Two thirds of associations have grown their membership over the last 12 months, with strategies focused on brand building and personal connection driving the most success.
The August Associations Matter Poll examined member acquisition, and the strategies and marketing channels associations are using to attract new members.
Two thirds of associations have seen their membership base increase over the last 12 months (63%), with 13% noting a significant increase in numbers. One in four (23%) reported slight or significant decrease in their membership base, with 14% maintaining a stable membership.
Associations who have been successful at increasing their membership reported that increasing brand awareness and visibility is the most successful strategy they have employed (53%). Around one in five associations have found success with social media advertising (22%), offering special membership discounts (20%), dedicating internal resources to focus solely on member acquisition (20%) and promoting the profession and industry in the media (19%).
Strategies that aim to address cost concerns have proven successful to around one in ten associations, with 13% successfully offering a discount for first year fees, and 10% bundling professional development and conference fees into the first-year fee or offering flexible payment options. Partnering with educational institutions has proven to be successful for 12% of responding associations.
When asked about different marketing channels used to attract new members, channels that use a more personalised approach are the most successful. A little under half (48%) of associations have found referrals from other members deliver the best results. Some spoke about the importance of “increasing focus on the existing members experience” to make existing members comfortable and willing to promote membership. A further 43% of associations have seen an increase in member numbers after in-person conferences or events, and 42% from personal outreach efforts.
Around one in five associations find their email campaigns (23%), social media channels (23%) and social media advertising often deliver the best results, with a further 16% finding the best results from hosting webinars or online presentations. Less than one in ten responding associations have found that more generalised or passive advertising (such as advertisements in magazines, radio, TV or billboards) deliver the best results.
This suggests that new members want to start their relationship with an association already feeling that they are a valued member. This is much more likely to come from a personalised approach to marketing and communication, or from praise and word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied existing members.
Interestingly, those associations who have found a decrease in new members largely attribute it to “cost of living pressures”. “Financial pressures” and “tight budgets” have led to both organisations and individuals questioning the value of membership fees alongside other cost pressures.
In addition, with financial pressures leading to many questioning the value of membership, providing “high visibility, media and advocacy on what our profession sees as vital” may be critical to the successful membership growth for many associations. This high visibility makes it easier for potential members to understand the value of belonging to the association, and what their membership fees can help to achieve.
“By providing great support to our existing members, the word in spreading that our association is a key partner for businesses in our sector.”
About the Associations Matter Monthly Poll
The Associations Matter Monthly Poll is an initiative by AuSAE and Survey Matters. We think it's important to stay up to date with the latest trends, challenges, and opportunities facing associations. The Associations Matter Monthly Poll aims to provide insights into the thoughts and opinions of association leaders, giving them a better understanding of how others are responding to current situations and developments. The Associations Matter Monthly Poll is conducted by Survey Matters, experts in association and membership research.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Associations Matter June 2023 Poll. You can register to receive future polls here.