Member Engagement: What Members Want

Membership in an organization can seem like a roller coaster. After a big campaign, membership attendance skyrockets. Meetings are full and functions are bursting with energy. A few months later, though, it is a different story. Getting members involved feels like you are pulling teeth. Few individuals have an interest in renewing their membership. This is not a unique struggle to your organization. It is extremely common and it can be blamed on one simple fact: You are not effectively engaging members. 

The reason for this lack of engagement is due to two factors. The first is that you do not have the tools to effectively engage your members. The second is that you do not understand your members. To help you with the latter, here are a few statistics that will give you a better understanding of what members want:

1. Why Members Join

A recurring problem with member engagement is that organizations do not understand what members want. They make assumptions and, more often than not, these assumptions are wrong. This can be seen through a recent study that surveyed organizations and their members. 

Most organizations believe that members' top priorities for joining include the conferences offered, the networking opportunities available, and the advocacy potential. This is far from reality. In fact, out of 23 benefits, conferences and advocacy were ranked 15th and 16th—networking was only ranked 6th. The truth is that ahead of networking, members actually value a better understanding of the code of ethics, more information about the industry, certifications offered, additional training, and potential job opportunities. 

2. When Members Join

Knowing when most members join is just as important as understanding why they join. This information can help organizations to understand who to recruit and how to best recruit them. While some members do join later in their career, this number only makes up about 16%. Another 16% joins between 6 and 10 years of starting their career and 13% join when they are students. The bulk of new memberships, however, come from people who are in their first 5 years of employment—49% to be precise. 

Organizations will be most effective at recruiting new members and engaging them if they concentrate on information that professionals want to learn, know, and understand at the start of their career. 

3. Segment Members

When it comes to engaging current members, organizations should embrace the fact that not all members are the same. It is for this reason that member engagement will be most successful if communication segments are created. This can most effectively be done generationally. 

When it comes to millennials, they are most interested in job opportunities, diving deeper into the code of ethics, getting additional credentials and training. Generation X, while they are similar in their desire for involvement in the code of ethics and adding to their credentials, are more interested in additional industry information rather than training or job opportunities. Baby boomers' top priorities are the code of ethics, industry information, and raising awareness. The silent generation has the same priorities as professionals in generation X. 

Differences between the generations can also be seen in the top reason for joining and their communication preferences. Both millennials and gen Xers join for professional benefits—millennials because most professionals join these organizations at the beginning of their careers and gen Xers because they want to further their careers. The main difference between the two is that millennials want to be kept in the loop on all information, while gen Xers only want to be updated on the highlights on a regular basis. 

Baby boomers and the silent generations simply feel a professional responsibility to join the organization. Baby boomers are typically interested in changes that happen in the industry and want to be updated regularly. The silent generation only want to be updated about major changes. 

4. Why Members Quit

The key to minimizing membership attrition is understanding why members quit. When organizations understand this, they can put measures in place to prevent it. Across the board, the main two reasons for not renewing a membership is because it is too costly to be a member and because the individual changed employment. For millennials, however, a major reason is that they simply forgot to renew.

These reasons need to be taken seriously by organizations. Do membership dues need to remain as high as they are? If they do, maybe the organization could begin a campaign to encourage employers to pay the dues. Currently, only about a quarter of members have their dues paid for by their employers. 

Additionally, changing employment should not necessarily be a reason for membership attrition. Yes, some employment changes do involve industry changes, possibly making membership to the organization unnecessary. However, many times an employment change will still keep the member in the same industry. Efforts need to be made to help the member transition to the new employer, which will encourage them to renew membership.

Other reasons that members fail to renew include:

  • The organization not providing enough value
  • The member can get similar benefits elsewhere
  • The organizational benefits have declined
  • The employer stopped paying the membership dues

5. Communication Preferences

Communication is a balancing act for every organization. They are never sure if they are communicating enough. The fact is that 70% of members believe that organizations communicate the right amount and 19% believe organizations communicate too much. 

When it comes to the communication content, members prefer:

  • 77% want updates on industry standard changes.
  • 73% want information on upcoming industry meetings and conferences.
  • 70% want news on nearby networking events.
  • 66% want to know about job opportunities.
  • 65% want the latest on related legislation, regulations, and lobbying efforts.
  • 65% want to hear about continuing education options.
  • 55% want to know about available insurance options for members. 

All of this information, if used correctly, can help you to more effectively engage your members. However, the key to harnessing this information and providing your members with the information and opportunities they want, when and how they want it, is with the right tools.

For more information on these tools, schedule a call with one of our Association experts & learn more.

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