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Small Membership Organizations - Funding and Futures

We’re continuing to analyze the wealth of data we’ve gathered through our Small Membership Insight Survey. And while we’re developing a clearer picture of what these organizations look like and how “size matters,” we've also gained insight into what these folks want to know about other small organizations.

In looking through the responses to the open-ended survey question on what respondents would like to ask their peers, issues around administration, budgets and finance were among the top three categories of interest to small membership volunteers and staff. So we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the findings relating to budgets, funding, and financial issues, to offer a snapshot of the financial status of and future outlook for small membership organizations.

You can check out the survey highlights on budgets and funding in the infographic we created (click to enlarge), but here is a closer look at some of the insight we’ve gathered through our survey findings.

What do we mean by small - in terms of budgets? 

What do we mean when we say “small membership organization?” As you can see by the figures and diagram below, 61.5% of organizations represented in our survey have budgets under $50,000. 

The top three budget groupings were:

  • $2,000-10,000 – 21%
  • $10,000-50,000 – 34.5%
  • $50,000-100,000 – 20%.  

Sources of income 

We wanted to find out not only the types of income sources available to small membership organizations, but also determine which were critical to their survival and success.

Here is a summary of the sources of income that were reported as being “critical” sources of income reported in the survey*:

  • Membership fees – it was not surprising that membership fees were considered a “critical source” of income for 63.5% of respondents
  • Events – 34% of respondents also noted this as a key income source
  • Fundraising – 21.8%
  • Sponsorship / Advertising – 17.5% 

(* Please note that respondents could indicate multiple “critical sources of income.”) 

Other sources of income:

While the data we gathered on sources of income through the survey questions is insightful, we thought we’d share some of the suggestions offered by respondents for alternative sources of income since these might also prove inspirational for small organizations looking for innovative funding solutions.

Here are some of the “other” sources that survey participants noted:

  • Meeting and conference room rentals and short term office rentals
  • Late fees, membership transfer fees
  • Data products - data, reports, analysis
  • Fees for listing job openings on web site
  • Training course fees
  • Trade show fees
  • Fees for presentations
  • Enhanced member listing
  • Grants (non government; foundation; etc.) and individual major gifts
  • Donations (private; corporate; member donations' (not charitable); in-kind, etc.)
  • Sales of promotions (e.g., lapel pins, patches, etc.)

Membership growth patterns

Since membership fees are a “critical” source of income, we wanted to find out what the growth patterns were for small membership organizations in 2012. When we asked about membership growth over the last year, the results were heartening - here are the highlights:

  • 42% of respondents reported that membership levels had stayed the same
  • 36% reported an increase of 10-50%
  • 12% reported a decrease of 10-50%

What’s the cost of basic membership fees?

We also wanted to find out the range of membership fees at small organizations. Our findings indicate that well over half of the survey participants reported that their membership fees were less than $100.00.

Here are the top three fee categories reported:

  • 11.3% reported membership fees were under $20.00
  • 54.6% reported their membership fees were $21 - $99.00
  • 18.5% reported membership fees were $100 - $199.00

Want more small membership insight?

These are just a few highlights of the insight we’re uncovering about small membership organizations.  You can check out previous blog posts that offer additional highlights:

Full survey report available soon

We’ll be releasing our full survey report later this month. If you want to receive it and haven't requested it yet, you can register here:

Small Membership Insight Survey Report registration.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Wednesday, 23 January 2013 at 8:30 AM


  • Darcy Neal DonnellyDarcy Neal Donnelly

    Darcy Neal Donnelly said:

    Thank you very much for compiling and producing this report. It is extremely informative for me and I appreciate this work very much. I'm not a Wild Apricot client yet as I am just researching my options. Right now, I'm in the very early stages of planning the creation of a new membership association. This tool will simplify my life.
    Wednesday, 23 January 2013 at 12:37 PM
  • LoriLori

    Lori said:

    Glad you found it informative. Be sure to check out additional survey highlights in the "Does Size Matter" (http://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/2013/01/17/does-size-matter)and "What do you want to know from your membership peers" http://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/2013/01/10/what-do-you-want-to-know-from-your-membership-peers
    Wednesday, 23 January 2013 at 2:18 PM
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