Members continue to engage with their associations, even in crisis, according to a new report, which reveals a surprise top member benefit and another that is rapidly emerging. Here are some insights to light the way forward.
A new report from software provider Community Brands, Association Trends 2020: From Disruption to Opportunity [PDF], finds that despite the many challenges this year has brought, member engagement continues to grow and loyalty to associations is strong.
Fifty-one percent of members surveyed said their association is more important to them today than before the pandemic. And they’re willing to pay for it: 74 percent of members whose employers pay for all or part of their membership dues said they would still renew their membership even if their employers stopped contributing.
I reported on similar findings from Marketing General Incorporated’s (MGI) recent Association Economic Outlook Report, which also affirms growing member engagement in the face of adversity this year. It notes that 69 percent of association professionals who responded said they had seen a marked increase in the level of member activity and engagement in their organization.
A main reason members are engaging more, the Community Brands report states, is because of all the virtual opportunities associations have rolled out during the pandemic. Virtual conferences have made it possible for members to stay involved from a distance, but the report shows that they increasingly value other ways to connect and learn virtually year-round. Offering more personalized options like online networking, continuing education, and social networks—in addition to large virtual events and webcasts—will be key to keeping members engaged, the report states.
A Surprising Top Member Benefit
The recent presidential election highlighted the importance of understanding demographics and the role they play in influencing outcomes, and these are just as relevant in analyzing membership nuances. Black and Hispanic members, who tend to be younger, are more engaged than their white counterparts, the Community Brands report shows, and they are more inclined to value their association now than before the pandemic.
Black and Hispanic members also value certain benefits at significantly higher levels than white members. For example, they rank code of ethics information among the top five benefits they value most, a corresponding Community Brands webinar reports. (If you need any tips for updating your code of ethics, a recent Associations Now post has some helpful suggestions).
Career Opportunities Are Key
Members continue to value the job and career advancement opportunities associations offer. Interestingly, the association professionals surveyed in the study rated these less valuable than members did. With the unemployment and career challenges this year has brought, it is critical for associations to focus on these benefits when members need them most, the report states.
MGI’s recent report shows that many associations are already on the bandwagon. Eighty-four percent of respondents said their association plans to increase virtual professional development opportunities for members.
As I reported in the current issue of Associations Now magazine, the Council for Exceptional Children surveyed 26,000 prospective members it attracted with a free membership promotion to find out what was most valuable to them during the trial period. Eighty-five percent of respondents said online training and webinars were most beneficial. Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of Avenue M Group, told me that retraining and access to processes or standards will remain highly valuable, and associations are well positioned to meet those needs.
Challenges create opportunities, as we have learned many times over this year. These recent findings show that associations have incredible staying power and that members need them now more than ever. It’s time to really understand what members want and need—and give it to them.