strategically ask for member feedback, Cristyn suggested building a strong community base for members to interact. Consistent engagement is key: having an association staff member post a question every few months won’t cultivate the desired community. This space should have organic engagement and interactions between members themselves.

As members interact, associations can assess what programs people are engaging with. Does your organization need an association podcast, or should you focus on social media? Cristyn stressed that looking at member data to identify effective content and sharing that content consistently is the most effective way to keep members engaged.


Association education programs remain relevant to membership bases, especially when associations assess and meet member needs. Members find value in the knowledge and credentialing education provides, furthering their professional and personal development.