What to Watch Part 3: Membership Marketing Trends in 2019

The year 2018 was full of a wide array of membership peaks and valleys. Whether your organization had a decline in membership (valleys) or an increase in advertising and publication distribution (peaks), being proactive and keeping pace in your efforts is crucial to remaining relevant.

While membership for most remains fairly steady, there are many measures an organization can take to acquire, engage, and renew members. Membership-based organizations cannot ignore the membership experience, aging and next-gen members, utilizing non-dues revenue, and leveraging their data to guide and grow their membership.

The Member Experience

The number one reason members don’t renew is because of the lack of engagement and or perceived lack of value. You’ve probably surveyed your members, analyzed responses, and asked your team, “What can we do to bring more value?” If we rewind, we’d realize we’re asking the wrong type of question. Focus on the why. Why didn’t my members renew? Why wasn’t my publication bringing value? Why didn’t anyone join our association from a particular segment? Why do members want to be a part of our organization in the first place?

It doesn’t happen overnight, but with a solid foundation and the right set of questions (and better yet, answers), you’ll be well on your way. Spend some time understanding what is important your current members as well as what expired members have to say. Here are just a few ways you can make sure you’re communicating well so that members feel the membership investment is valuable:

  • Realize the value that your organization brings and develop a plan for outreach
  • Start a closed Facebook group
  • Pick up the phone and check in with your members at key points of the membership lifecycle
  • Start a publication or newsletter
  • Create personalized membership kits and efforts
  • Launch and connect with members at events

In addition, consider the source in which you engage with your members. Seventy-three percent of associations have indicated that their member communications are sent digitally (23 percent printed). While this may be cost-effective, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your open rates and responsiveness. Digital communication doesn’t work for everyone, which leads to the next point…

Aging Membership and the Next Generation

In a survey completed by GrowthZone, 54 percent of associations reported a decrease or no membership growth in the past year; however, 46 percent of organizations found that membership has increased over the last five years. That being said, the 1,000 responders to the survey indicated that average Millennial memberships across organizations totaled around 35 percent. It’s no surprise that associations focus their time and energy to growing this demographic and their counterpart, Gen Z. However, while the focus has been to look at them as separate entities, it’s important for organizations to realize the common misconceptions of generation separation and to focus on how they are similar. That being said, don’t assume Gen Z will react to a renewal phone call the same way a Baby Boomer would.

Don’t Ignore Non-Dues Revenue

While making sure you acquire new members and renew the members you have is important, remember that there are other sources to help support your organization. At best, 39 percent of an association’s revenue comes from membership dues. What about the other 61 percent? There are a number of ways you may have never known exist. Consider the following:


Use a publication to not only inform members of all the cool things your association has to offer, but use it as a vehicle for advertising, sponsored content, and advertorials.


Whether it’s on your website, your newsletter, your publication, or your event assets, consider putting an advertising rate card together to help boost your revenue.

Tradeshows and conferences

Sponsorships and fundraisers are two great sources of non-dues revenue. Put together a raffle for your annual conference, or reach out to prospective exhibitors to see if they’d like to sponsor an event. And, don’t forget to require an entry fee for non-members!


Another great opportunity is to sell ancillary products via your website and at events. Whether it’s T-shirts, pens, stickers, drinking glasses, books, or hats, your members want to feel like they belong to something important and that your organization is providing fun merchandise or valuable resources. Consider offering some for free (members only) or at a member discount.

Just because these opportunities exist doesn’t mean they’re right for your organization. Whichever way you decide to pursue non-dues revenue, make sure it benefits both your association and your members.

 Leveraging Data

It’s the 21st century. Your association has (or should have) data – and tons of it. What you probably don’t have is the time and resources to scrub, analyze, and harness the data to make strategic decisions about your membership. Data is crucial in just about every effort and decision – internal and external – your association makes. In addition, data isn’t just about sharing insights about your membership and organizational growth. It also lends information to your marketing/communications team and the public (that is, if you’re into using “open data”). Data can reveal the following about your organization:

  • What steps in the renewal process work best for members
  • The lifetime value of a member
  • Mediums in which you acquire your members
  • Provide insights so that you can strategically develop market segmentation
  • Personalized and variable communication efforts – like direct mail and offers

Now you may be thinking, “How am I going to incorporate all of this into my current duties?” Smart marketers and membership managers stay current with trends on a regular basis. However, we understand that sometimes it’s not that easy. Have no fear. We have a team of experts that can help you dive into some of these trends that you may not be executing. Connect with us today to get started!

Article written by:

McKenzie Decker

Marketing Manager