Community Brands Study: New Members Want More Learning Opportunities

A new report from the software provider Community Brands suggests that most association members are joining because of education and career opportunities, rather than out of a sense of professional responsibility.

A new report from the membership software conglomerate Community Brands finds that a need for continuing education—not a sense of duty—is driving members to stick with their associations.

The 2018 edition of the company’s Member Education and Career Development Report [registration], released on August 28, finds that 51 percent of survey respondents say that the reason they joined their current organization was out of a desire for professional benefits, such as continuing education and networking—a number that went up by nearly 10 percent since the 2016 survey. Correspondingly, reasons of professional responsibility fell to 36 percent, down from 41 percent in 2016.

Tristan Jordan, the company’s executive vice president and general manager of careers and education, suggested that this shift hints at a long-term trend.

“We’re seeing a foundational shift in why members join their professional association. They are joining less frequently out of a sense of professional expectation or obligation,” Jordan said in a news release. “Instead, they are increasingly motivated by their organization’s ability to help them advance their careers through learning, networking, and job opportunities.”

While there are generational differences between what members want—millennials, for example, are looking to learn new skills and gain career advice, while gen Xers and boomers are more focused on continuing education and networking opportunities—the desire for education is strong across the board.

Of course, this focus on education adds layers of complication, because there are lots of ways to learn—and no one way stands out above the others. While in-person courses are most popular (with 82 percent saying they’ve attended such a session over the past two years), more than 60 percent of respondents say they’ve learned with videos, online courses, experiential training, and webinars in the past two years.

“The landscape is becoming more competitive, as newer learning formats grow in popularity among members, such as short videos and webcasts, on-demand learning courses, and mobile learning opportunities,” the report states.

Other noteworthy facts from the report:

A lingering gender gap: The report finds that while women are more likely to join an organization for its professional benefits (55 percent, compared to 48 percent for men) or to get a certification (60 percent, compared with 52 percent), they’re less likely than men to believe that the organization is very good at getting them a new job or promotion.

The value of job boards. The report also notes that more than half of members (56 percent) said their association had a job board, with 46 percent using it over the past two years. The boards are most useful for millennials, 56 percent of which say they’ve used them in the past two years. (Only 24 percent of boomers, who are later in their careers, said they used such boards.) And job boards are often rated highly by members—77 percent gave the boards an “excellent” or “very good” rating.

Overall, the report highlights the importance of education and job advancement in getting members engaged—and keeping them happy.

“The valuable learning programs and job placement opportunities many associations offer is now a critical component of the overall member experience,” Jordan added.

(z_wei/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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