Aug 19

Membership Growth and Engagement: How Does Your Association Compare?

Ever wondered how your membership association performs on key metrics compared to other associations?

US-based membership marketers, Marketing General Incorporated, conduct annual, free research for membership associations and 2017 marks the ninth year of this research.  While most participating associations are American, it makes interesting reading for anyone trying to achieve membership growth. Better still, the report is freely available from their website.  Download MGI’s 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

This edition highlights growth and resilience for membership associations, while identifying the challenges associations faced in the last year. A total of 1,005 unique associations participated in the 2017 research, from a combination of individual member associations, trade associations, and associations combining characteristics of both.  Usefully, the findings are broken down by these association types.

Here are some of the key findings from a membership growth and membership engagement perspective:

Membership Growth:

  • Membership Growth: 46% of associations reported positive growth in membership, while 25% reported a decline in membership year on year.  The remainder stayed the same.  Of those associations that showed increases in overall membership, one-quarter reported increases of 6% to 10%, while 19% reported increases in membership over the past year of more than 10%.  Importantly,  50% of associations report that their membership over the past five years has increased – challenging the view that membership associations are becoming a thing of the past.
  • Membership acquisition challenges: The most common challenges for membership acquisition for individual member associations was the cost of membership and competing associations or sources of information. Combination associations were struggling to overcome declining member/employer budgets, while trade associations, were challenged by industry consolidation and shrinkage.
  • Membership Renewal:  80% was the average membership renewal rate.  This rose to 89% for trade associations, but dropped to 80% for membership associations with individual membership.
  • Why members join:  “Networking with others in their field” is the number one reason that associations believe members join, followed by “continuing education” and “access to current information.”

Membership Engagement:

  • Membership Profile: For associations with individual members, Baby Boomers make up 39% of all members, followed by Generation X (29%), Millennials (17%) and those born before 1945 at 11%.  Not surprisingly, Generation Z comprises just 4% of membership.
  • What drives member engagement:  The results show that associations increasing membership engagement are doing this through introducing change and innovation in their offerings – and not relying on the services of the past. For individual membership associations, activities like participation in the public or private social networks of the association, webinars, increasing professional credentials by acquiring or maintaining a certification, or participation in a young professional are achieving the highest levels of engagement. Traditional offerings offerings like volunteerism, the purchase or maintenance of insurance, or book or directory purchases or staying the same or declining in terms of engagement.

Triggering powerful conversations about performance

While all of the data in the report is fascinating, the real power of this report lies in its ability to trigger reflection, conversation and debate at your association about your performance on these key membership indicators, and what you need to do in order to drive increased membership growth or arrest membership decline and achieve better membership engagement.

If you need help to develop and implement effective membership acquisition, renewal and engagement strategies for your association, just give us a call.  We’d love to put our experience to work for your association.