Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

Michelle Lelempsis
July 26, 2019

Our top takeaways for every association from the 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

Have you heard that Marketing General have released the 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report? This report is the holy grail for understanding trends globally across membership retention, acquisition and marketing campaigns.

You can download the report directly here.

Every year at Causeis we read, dissect and interpret the report to help our clients maximise the key learnings within their own association. Associations have more competitors than ever before and those that innovate, redefine and analyse their business are remaining strong, influential and sustaining membership growth.

“It was once the case that each association owned a small monopoly, providing the single best resource to everyone in their field. No more. With the advent of 24/7 inter-connectivity, anyone can set up shop and begin serving your members.”

Fast Company

This blog is our wrap up of the top takeaways that you and your association should be aware of.

  • More associations are in growth than decline
  • Innovative Associations have higher performance
  • Compelling Membership Value Proposition
  • Blended Membership Models are increasing
  • Paid Digital Media for Member Acquisition
  • Data Driven Challenges on the Decline
  • Why are members joining?
  • New Member Retention and Correlation to Performance
  • Member Engagement Strategy

1. More associations are in growth than decline

Benchmarking Report identifies:  More associations are growing than declining – 45% reported growth in membership. Associations continue to show that they are relevant and influential in their industry, profession and economy.

But a critical look at the trend data also shows that over the last decade the percentage of associations reporting membership growth is in gradual decline from 52% in 2012 to 45% today. And the remainder, in fact a majority of associations, is seeing either no growth or declines in membership.

Causeis interpretation: It is important that associations are measuring their membership numbers, growth, retention, new member retention and churn. Working with over 30 associations and unions, we empower them to effectively measure and analyse their membership performance. Many associations are still unable to measure their membership performance in real-time and rely on archaic excel reports, monthly reports or manually developed comparisons. With iMIS EMS, the ability to create data driven dashboards, coupled with the Causeis Data Analytics to measure growth over time your associations, membership performance has never been easier to report and analyse.

Our upcoming Causeis Impact Series will help teach associations about the “6 metrics that matter”.

2. Innovative Associations have higher performance

Benchmarking Report identifies: Associations that identify themselves as innovative are more likely to have reported growth in membership, whereas those that identified as not very innovative had declines.

Causeis interpretation: With the use of Engagement Scoring, organisations now have access to a new range of analytics to effectively measure their association performance and member service utilisation. Through these analytics, associations have been able to continually improve and identify opportunities for innovation.

We have seen excellent ideas that catalyse innovation in a wide range of associations. One association has introduced a weekly Disrupter meeting where all staff are encouraged to explore new technology, products or competitor services to highlight what may work within their association. The best part is that no topic is off limits!

3. Compelling Membership Value Proposition

Benchmarking Report identifies: 49% of associations believe that their associations value proposition is either Compelling or Very Compelling.

Causeis Interpretation: We were positively surprised by these results, as associations that participated in the survey appear to have a clear value proposition for their members.

In our experience, many associations are unable to effectively articulate a value proposition nor provide a services matrix when asked. Associations should consider reviewing their member benefits, services and aligning them to a clear member value proposition(s).

To build confidence in your association member proposition, it is important to entrench its understanding and importance within the wider internal culture.

4. Blended Membership Models are increasing

Benchmarking Report identifies:  Historically, one membership model that has seen remarkable growth is the move toward combination membership. An association with a combination membership offers members opportunity to join as either an individual (like a typical IMO) or as an organisation (like a typical trade association). In the 2011 version of the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, only 13% of respondents identified their association as having a combination membership structure. This year, 26% of respondents identified their association as a combination association.

And the combination membership structure appears to be working for associations. These groups have the highest median growth over the past five years (14%), compared to 12% for IMOs and 10% for trade organisations. And combination associations that are achieving membership growth are also the most likely to report increases in membership counts of more than 10% over the past five year (58%).

Causeis Interpretation: Over the last few years, we have also seen growth in associations introducing new membership models.

With the growth in online communities, consumer and public interest, the rise of the electronic member is an appealing proposition. The electronic member is usually a member that may be an industry professional or a consumer that simply wants to receive access to the associations online content, community or email subscriptions. The electronic member is an effective and self-managing user when using iMIS and a RiSE website. Due to this self-serving simplicity, the revenue opportunity couple with low-cost administration is definitely one for associations to consider.

In addition, the increase of the number of associations that are adopting a combined or group member offering is apparent. These associations are those that offer membership levels to both individuals and companies, or a combination of the two. Causeis has recently developed solutions for associations for group membership to reduce administrative overheads, self-service solutions and triggered communications for on-boarding and continued engagement.

5. Paid Digital Media for Member Acquisition

Benchmarking Report identifies: Another developing innovation for associations is the use of paid digital media for marketing efforts. For membership recruitment, this channel has increased as a preferred channel from 12% to 15% over the past year. Of the 15% of associations that consider paid digital marketing tools as a highly effective method for recruiting new members, Facebook paid advertising remains the most effective digital marketing tool (68%).

Causeis Interpretation: Facebook Paid Advertising and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) return the greatest number of new member acquisitions. Staggeringly, only 15% of associations surveyed do digital marketing and most associations continue to use traditional methods of member referrals and direct mail. To be competitive, associations should embrace and consider how to adopt these new marketing techniques.

