What are the Barriers to Membership Growth?

By Tony Rossell, Senior Vice President

The good news from the 2023 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report is that many associations experienced a remarkable rebound in membership counts. A multi-year high of 49% of associations say they saw an increase in their membership numbers. However, for some growing their membership remains a challenge. A total of 22% of respondents shared that their membership has declined.

So, in addition to reporting the characteristics and practices of growing associations this year, we also asked in our research what impediments hold back growth. In their own words, with some minor edits, here are what association executives told us holds membership back.

“Not focusing on membership growth. Products get a lot more attention, although they don’t drive revenue in the same way.”

“Not ‘investing’ in membership growth.”

“Membership value. Nothing is behind a password wall. All benefits and resources are for anyone who visits our website. Outside of discounted conference fees and priority communications about scholarships and leadership programs, there is no extra incentive to maintain membership.”

“The staff finding the time for recruitment.”

“Lack of plan and budget.”

“A defined membership value proposition.”

“Conveying the value of membership; many will reap the benefits of our advocacy and…decide, ‘why pay membership when I already get the benefits?’”

“Getting the ASK made. They can always say no, but they never have the chance to say yes if we don’t ask them to join.”

“Identifying key needs and meeting those needs. Our industry has changed, and yet our offerings are essentially the same.”

In addition to pointing out some of the challenges to growth, the 2023 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report identifies many opportunities that associations have used to improve the performance of their membership efforts. Read the full report to learn the membership lessons from over 800 associations that participated in the survey. 

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