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Singing for Our Suppers

Membership. It matters, right? Lobbying, professional development, networking, discount programs...the list of association services is endless! But no matter what else we do in associations, the work always comes back to membership - understanding the membership, growing membership, serving the membership.  


It was the concern most often identified by CEOs in our member survey. Given this environment of radical change, massive shifts in the industry, and changing member demographics, it only makes sense that CEOs give careful consideration to ensuring their associations remain relevant. So what is the state of membership? How are associations faring? 


Marketing General's Membership Marketing Benchmark Report is an excellent resource. [Don't worry - this isn't a sales pitch!] The most recent report provides both inspiration and motivation for concerned association executives as well as membership practitioners.   


The good news is that of the 823 associations MG surveyed, 45% increased membership, and 28% held their ground. The not-so-good news is that over the last decade, the percentage of associations reporting membership growth declined from 52% in 2012 to 45% today. 


MG's findings indicate that the following 'tunes' correlated with growing memberships: 

  •  - 81% of associations with membership increases in the past year, and the last five years, describe their organization's culture as one that supports innovation. 
  •  - Associations reporting membership increases in the past year, and last five years, are significantly more likely to describe their value proposition as very compelling or compelling. 
  •  - Associations that moved to a combined membership model (individual and organizational) reported the highest median growth in membership over five years. 

There it is - relevance is always within our reach but can't necessarily be delegated. CEOs or not, we do have to sing for our supper. Being intentional about cultivating a culture of innovation, building a compelling value proposition, and designing a responsive membership model can go a long way to ensuring our associations remain vibrant.   

If you found this information helpful and you'd like to read the whole report, you can find it on Marketing General's website.  (It's worth the read!) If you're like me and you just can't resist a good infographic, this one won't disappoint. 


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