Developing an engaging value proposition: education and support drives membership of associations, with perceptions of high cost and lack of value the main barriers
The October Associations Matter Poll looked at the main reasons individuals belong to an association and the barriers they face in joining. The survey also explored associations’ perceptions of their value proposition and what they need in order to enhance the value they offer.
The October Poll found that over a third of associations believe the main reasons members join the association are access to continuing professional development (38%) and support, resources, and advice (38%). A similar proportion (34%) say members join for collective representation of the profession or industry, and to support the advocacy work of the association. Enhancing their professional reputation and credibility, access to up-to-date information about the profession or industry, and the opportunity to attend events and conferences are also seen as important drivers of membership by nearly three in ten associations.
According to Poll respondents, the most significant barrier to membership is the perceived lack of value in membership, followed by what is seen as the high cost of membership. Over three quarters of associations believe that factors relating to either cost or value are a significant drag on membership growth. Belonging to competing associations and other priorities or professional commitments are believed to inhibit further acquisition by three in ten associations.
A quarter of associations also indicated that they have difficulty articulating their association’s value proposition, and that this reduces their ability to attract new members. Nearly 30% of respondents indicated that potential members do not see the association's value proposition as relevant to either their career or professional needs (17%) or their interests or demographics (13%).
Despite this, three in five associations believe they have a strong value proposition. When outlining the factors that contribute to the strength of their value proposition, some respondents emphasised the importance of providing members with tangible benefits and value, such as “exclusive data sources, reduced cost access to resources and free support”. Others mentioned the value of industry training, including education that offers “international accreditation and recognition” and allows members to “demonstrate expertise and professionalism “.
Others highlighted the intangible benefits of their membership offer. Advocacy is a vital piece of an association’s value proposition and the importance of a strong “leader of advocacy and voice to government” and “collective bargaining” was mentioned by several associations. Trustworthiness and credibility were also emphasised, with respondents suggesting that members value associations with a strong reputation that enables them to “demonstrate trust to their markets”. Facilitating active engagement and involvement are also seen as important, with some respondents offering opportunities for their members to participate in various activities like “member only roundtables and discussions” that help shape industry direction.
Finally, customisation and relevance emerged as a key focus of associations with a compelling value proposition. Providing tailored content and personalised experiences that are relevant to the interests and needs of different member segments were highlighted as essential to membership growth by some respondents. Several others emphasised the importance their value proposition being “relevant to the needs of members and demonstrating an understanding of their day-to-day challenges”.
As a result, respondents believe that associations can enhance their membership value proposition by focusing on improved communication, with 49% of respondents emphasising the need for targeted updates and collaboration opportunities as the top priority. This is followed by a call for better brand recognition (35%), more tailored and industry-specific content and member input (30%), and advancements in digital platforms (23%) for broader reach. Additionally, associations indicate a belief that members want stronger representation in policy development and advocacy (23%) and expanded professional development opportunities (12%).
To attract new members, the Associations Matter October Poll underscores the importance of providing access to tangible services such as professional development, support, and resources for members, as well as cultivating a credible brand and reputation as an effective industry advocate. However, to address barriers to joining associations must also clearly articulate their unique value proposition and counter perceptions of high costs. Addressing these challenges, along with cultivating a deep understanding of members needs and offering tailored experiences, will be essential for associations to thrive and grow their membership.
About the Associations Matter Monthly Poll
The Associations Matter Monthly Poll is an initiative by AuSAE and Survey Matters. 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 October 2023 Poll. You can register to receive future polls here.