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Membership Trends Survey Results

Lori Halley 30 January 2012 2 comments

Back in December we posted an online survey asking our readers to identify and rank the top trends for membership organizations in 2012.Thanks to all of those who took the time to participate in the survey!

While it was a very brief (3 question) non-scientific survey, it offers some insight into membership trends for the coming year. 

Survey Results:

Top 3 Priorities for Membership Organizations in 2012:

I don't think you'll be surprised by the #1 and #2 top priorities, but the third spot wasn't as clear - with two different priorities in a tie and another item on the priority list also ranking very high:

  1. Increasing membership or supporters
  2. Improving member or supporter engagement
  3. Enhancing technological capabilities / Raising awareness or profile

"Finding new sources of revenue" also ranked very high as a priority.

In addition, the following were also noted as key priorities this year:

  • Promoting/providing value to members
  • Streamlining governance

Top 3 Challenges Facing Membership Organizations in 2012:

The top ranking challenges – understandably – mirror the top three priorities noted above:

  1. Growing membership/donor base
  2. Finding ways of increasing member/supporter engagement
  3. Retaining members or supporters

One additional "key challenge" added by a respondent was:

  • Shedding entrenched but non-productive programs and services

The Top 3 Most Exciting Trends for 2012:

It was interesting to see that the top two “most exciting trends” for the membership organizations who responded to the survey involved innovation around programs and services and new technology. And there was a tie in terms of the third trend:

  1. Innovation – new programs & services
  2. Taking advantage of new technologies
  3. Increased member or supporter interaction via social media / Growth – expanded membership/supporters

 An additional exciting trend suggested by a survey respondent was:

  • Service delivery expectations from younger, tech-savvy members

State of Membership for 2012:

When we asked respondents to “have their say” and offer a “general comment on the state of membership for 2012” here is what we heard:

  • I see positive trends after some plateaus in our recent economic downtime
  • Don’t focus on trivia such as social media. Focus on the changing expectations and priorities of the new member.  Social media is only a small part of an increased interactive communications program, a streamlined and efficient governance and a performance demand on organizations.
  • The trend is away from traditional models (of governance, volunteer, membership and chapter/component structure) so I hope we can predict that 2012 will generate some worthy alternatives.

What are the key takeaways?

For most of us, the survey merely confirmed both the top priorities and challenges for membership organizations: increasing membership/support, growing engagement and raising awareness. But I think it is the #3 Priority (also echoed as the #2 most exciting trend) – enhancing technological capabilities – that is most illuminating. In order to increase membership, improve engagement and retain members or supporters, organizations are recognizing the need to find innovative ways of reaching, serving, representing their members and leading their sector. At the same time, or perhaps in concert, they need to embrace or take advantage of new technologies.

Even though we all accept that 2012 will continue to be an economically challenging year, it shouldn’t keep membership organizations from finding innovative solutions to help them thrive and grow. And as we noted in our Membership Dream post, finding innovative approaches and embracing new technologies doesn’t have to cost a lot, but both can stimulate exciting new trends for membership organizations.

In a recent Huffington Post piece – Looking Ahead: How We Can Make 2012 the Year of the Nonprofit,  Earl Martin Phalen suggests some ideas for making “this year different than the last few.” And his first suggestion is to “launch innovative projects” to engage and excite donors (or members). Phalen suggests that to make this year different, we “can’t rely on the standard approaches” but need to “think outside of the box,” citing an example of an idea that was the “brainchild of a 13-year-old Boston boy” which has been successful in moving and inspiring many and raising the organization’s profile.

What do you think?  Are these the top priorities, challenges and trends you are seeing at your membership organization for the coming year?  Let us know in the comments below.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 30 January 2012 at 9:30 AM


  • Graham Zeisner said:

    Monday, 06 February 2012 at 2:07 PM
    Thank you for this information. Well done. Always difficult to get sufficient survey responses to draw
    concrete conclusions but you did.
  • Lori said:

    Monday, 06 February 2012 at 2:41 PM
    Graham: Glad you liked the post. The survey was brief, but it was good to "take the pulse" of membership organizations to get their take on what they think is in store for 2012.
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