Report: Many Associations Saw Membership Jump in 2013

More than half of associations surveyed for Marketing General, Inc.’s latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report indicated positive growth in total membership, new member acquisition, and member renewals this year.

Associations are finding their footing when it comes to membership, according to the “2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.”

After a drop in 2010, 52 percent of associations saw an increase in membership in 2013. That’s the same amount that saw an increase in 2012 and up from 49 percent in 2011 and 36 percent in 2010, according to Marketing General, Inc., which surveyed 695 associations.

It looks like everyone has found how to make things work.

“It looks like everyone has found how to make things work,” said Erik Schonher, vice president at MGI.  “After the economy dropped about four years ago, everybody was freaking out, and then three years ago we started seeing some people climbing out of the pit, and last year they were succeeding. Now they have seemed to have found their way.”

The report also found that 31 percent of the surveyed associations saw a decline in membership in 2013. That represents an increase from 2012, when 29 percent of associations saw a decrease in membership, but that number is down from 2011, 2010, and 2009. In addition, 63 percent of associations saw an increase in new member acquisition, which has steadily gone up over the past five years.

“When the economy dropped it forced a level of introspection,” Schonher said. “It was kind of a wake-up call.” Many associations are reevaluating programs and services to determine the most efficient ways to run their organizations and how to best serve their members, Schonher added.

The survey found that roughly 30 percent of associations introduced member research in 2012, and of those associations, 62 percent saw an increase in overall membership and 74 percent saw an increase in new members.

“Our conversation starts when someone listens,” Schonher said. “Here is actual proof. Listen to your members. Find ways to talk to get the message from your members.”

Among the challenges to membership growth faced by associations in 2013, “insufficient staff,” “difficulty attracting or maintaining younger members,” and “the perception of the association and its culture” were the top three.

Respondents reported that the top two membership goals in 2013 were increasing member acquisition and retention and increasing member engagement. Sixty percent of executives reported their association has a separate strategic plan to increase member engagement.

“People realize there’s got to be a plan,” Schonher said. “There’s got to be a strategy around [engagement] with measurable outcomes.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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