With dedicated Digital Consultants, Causeis is offering SEO and graphic services to associations to improve their targeting and acquisition methods.

In our experience, we would also encourage associations review the new member join process, as we have seen that even with the best marketing efforts, if the member join experience is archaic, slow or makes the member jump through hurdles, they simply won’t join! With one association we reviewed and redeveloped their join process, within the first 2 weeks of its launch they had received two-and-half times the number of new members than the previous month.

Associations should embrace new marketing ideas, redefine their join online and at the forefront of all campaigns should be the member journey.

6. Data Driven Challenges on the Decline

Benchmarking Report identifies: Data driven challenges have significant decreased in the last year. The other technology-driven development that associations report this year is a significant decrease in data problems that have been reported in the past.

The top data complaint is a lack of marketing results tracking and analysis, which dropped from 51% in 2018 to 39% in 2019. Similarly, the issue of inadequate membership dashboards and reporting tools went from 48% in 2018 to 35% in 2019.

In the competitive association environment, the ability to track, analyze, and report on marketing efforts has become a core ability to drive success. So these improvements are significant.

Causeis Interpretation: As a data driven consultancy, we LOVE to see this improvement. Our consultancy fundamentals and approach include the focus on data, integrity and improvements to access information for data-driven decision making.

With data being an associations greatest asset, associations are realising that data must be managed, maintained and accessible. Gone are the days of data gatekeepers, but instead encouraging full use of membership systems across an entire association.

If you are interested in learning our tips for improving your associations data join us for our upcoming webinar on Implementing a Data Management Strategy. Click Here.

7. Why are members joining?

Benchmarking Report identifies: Why do members join? Almost identical to 2018, the top reasons executives believe members join is to network with others in the field (57%), to learn best practices in their profession (26%), and to access specialized and/or current information (25%). Executives from all types of associations consider networking a top membership driver for their association, and trade and combination associations report that learning best practices and accessing specialized information are also top reasons for joining.

Causeis Interpretation – There are three reasons why a member joins your association: behavioural, loyalty and advocacy. The results for why members join continues to support the ideology that not all members are equal and have different needs and desires from their association. When embarking on member engagement scoring and strategies, it is important to consider this that some members are belonging for your advocacy or their career advancement, which is very different to a member belonging to participate in benefits and services.

This ethos is also true for when developing your value proposition. How does your value proposition resonate with members that are joining or renewing for loyalty or advocacy reasons?

We would encourage your association to watch our previous webinar on Starting your Member Engagement Journey – as we explore this ideology and ways to engage with members. Click here to download this Webinar.

8. New Member Retention and Correlation to Performance

Benchmarking Report identifies: New Member Retention and Growth Correlation – Additionally, associations with increases or no change in their membership in the past year, or increases over the past five years are significantly more likely to report first-year renewals at or above 80%. Associations with declines in their five-year membership numbers and their overall new member acquisitions are significantly more inclined to report first-year renewals below 60%. IMOs with fewer than 1,000 members are significantly more likely to have first-year renewals of 80% or more, while larger associations have lower new member renewal rates.

Causeis Interpretation: If your association has new member retention rates of 80% or more then you are significantly more likely see overall membership growth. This would have to one of the most insightful statistics in this year’s Benchmarking Report

In our experience we continue to see many associations not measure their performance on new member retention. New member retention is your key indicator to ensuring sustainable growth and increase of members for your association.

We have worked with many associations that have reported declines, and the first area of focus is always the new member acquisition, engagement in the first 12 months and retention strategies. With so much data at your fingertips new members can be easily segmented, analysed and managed through planned member engagement strategies. Through data analytics, we have found behaviours that will lead to increased retention such as attending an event in the members first year, opening and receiving emails, logging into the association website.

We would encourage all associations to analyse their new member, develop ways to report and dashboard new member retention to truly influence and improve growth.

9. Member Engagement Strategy

Benchmarking Report identifies: 83% of associations that have a planned member engagement strategy gained increases in their membership retention. 34% of associations do not have any planned engagement strategy.

The benchmarking report also saw that for new member engagement traditional methods for on-boarding members is still the top.

Although associations with higher new member retention of 80% were more likely to engage with more innovative methods such as invitations to access member only online content.

Causeis Interpretation – As leaders in the iMIS community for engagement strategies and implementing member journeys, we understand the value of having a planned engagement strategy. In our experience the member engagement strategy is often seen as “day-to-day” membership operations. At Causeis we believe that a planned strategy, even if you start with an on-boarding engagement strategy, your association will gain significant benefits.

One association experiencing 5-years of continued declines were able to turn-around their association simply by identify patterns of engagement and influences that led to better retention for their new member base. By adopting a planned 12-month engagement strategy, they had immediate growth which in-turn has led to consistently association growth since.

We would encourage your association to watch our previous webinar on Starting your Member Engagement Journey – as we explore this ideology and ways to engage with members.  Click Here

So what can you do today to improve your associations performance? With more competitors than ever before, rapidly changing technology, culture and economies, associations need to remain innovative, data-driven and strategic in their membership. Unfortunately, the overall metrics continue to show that more associations are in decline than from 10 years ago and this trend is continuing. Using the power of iMIS, Engagement Scoring, Member-Centric processes and adopting innovative strategies will ensure your association continues to grow and remain competitive.

You can download the report directly Click Here

You can register to attend a free Causeis webinar via

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