March 14, 2023   |   Vol. 22   |   Issue 3
By Michelle Peterson, MGI Sr. Account Director

From Insight to Action–Leveraging Research to Grow Your Organization

If you are looking for your association’s next big growth opportunity, research is a great way to gain powerful insights about your members.

However, you don’t want to be one of the many associations that commission research and then leave the report collecting dust on a shelf. Turning those insights into action can seem insurmountable. And even when you determine a solid action plan, you may struggle to get buy-in from decision-makers in order to implement key learnings.

How do you avoid these pitfalls? First, clearly identify the questions you’re trying to answer through your research. These could be questions like:

  • How will a new membership model or a price increase be received by our membership?
  • How much would our members be willing to pay if we enhanced their benefits?
  • Does it make sense to add different levels of membership?
  • Which benefits are the most important to our members? How well are we delivering on those key benefits?

In my association days, we used our biannual membership survey to help develop our strategic plans for the upcoming year. In fact, we used it to answer each one of the questions above. Findings from our research helped us develop new membership structures, find the optimal pricing for new membership levels, identify valued benefits that we needed to invest more in, and learn where we were spending too much time on programs that were costly and of low importance to members. Because we crafted our member surveys with these questions in mind, we received actionable insight from the results.

So, you’ve designed a great survey and learned what your members need. How do you turn that data into action?

As you make decisions about your marketing and your membership offerings, use what your members tell you to inform your direction. Does your board think that direct mail is ineffective? Look at what your members say about the mail you send them! Does your president think you send too much email? Check your survey results to see what your members think!

I used to carry my biannual membership survey, all 300 pages, from meeting to meeting as backup when we were making membership program decisions. The question about "too much email" was one that I had to deal with on a weekly basis–so we asked about it in our survey. When we got the report that year, we dog-eared that page and highlighted the question. Guess what? Our members said that we were sending them “just about the right amount” of email! I enjoyed every single time that I got to pull that little nugget of data out. You can’t argue with data.

Regardless of the problems you’re trying to solve or the types of answers you are looking for, a well-designed research project can help you build your case and provide you the insights you need to take your organization to the next level. Looking for help in crafting the perfect survey to gain great results? Reach out to me directly at or 703-706-0327 to see how MGI can fit your association needs.

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