The Most Helpful Association Membership Metrics of 2019

Even if your association’s membership is growing, it’s easy to wonder how your own success compares to other associations across the country. Similarly, if things aren’t going so well, it’s difficult to not wonder if you’re the only association out there fighting an uphill battle. Fortunately, we have a benchmarking report from Marketing General to help frame our successes and shortcomings. 

If you’re into data, the report makes for some fascinating reading. Short on time? No worries! Here are a few of the most helpful metrics to help you put your association’s own metrics into context and maybe even give you a few ideas on how to change things up. 

Are Associations Growing Their Membership? 

Overall, it’s been a positive time for the association industry as far as membership growth is concerned. A very healthy 45% of respondents in the survey reported that their membership had grown in 2018. Only 26% reported a decrease in membership, and 28% said membership had remained the same. 

But what’s interesting here is the data behind these metrics. 35% of the associations reporting a decline in membership have a renewal rate below 80%. And those associations reporting membership growth? Data suggests that your annual budget plays a huge role in whether or not your membership grew in 2018. 56% of associations that reported membership growth had budgets of over $20 million dollars. 

In order to help everyone sleep at night, it’s important to note that even associations reporting decline in membership are, fortunately, not bleeding too badly. 65% of respondents say that they’re decline in membership was between 1-5%, so it’s clear that the sky isn’t falling. 

What Are the Most Effective Membership Recruiting Techniques?

In a world of pay-per-click, boosted posts, email blasts, an incredible 69% of association executives say that world-of-mouth recommendations is the most effective membership marketing and recruitment method. When you think about it, this should make perfect sense. Who makes a better advocate for joining your membership ranks than your members themselves? 

Email marketing (62%) was the second most effective technique, with industry-favorite marketing tactics like direct sales calls (26%) and direct mail (23%) ranking well-within the top half of the most effective marketing tactics. 

Paid online digital marketing was, somewhat surprisingly, well down the order at just 15%. But within this medium, 68% of respondents identified as paid Facebook advertising as the most effective way to recruit new members. 

What Challenges are Associations Facing in Membership Marketing?

In our decade-plus experience in the association industry, the three biggest challenges that associations face when it comes to growing membership hasn’t changed much, and this survey confirms it. 38% of respondents said communicating the value or benefits of membership as the number one challenge to membership growth. 

In an industry where association staff where more hats than a hat rack, the second biggest challenge, insufficient staff, at 35%, comes as no surprise.

Proving ROI on membership is the third most common challenge, and is something that every association faces at some point during the membership marketing process. 

How Does Your Association’s Membership Metrics Compare?

So, how does your association’s metrics compare to the industry as a whole? To me, it’s an exciting time to be in the association industry. Few industries are transforming as quickly or as completely as our own. New generations are entering the workforce, while Boomers still maintain most of the leadership position within association staffs and on Boards. This huge generation range creates an extremely challenging proposition for marketers. 

How do we create and maintain engagement with our members during a time of diverse preferences of content consumption, alternating perception of value and ROI, and the slow transition of power and influence from older generations to younger? We believe it’s our marketing teams that need to lead the way in these disrupting times. Let’s get out there and shake things up.

You can view the complete Marketing General Report here

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