2014 Benchmarking Report confirms associations gained strength
The majority of membership organizations that were hit hard by the 2009 global economic meltdown have continued their slow but steady recovery into the first quarter of this year. More than half of those surveyed in early 2014 report increased total member counts and nearly 60 percent report new member growth over the past year.
The continued steady recovery of association membership headlines the findings in the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, the fifth annual survey of leading association indicators conducted by Marketing General Incorporated.
This year’s benchmarking survey found that 58 percent of the associations sampled report new member growth, which is a significant improvement from the 42 percent reporting new member growth at the depth of the recession in 2010.
This year, just 13 percent of the associations surveyed saw their new membership numbers decline compared to 26 percent in 2010.
More than half—53 percent—of the associations surveyed say their total membership grew in the past year while far fewer—27 percent—report declines. When the association sector bottomed out in 2010, just 36 percent were adding new members while 48 percent were losing them.
Why the numbers are important
Most membership organizations use three key indicators to measure trends in their overall health: total membership, new members acquired, and members renewed. These data help gauge performance compared to the industry as a whole, as well as identify areas of strength and weakness in their membership marketing efforts.
This year, 865 membership organizations completed the survey, the leading study of its kind to examine the practices associations commonly use to recruit new members, retain current ones, and reinstate those who have lapsed.
If there is a weakness in association health revealed by the survey, it lies in renewals. Just 31 percent of the associations polled report improved renewal rates in 2014. That is slightly higher than the 27 percent of associations that report a decline.
Given that associations are showing growth and that the renewal rates are flat, it may be surmised that the growth in membership is coming from member acquisition programs.
As the economy recovered, renewal declines were half that—24 percent in 2011 and 22 percent 2012. This year’s 2014 survey finds that associations with declining renewals increased to 27 percent.
Renewal rates are declining
As evidenced by the following table, overall renewal rates appear to be weakening.
* 2014 and 2013 versions of the study allowed for an open-ended response and not a choice of categories.
** “Not sure” was not included as an option.
Mean renewal rates for Individual Member, Trade and Combination organizations are calculated to be 76 percent, 85 percent and 80 percent.
Impediments to association growth
Asked in this year’s survey about obstacles to membership growth, respondents from all three types of member organizations selected “Difficulty in communicating value or benefits” as the number one challenge in growing membership.
Most important goals
When respondents were asked their association’s most important membership goals, 67 per cent indicated “Increasing member engagement,” 64 percent “Increasing membership retention,” and 60% “Increasing membership acquisition.”
Want to learn more?
MGI makes the annual benchmarking report freely available in print and online for the benefit of the greater association community. To download a copy, visit the web at www.MarketingGeneral.com.
MGI is able to customize the benchmarking report for your individual association with most information available in considerable and actionable detail. Contact MGI President Rick Whelan at 703.706.0350 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.