And then, there’s my Public Relations Society of America membership, which provides professional development, networking opportunities and member-only must-haves for public relations junkies like me.
Simply put: Membership has its perks.
So that must be why associations are experiencing a steady increase in memberships.
An unprecedented 865 associations responded to the survey, reporting on things such as membership recruitment and renewal, social media usage and marketing budgets.
“The purpose of this study continues to be the development of meaningful benchmarks by which the leadership of individual membership and trade associations can evaluate their own membership marketing strategies and tactics,” MGI wrote.
Associations representing nonprofit companies, health care and professional services experienced the largest membership growth. As for membership recruitment tools, email and world-of-mouth continue to be the most effective, but this year’s results revealed that direct mail is quickly gaining steam.
But membership renewals seem to present separate challenges. Membership may be growing, but data seem to suggest new members – not renewals – account for that.
For a while, association members blamed shrinking budgets and a poor economy for not renewing memberships. Now, the economy is slowly on an uptick, so association leaders believe lack of engagement with members is the reason for stagnant or decreasing membership renewals. Second: If membership ROI isn’t evident, it’s on the chopping block.
In the study, the majority of associations reported a two- to three-month grace period for membership benefits once memberships expire.
Other interesting takeaways:
- Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most popular social media platforms (in that order), with Twitter experiencing the biggest boom in usage. Most associations reported their communications staff manages social media accounts.
- On average, associations send their members about four emails per week.
- A slight decrease from last year, 56 percent of associations said they increase dues as needed, with 27 percent planning to increase dues this year.
- Branding and marketing are becoming more important, as 32 percent of associations have increased budget line items for such expenses.
- Associations with membership growth also saw increases in attendance for tradeshow/conferences and professional development offerings; volunteerism; non-dues revenue; and certifications.
- Associations with a renewal rate of less than 80 percent are less likely to experience a decline in membership.
- Most association leaders believe networking is the top reason for joining an association.
- To improve member engagement, 65 percent of associations have made changes to their websites.
- About half of associations offer a student membership.
At the end of the report is a Words of Wisdom section, in which survey respondents shared their thoughts and ideas on issues, challenges and lessons they’ve learned as association professionals.
For example, one of the associations indicated it has expanded mentoring programs by 600 percent and has introduced a Visa Reward Card whereby members who have not attended an event in the past year receive cash rewards for doing so. As a result, event attendance is up 38 percent, while non-member event attendance is up 11 percent.
“Don’t just join an association; take full advantage of what we have to offer,” another association leader wrote. “When you come to us for help or resources and can’t find what you’re looking for, let us know so that we can keep improving. We want to be a true partner in your professional success, but we struggle with knowing what it is you need.”
So, where does your association fit into the membership equation? Has it experienced membership growth?
Take a look at the MGI report and see where your association stacks up.