For associations to drive core objectives and sustained growth, it's essential they have active, engaged members; however, due to extreme fluctuations in enrollment and renewals over the last few years, maintaining membership has been challenging. For instance, according to 2022 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, associations saw a drastic decline in membership in 2021 due to the pandemic and recession. This year, there was a substantial increase in membership. In fact, 38% of associations reported an increase in membership during 2021 which is up from 26% in 2020 according to the report.
So, how do associations keep up? By ensuring your member engagement plan is flawless. Not only are engaged members more likely to renew their memberships, but they are more likely to actively take part in trade-show events, join committees, donate during fundraisers, and share positive experiences with prospective members.
While member engagement rates can make or break associations (in some cases), building a loyal member base can be a task that is easier said than done. To create and implement a successful member engagement strategy, associations must have a full understanding of the factors that affect membership.
How is your value proposition? If the answer to this question is unknown, a good place to start would be to conduct a member audit to have a complete understanding of who your members are, what they do, what’s important to them, and what they value in an association. According to the report, there was a correlation in membership growth with associations that deliver excellent value. If you’re seeing an increase in events, products, or services, you can use this as a sign that you’re successfully providing value to members.
Additionally, associations should create content that is both relevant and timely (whitepapers, industry news, etc.), so that members are regularly engaged. This information is vital to your members, as your association is considered the expert within the industry. That’s not all, though.
Associations must innovate to drive membership growth. Whether it’s digital content like products and webinars or increasing professional development opportunities, it’s key for engagement and survival. Nearly 78% of associations have taken advantage of the global pandemic and used it as a catalyst to reimagine member benefits and create new products or services to specifically assist members, the report stated.
To succeed with these avenues, though, your must increase budgets within necessary departments to keep consistency in member engagement, recruitment and retention. Twenty-five percent of associations increased their budgets for building awareness, 29% increased for recruitment and 29% increased for engagement. This is especially true when trying to interact with multi-generational current and prospective members.
Can’t increase your budget within membership? How about the marketing budget? There has been a correlation with higher membership growth when marketing dollars increased for digital marketing efforts like retargeting, content marketing, and search engine marketing. If you don’t have the ability to update budgets, think about increasing dues for membership so that your association is able to increase revenue coming in. It may be daunting to increase dues, but according to the report, over half the associations surveyed that increased dues didn’t see an affect on membership.
The economy is in recovery mode and the recession is improving, so it's a great time to be innovating for the next disruption. Because no matter what we may face, it's better to be proactive instead of reactive.