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The State of Association Membership Marketing

Lori Halley 05 August 2014 0 comments

How have associations fared over the last year? Well according to both our Small Membership Survey Report and Membership General Incorporated’s recently released 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, more than 50% of membership organizations saw growth in 2014. At the same time, both reports also identified a lack of member engagement as a critical factor impacting the majority of associations. And in addition, communicating member value remains one of the biggest challenges to growing membership.

This year, the sixth annual edition of the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report “explores the membership marketing initiatives and outcomes of 865 participating associations”, the majority of which have between 1,000 to 5,000 members. It offers a wealth of information and insight, as well as year-over-year comparisons of "the strategies and tactics that membership organizations use to recruit new members, retain current members, and reinstate lapsed members." 

Highlights from 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report Findings:

Here are some of the key findings from the MGI report:

  • Association’s top membership goals:

    1. Increasing member engagement
    2. Increasing member retention
    3. Increasing member acquisition
  • Top challenges to growing membership:
    • Difficulty in communicating value or benefits – was the #1 challenge for Individual Member, Trade and Combination associations
    • Difficulty attracting and/or maintaining younger members was the #2 challenge for Individual Member Associations
  • Association Growth: The report notes: “looking at long-term growth, we find that 54% of associations show an increase in membership over the past five years. Approximately 10% report no change, and another 33% report a decline in membership.”
  • Understanding the engagement – renewal equation: Compared to associations who saw no change or a decrease in membership in the past year, associations reporting growth are also significantly more likely to say they are seeing increases in:
    • Attendance at annual conference/trade show (55% vs. 45% and 34%)
    • Attendance at professional development meetings (52% vs. 38% and 33%)
    • Attendance of webinars (70% vs. 45 and 54%)
    • Volunteerism (37% vs. 30% and 17%)
    • Number of members who acquire or maintain certification (59% vs. 42% and 36%)
    • Purchase of non-dues products (45% vs. 24% and 25%)
    • Purchase of non-dues services (46% vs. 28% and 17%)
    • Number of visits to members-only section of website (61% vs. 48% and 36%)
  • Why members join: “networking with others in the field and access to specialized and/or current information are the top reasons members join associations, as indicated by surveyed executives.”

  • Renewal rates: “the mean renewal rate for individual membership associations is 76%, and for trade/organizational membership associations it is 85%.”

  • Why aren’t members renewing? Budget cuts and economic hardship are no longer the the number one reason for not renewing, “member’s lack of engagement with the organization is the number one reason for not renewing.”

"Words of Wisdom"

As I did with our own survey, I find the verbatim responses to open-ended questions in the MGI report's “Words of Wisdom” section very insightful. Here are a few excerpts:

With regard to your association, what keeps you up at night?

  • The frustration with our poor member database and the ensuing lack of market analysis/strategy. Juggling lots of programs and activities on low resources. Lack of sound business-based strategic planning/analysis/ review, from board level downwards.

  • Attracting and retaining new and young professionals into the organization.

If there was one hurdle you could remove to make your association run smoother, what would it be?

  • A database that was built with membership needs in mind, which is one manifestation of silos in our association. Major decisions are made without having membership at the table.

  • Better communication plan to keep people engaged. We have so many great ideas; we just can’t ever seem to make them happen in a timely and efficient manner.

  • Fully integrated website.

Want to read the full 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report?

As always, the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report offers insight into member engagement, budgets, dues, social sharing, most effective marketing channels for acquiring and onboarding members and much more. As noted on the MGI blog, “this report ... goes beyond cataloging the practices of responding associations; the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report also takes these practices and cross-tabulates them with the membership outcomes that associations are experiencing.”

If you’d like to read the entire 68-page report, you can download it here: 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

Want insight into Small Membership Organizations?

In addition, if you’d like insight into small membership organizations, you can download our 2014 Small Membership Survey Report here.

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

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 05 August 2014 at 8:30 AM
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