New Economic Report Reveals Associations Have Optimistic Outlook

A new report from Marketing General Incorporated shows that associations’ resilience in crisis is being rewarded and that groups are anticipating a strong economic resurgence that includes increased member numbers and renewals.

Recent reports on associations continue to point to an impressive recovery after some extremely challenging times.

Case in point, Marketing General Incorporated’s latest Association Economic Outlook Report [registration required] highlights promising data that reflects optimism about the way forward. The main takeaways: Associations are bouncing back, and there are lots of new opportunities.

Members turned to their associations over the past two years for connection and resources, and associations expect that trend to continue: Seventy-one percent of respondents saw increased member engagement in 2021, and 85 percent expect an increase in engagement in 2022.

“Not a lot of good things came out of the pandemic, but overall associations have been very effective in meeting member needs during this difficult time,” said MGI Senior Vice President Tony Rossell, coauthor of the report.

Back From the Brink

Over the years when there has been a disruption, like the 2008 recession, associations experienced a big drop in membership counts, Rossell noted. But in the years following those setbacks, there was a big comeback. This latest survey, which was conducted at the end of 2021, shows a similar trend with 48 percent of respondents saying they expect membership numbers to increase, and 41 percent believing their renewal rate will improve this year.

“Those are some pretty strong numbers indicating that associations are seeing a real rebound in their membership from 2020, which was obviously hugely challenging for a lot of groups,” Rossell said.

Across the board, associations took a big hit financially in 2020. Now, 64 percent of respondents said they are confident their finances will grow. As membership and renewal numbers climb, associations are looking to spend more money in 2022. There’s also a willingness to invest more in members, with 44 percent of respondents indicating their membership marketing budget will increase in 2022.

Turn the Page

In the wake of the pandemic, 90 percent of associations were sharing crucial information and empathizing with members, but that number dropped significantly in 2021. That’s not necessarily because associations no longer empathize with members. “People are sick and tired of hearing about COVID, and they want to get back to some semblance of normal,” Rossell said. Messaging is more about growth, resources, and opportunities for members to grow professionally.

Last year, MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report showed that renewal and recruitment rates were down. Members were concerned about money, and when they left associations, it was more because of panic and not that they didn’t see value. The members who stayed with associations got to see firsthand that the groups were helping them with resources, up-to-date information, and relevant advocacy efforts.

“You’re seeing a lot of lapsed members coming back and that’s driving growth,” Rossell said. And there is some latent demand. People who normally wouldn’t join an association in the past did in 2020 and when things got better in 2021, members have more confidence, and they are recognizing they want to re-engage with their associations.

All around, it’s a much brighter outlook than before. Good news never gets old.

(Antikwar/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!