Membership Ideas I Couldn’t Get to in 2014

Some things just never seem to make it off the to-do list. Here's a look at several membership topics that piqued my interest but didn't make it to this blog in 2014. Let me know which ones you find the most interesting, or share your other ideas for Associations Now membership coverage in 2015.

Fifty-two weeks in a year, and still not enough time to get to all there is to explore about association membership.

It has been a great year here at Associations Now‘s Membership blog. We’ve gone from engagement to unmembership, sneckdowns to word clouds, online communities to free membership, and AMS systems to gnomes. But there is, of course, so, so much more to say about this core business model for associations and all the strategy and work that must go into making it successful.

This Membership blog might have the Associations Now banner on it, but it is most certainly a community effort.

Like any writer, I keep an ongoing list of ideas for stories to share and topics to dig into. Some ideas are slam dunks; I add them to the list and write them a week later. Others are tougher nuts to crack, perhaps more loosely formed or delicate to handle, some lingering on my list for months and months. As 2014 comes to a close, I have at least a dozen of these unfulfilled ideas for membership blog posts. Some may never make it out of this stage, but perhaps a good way to give some of them a fighting chance is to shine a light on them and see what happens. So, here goes.

The results of radical unbundling. Moving away from a single, one-size-fits-all membership package has been a trend that seems to be gaining steam among associations in the last few years, and we’ve seen some good examples of associations offering tiered membership options. I once likened this dynamic to what seems to be happening to television, but the counterargument to the calls for a la carte cable TV is that it would, in fact, cost viewers more than the 500-channel packages do now. I wonder the same about associations. Unbundling benefits seems like a more attractive option for members, but is it financially sustainable for associations that offer it?

Getting data from members. Tracking member behavior is one thing, but getting members to provide even just their basic demographic info can be a challenge. This topic came up in a Collaborate discussion back in April [ASAE member login required], and opinions and ideas varied. I’d love to hear from an association that has had a high level of success in getting members to provide information about themselves. I’m sure other associations would be eager to learn.

When not to host an online community. At least two associations I’m aware of shut down their private online member communities in 2014. Neither wanted to be interviewed about it, though. Plenty of associations are finding online community to be a successful method for member engagement and an attractive member benefit, but it might not be right for every association. I’d be interested to get the perspective of an association that has either decided against building an online member community or has tried and decided to discontinue it.

The link between industry health and association health. Back in March, I posited that associations can work to affect “the weather” in their industries by delivering products and services that improve the health of their professions, and in doing so they can improve their membership outlook. This makes sense in theory, but it’s hard to draw a direct line between, say, a legislative victory one year and an uptick in membership numbers a year or two later. I wonder if any associations have tried to track this sort of effect or have some clear evidence of their member numbers improving as a result of their efforts to strengthen the industry overall.

When to kick a member out. The New York Film Critics Circle made news last January when it expelled a member for heckling an award recipient at an event. This is a rare step for any membership group to take, but one it ought to be prepared for should the need arise. It’s been on my list nearly all year to seek out some guidance from both an association with experience with such a situation as well as some legal experts on when membership can and cannot be denied.

The impact of a dues change on nondues revenue. I know of one association that attempted in 2014 to gauge the potential impact of a future dues increase on its nondues revenue. An executive there asked me if I’d heard of any other associations with experience doing that, and I hadn’t. They gave it a shot, and she says she might share her methodology for a story in 2015, after they see some results. In the meantime, I’m wondering if anyone in the field has ever tried to tackle this question.

That’s just six items, not even half of my list of topics yet to pursue, but these are some of the most interesting. I share them here in hopes that maybe a friendly reader out there (maybe you!) can offer a suggestion or an example to look into that might bring one of these potential posts to fruition.

Beyond this list, what else would you like to see explored here on the blog in 2015? What parts of the membership job have we not examined thus far? What exciting stories do you have to share?

This Membership blog might have the Associations Now banner on it, but it is most certainly a community effort. I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions. Happy holidays, and see you in 2015!


Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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