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Association Membership: Why Quality is Better Than Quantity

Membership Audra Hopkins

Your association spends a lot of time and energy developing a membership model that works. Therefore, you want your acquired members to fit in well and benefit your organization.

According to GrowthZone’s 2018 Associations Trends Survey Report, 54% of surveyed associations reported either no change or decrease of overall membership growth within their association. Similarly, 48% reported the same decrease or lack of change when it comes to new membership growth.

So, it seems like member acquisition is a struggle for many associations, no matter the membership model set in place. And if your association is having challenges of its own, it might be time to think about improving the quality of your membership before focusing on the quantity.

For associations looking to re-evaluate the effectiveness and success of their membership, we’re taking a look at some of the root sources of membership struggles and addressing how you can work to refine the quality of the members you acquire.

So, let’s talk about why quality of membership actually matters so much.

 

Recruitment Vs. Retention

For any association looking to strengthen its overall membership, there are two very important factors that play a role in that process: Member recruitment and retention.

Acquiring new members for associations can be an exciting time for everyone involved. Of course, you want your membership to grow in numbers, bringing in more revenue and widening the reach your association has. And what’s not to appreciate about a new member?

But let’s think about the other side of this equation- member retention.

While member recruitment and acquisition can gain your association a new member, without a retention strategy in place, the value of that new member is not as strong. It’s the member retention that provides your association with long term stability and a sense of security when it comes to member rates.

Having a great retention strategy set in place before you focus on member recruitment will help your association have a better turnover in terms of long term membership than before. And moreover, it will help your association stay away from membership churn. But what exactly is member churn?

Member Churn: A Slippery Slope

We’ve used the term membership churn, but for those not in the know, you may be confused on what the term exactly means. Why is membership churn a bad thing? And is your association experiencing member churn without even knowing it?

According to The Membership Guys, membership churn is the name given to the act of losing members and subscribers and therefore losing their revenue with it. And with that definition in place, it’s now clear to see that many associations (if not all) experience membership churn.

Membership churn can be caused by many things. Other associations in your industry could be taking members from you. Or, your members could become disengaged and lose interest in what your association has to offer. There are many reasons that could be causing your loss in members.

And membership churn can spell disaster for any association. If you aren’t aware of your own membership churn problems, it could escalate to the point that your membership rates start to decline- which is where the focus on the quality of membership comes into play.
So, now that we’ve discussed membership churn and emphasized the important of member retention over recruitment, let’s talk about a few different techniques your association can use in order to make sure quality of membership is solid, and quantity follows shortly after.

 

Relationships Are Key

At the start of any member’s new life cycle with your association should always come relationship building.

Often times, members become disinterested and leave an association because there is no solid relationship set in place. If members don’t know who they can come to when they have questions or want to know more about their membership, there’s no way they can form a lasting connection that will keep them around in the long run.

To combat a short turn over of new members, your association needs to work to set up an open and communicative relationship.

In order to do this, keeping open channels of communication is a must. Emailing members with any industry related news and association updates will help keep them informed on everything that goes on within your organization. And on the other hand, personalized emails will help you keep track of each individual member and form a closer bond.

Similarly, you also want members to feel comfortable coming to you with anything they need help with. You want your association to be viewed as a resource for driving success and professional growth for members, and you can’t do that without first knowing where they’d like to see opportunities open up for them.

Keep A Watchful Eye

Tracking your members’ behavior can also give you an insight on their lifespan with your association.

Think about your most engaged members. These are members who attend almost every event, who open and respond to your association’s emails, and- unsurprisingly enough- are most likely to renew their membership year over year.

If you can keep track of things like website login, email open rate, event attendance, and any other relevant data, you can start to track exactly how your members use and relate to the membership benefits you provide them. This insight can then be directly applied to further strengthening your relationship with new (and current) members.

Using analytics tools like Google Analytics and other built in social media analytics tools can help your association track its members while also sticking to the budget it has in place.

 

Fight Off Competition

As mentioned before, membership churn can be caused by your competition overshadowing the value your association has to offer its members. So, working hard to overcome that competition and become the top source for education, value, and benefits can help stop that churn from occurring.

To do this, studying your competition and researching what other associations in your industry exist will help. Putting your blinders on when it comes to competitive associations will only hurt your chances of retaining members long term.

However, if you can pinpoint exactly what value your competitors bring to the table, you can work to make your association not only as valuable, but unique- making it an organization members can’t walk away from.

Never Give Up

Even when your association’s membership churn rate seems detrimental, you never want to throw your efforts out the window altogether. While it can seem easy to rely on other revenue sources to make up for your membership decrease, it will only drive more members out of the door (and therefore ruin your membership quality as a whole).

Working towards lengthening the lifetime value of each member and improving the quality of their time with your association is the first step in creating a stronger membership that will only grow in numbers.

While decreased membership growth can be intimidating for any association, it’s not something that should ever make you turn and run the other way. Addressing membership churn and in turn strengthening membership quality can help your association pave the path to increased member rates.

Webinar | Improve Member Retention By Building Your Membership Community Through Digital Engagements Watch the replay of our breakout session from our Recruiting & Retaining Association Members (& Driving Non-Dues Revenue) in the Virtual Event Era webinar for a deeper dive into how to build a strong membership community to improve member retention! Download now