2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

June 22, 2016   |   Vol. 15   |   Issue 6
By Adina Wasserman, MGI Research Director

2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

For the eighth consecutive year, we have surveyed association executives in an effort to provide benchmarks by which association leadership can evaluate their own membership. Click here to view previous years’ reports. This year, 828 associations participated in our survey.

To maintain relevancy, we change some of the questions each year to provide insight into areas that are of interest to participants. Many of the questions remain the same so that we can track changes over time.

This year, about half of associations saw increases in their membership (49%), an increase from the previous year especially for individual member and combination associations (associations that have both individual and company/group memberships). Furthermore, fewer associations report declines in membership compared to last year. New member acquisition has grown by almost 10% since 2015, and 71% of associations report renewals have increased by up to 5%.


The top membership driver continues to be the ability to network with others in their respective field. Members are also joining to learn and share best practices and for continuing education available through associations. For combination associations, trade shows and conferences are also a strong membership driver.

There are different challenges that association executives face when trying to grow their membership—challenges from within the organization as well as challenges from outside the organization. The top internal challenges seem to be a difficulty in communicating value and insufficient staff. Externally, association leadership indicate that the competitive landscape, whether it’s other associations or private companies providing resources, has become the greatest challenge to member growth. Additionally, the economy or cost of the membership remains a barrier.

A lack of engagement with the association is believed to be the number one reason for membership lapse (33%). Three-quarters of associations do report increases in participation in their public social network (76%), and almost two-thirds indicate a rise in participation in a young professional program and a private social network (63% each).

  1. Given the success and increased interest in the ability to share best practices among association executives, we have increased the number of open-ended responses from nine to eleven. We include some of the over 4,000 responses in the full report.
  2. In your professional opinion, how do you think associations will change or evolve to maintain their relevance over the next decade?
  3. In your own words, what are the most important or successful lessons you have learned in the area of membership marketing?
  4. If there was one hurdle you could remove to make your association run smoother, what would it be?
  5. With regard to your association, what keeps you up at night?
  6. If you could freely say anything to your members, what would you say?
  7. What are your organization’s marketing strengths?
  8. What are your organization’s marketing weaknesses?
  9. Describe how you have used social media for your association in a very successful manner.
  10. Describe an engagement or retention strategy that your association has employed that has been very successful, and/or from which you learned something valuable.
  11. How do you measure the effectiveness of your engagement strategy?
  12. Describe an acquisition or recruitment strategy that your association has employed that has been very successful, and/or from which you learned something valuable.

The 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report will be available in print and online in July, but for those of you who want information sooner than that, we have prepared an executive summary of the report. Please feel free to request a copy by emailing Rick Whelan at rick@marketinggeneral.com or by contacting your MGI representative. We presented some of the findings from this year’s data in a webinar hosted by Erik Schonher, MBA, and Adina Wasserman, PhD. If you are interested in accessing a recording of this webinar, please click here.

You’ll have to read the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report to see how associations answered these questions and how your association compares.

If you have questions concerning the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, would like to request a special report that compares your association directly to other similar associations, or would like to learn more about Marketing General Incorporated and its research capabilities, please contact Adina Wasserman, Research Director, at 703.706.0373 or by email at AWasserman@MarketingGeneral.com.

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