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3 Reports Offer Insight for Association Planning

Lori Halley 06 January 2014 1 comments

The New Year is all about resolutions and fresh starts. But as I noted in recent post (Lessons Learned in 2013), it’s also important to take stock of what we’ve learned in 2013 to prepare for the year to come. For associations with goals that include increasing membership engagement, improving networking opportunities and building membership, it might be helpful to review some of the research reports published in 2013 that offer insight into the state of associations.

We’ve reported on a number of key association benchmarking and small membership  research during 2013. But we’ve recently had a look at three other reports that might offer associations or other membership organizations some food for thought for 2014 planning. One provides perspective from association members in Australia and New Zealand; another shares benchmarking data on association email trends; while the third report offers an inside look at what some associations are doing in terms of “technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning”.

Associations Matter: 2013 State of the Sector Report

The Associations Matter: 2013 State of the Sector Report by the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) and Survey Matters offers benchmarking based on 7,749 individual members from 23 professional associations in Australia and New Zealand.

As the report’s authors suggest in their Executive Summary, “while there are signs that the traditional model of professional associations is reaching its ‘use by date’, a stable or increasing demand for professional associations is predicted by an overwhelming majority (92%) of members.” While the study participants certainly offered suggestions for improvement, overall, they reported that they “recognize the value of professional associations.”

Some of the report's key findings include:

  • An increasing need for associations: A stable or increasing demand for professional associations is predicted by an overwhelming majority of members.
  • Why join? Members join for access to the latest industry news and information - they want their association to be the leading authoritative source of information about their profession.  How do members want to receive their information? The findings indicate wide differences in preferences.
  • Good for me or Good for us? The Association Value Proposition: While personal ('good for me') benefits like being kept up to date with the latest information and professional development are the most important functions members seek from their association, they also highly value the advocacy services provided. 
  • Member services – is there a better way? 83% of members are satisfied with the performance of their association in keeping them up to date with industry issues and 73% are satisfied that their association effectively provides professional development resources that meet their needs. However, members believe there are improvements that can be made.
  • What’s keeping members up at night? Cost pressures are the #1 issue facing members. Keeping up with information and technology are also presenting challenges. And approximately one third of members identify protection of the industry reputation as a major challenge.
  • How do we recruit new members? Nearly half of all respondents (45%) in this study heard about their professional association at their university, college or other educational institution. ... Word of mouth referrals from friends, colleagues or employers were the next most common ways that members heard about their association.

This research report offers a wealth of benchmarking information for professional associations. If you’d like to read the entire report, you can download it here: http://www.surveymatters.com.au/associations-matter-study

2013 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report

If your association or membership organization uses email as a key communications method, or you are planning to ramp up your email efforts this year, you might want to check out the 2013 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report. The research, conducted by Informz, analyzed the results from over 1 billion emails sent by over 800 large and mid-sized associations (in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom) that used the Informz email marketing platform in 2012. The report looked at data in terms of email delivery, open, click and unsubscribe rates.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • The average email metrics for associations include a 98.15% delivery rate, 32.36% open rate, 21.08% click rate, and a .051% unsubscribe rate.
  • Day of the week again had little affect on open and click rates, but Saturday boasted a high average open rate at 40.19%.
  • For the first time, email’s mobile readership has surpassed desktop readership by 5%.
  • While time of day didn’t report a drastic effect on opens, emails sent in the late afternoon reported the highest click rates at 19%.
  • Shorter subject lines continue to outperform lengthier subject lines. Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters saw the highest open rates at 51%.
  • For the third year, emails containing more links had higher click-thru rates.
  • 53% of emails opened were classified as read (as opposed to skimmed or just opened), meaning recipients spent 10 seconds or longer engaged with the email.

The study’s authors suggest that in looking at the email benchmarks they present, you “keep in mind that while the results from this report should provide a general baseline to compare your current statistics, every audience is different. When looking at your own program, use these benchmarks in combination with your past email marketing campaign results for the most comprehensive analysis.”

You can register to download the entire 2013 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report part 1: Key Metrics (PDF) here: http://learn.informz.com/2013_Benchmark_Report?DocID=24

Am I Sending Too Much Email - Infographic

In addition, if you want to benchmark against your association peers or simply want to know “Am I sending to much email?” – check out their infographic here: http://www.informz.com/blog/am-i-sending-too-much-email/

Association Learning + Technology Report

If your association’s New Year’s resolutions include looking at new learning approaches or technology, you might want to take a look at the Association Learning + Technology report, published by Tagoras and sponsored by Peach New Media. (Hat-tip to Maddie Grant (SocialFish) – who wrote about the report in her recent post.)

What is “technology-enhanced learning”?

The Association Learning + Technology report, written by Jeff Cobb and Celisa Steele, is based on an online survey of 200 associations conducted in October 2013 that looked at the “use technology to deliver learning or to enhance learning”. As they outline in the “About this Report” section, they define “technology-enhanced learning” as any activity in which a user receives primary or supplementary instruction via a computer counts as technology-enabled or technology enhanced learning” (e.g.,: “Webcasts and Webinars, self-paced tutorials, virtual conferences, blended classroom/online education, etc.”).

Who’s using “technology-enhanced learning”?

The report notes that “out of 200 responses to the survey...”:

  • 88.7 ... indicated their organizations currently offer technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning
  • 10.6 percent indicated they plan to start using technology to enable or enhance learning in the coming 12 months
  • 1.7 percent [are] not using technology with learning and with no plans to start in the coming year

The authors also suggest that “while there’s been a somewhat greater tendency for larger associations to be early adopters of technology for learning, there’s significant use of technology to deliver and enhance learning even among smaller organizations. Almost half (48.5 percent) of the organizations that reported using technology for learning have annual budgets of $5 million or less, and 17.6 percent have budgets of $1 million or less.”

What types of “technology-enhanced learning” are being offered by associations?

According to the report...

  • The most popular type of technology-enabled or technology-enhanced learning is the all but ubiquitous Webinar.
  • Over 80 percent of respondents using technology for learning offer recorded (i.e., on-demand) and real-time (i.e., live) Webinars or Webcasts.
  • Self-paced online courses, tutorials, or presentations come in third (offered by 65.5 percent) and are the only other offering of the five types we asked about to garner a majority.
  • Blended learning is last, offered by only 31.4 percent.
  • Only 17.8 percent of associations currently using technology for learning offer a virtual conference— but that’s a bump up from 11.7 percent in 2010.

Why use “technology-enhanced learning”?

The report suggests that a “range of factors—from the economy to technology advances to younger generations entering the workforce—point to growth in the use of technology for learning and to a clear opportunity for technology to transition into a more significant, more strategic part of the mix of education and professional development associations provide to members.”

But the research suggested that “organizations that consider themselves to be very successful are significantly more likely than average to do the following:

  • Report increased net revenue from their education offerings as a result of their use of technology for learning.
  • Have a formal, documented strategy for their use of technology for learning.
  • Have formal, documented product development and pricing processes that cover their technology-enabled and technology enhanced earning.
  • Offer facilitated online courses, gamified learning, virtual conferences, and at least some mobile learning—in general, be more innovative and forward-thinking.
  • Use a learning content management system (LCMS).
  • Offer a formal credential (e.g., a certification or license), whether or not the credential is their own.

If your organization is just getting started in looking at “emerging types of learning”, the report offers a “primer” along with data on your association peers in terms of who’s using what. The full report – Association Learning + Technology 2014 is available for free download.

We hope these three reports help with your 2014 planning.

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 06 January 2014 at 8:30 AM


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