MGI Tipster – Volume 10, Issue 9

September 13, 2011   |   Vol. 10   |   Issue 9
Benchmarking study reveals association turnaround



Membership growth, a key indicator of the economic health of the association industry, shows strong signs of a rebound from the severe effects of the multiyear recession, according to the just released 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

Of the 650 association executives who responded to the survey, 57% reported new member acquisition increased from the year before as well as significant improvement from two years ago.

The Benchmarking Report is an annual study of association membership conducted by Marketing General Incorporated that serves as a bellwether for the industry’s fiscal fitness.

Positive indicators overall

The Benchmarking Report found that the major indicators of membership health—total membership, new members acquired, and members renewed—all showed substantial improvement from the 2010 findings.

In fact, just under half of the respondents—49%—said they recorded an increase in members over the previous 12 months, the highest percentage since the inception of the Benchmarking Report in 2009.

Percentage Change in Entire Membership Over Past ONE Year
    2011 2010 2009
  Percentage Increased Overall 49% 36% 45%
  Percentage Unchanged Overall 16% 14% 16%
  Percentage Declined Overall 34% 48% 35%
  Not Sure 2% 3% 5%



57% of association executives surveyed reported that new member acquisition increased over the past year. Renewals were also up from prior years with 32% of respondents saying they had an increase in overall continuation rates.

Cross tabulations reveal impediments to growth

New this year, the Benchmarking Survey uncovered correlations between perceived barriers to growth and actual performance over the past five years. Eight categories of impediments were examined for their effects on association membership performance. Some challenges, such as weak products or service offerings, insufficient budget, and lack of marketing expertise, had significantly more effect on membership outcomes than did others.

Membership Growth Challenges Over the Past Five Years
  Challenge Past Five Years
Membership
Increased
Past Five Years
Membership
Unchanged
Past Five Years
Membership
Decreased
  Insufficient staff    
  Weak product or service offering    
  Insufficient budget    
  Lack of strategy or plan    
  Market saturation    
  Inadequate association management database    
  Lack of marketing expertise    
  Inadequate research    



Measuring the degrees of engagement

Member involvement with association products, services, and activities is known to be a strong motivator for membership renewals and overall association health. It’s generally accepted that the more a member is involved in an organization, the deeper the member’s loyalty and likelihood to remain a member.

The 2011 Benchmarking Survey listed more than a dozen activities common to associations to discover which were most used as engagement devices. More than a dozen categories were included.

Percentage of Members Engaged With Each Type of Activity
      N 0% 1%

5%
6%

10%
11%

15%
16%

20%
21%

30%
31%

40%
41%

50%
Over
50%
Mean
  Attend your annual convention   592 7% 15% 14% 10% 13% 14% 8% 8% 12% 22%
  Attend at least one of your professional development meetings   540 10% 18% 12% 9% 14% 13% 9% 7% 8% 19%
  Acquire or maintain a certification with your organization   480 47% 14% 9% 6% 7% 4% 2% 3% 8% 11%
  Attend at least one of your webinars   519 25% 27% 14% 10% 7% 7% 6% 3% 3% 11%
  Participate in your public social network   539 12% 35% 23% 9% 7% 7% 3% 2% 2% 10%
  Purchase a non-dues product (other than previously checked)   494 29% 25% 16% 10% 5% 5% 4% 1% 4% 10%
  Volunteer with your organization   581 8% 39% 25% 10% 9% 5% 2% 1% 1% 9%
  Purchase a book or directory   505 34% 24% 16% 8% 6% 5% 3% 2% 4% 9%
  Participate in your private social network   511 34% 24% 16% 8% 5% 4% 4% 2% 3% 9%
  Purchase a non-dues service (other than previously checked)   473 36% 27% 13% 8% 5% 3% 2% 2% 4% 9%
  Purchase or maintain insurance through your organization   479 52% 22% 8% 7% 3% 3% 2% 1% 4% 7%
  Upgrade their membership   472 48% 24% 12% 4% 3% 4% 2% 1% 2% 6%
  Participate in your young professional program   447 57% 25% 9% 4% 3% 1% 0% 0% 0% 3%



Raising dues

The Benchmarking Report also analyzed the impact of rising dues rates on membership growth, almost always a sensitive issue as associations balance revenue needs against member price sensitivity.

The 2011 Survey found that 30% of organizations expect to raise member dues in 2011, and 71% of those that raise them will increase dues between 1% and 10%. The majority of associations raise dues as needed and do not have a regular dues increase schedule.



How to find out more

The 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report includes dozens more key findings that can provide insights and new directions for membership marketing programs. If you would like a copy of the report contact its co-author, MGI Senior Vice President Tony Rossell, at tony@marketinggeneral.com, or go to www.marketinggeneral.com/downloads/MGI-2011-Membership-Marketing-Benchmarking-Report.pdf to download a copy.

To express our thanks to those organizations who participated in the 2011 survey, we have just put in the mail a complimentary printed copy of the final report.

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