Now, More Than Ever, Associations Must Engage Members
In my role as an association keynote speaker, I know that now, more than ever, associations must re-engage their members. Association membership has been in trouble for quite some time, and membership loss and membership engagement with those organizations have worsened during the pandemic.
In February 1, 2018, Associations Now published the results of a Member Loyalty Study that listed several reasons why members did not renew their memberships to associations. Of the top reasons, three of them deserve note here:
- 34% of members who dropped out said it was too costly
- 26% of members who dropped out said the association was providing little value
- 9% of members who dropped out said the organization had declined in quality
Unfortunately, with the pandemic, these same problems increased. Michael Hickey, also writing for Associations Now (September 25, 2020) noted:
“Losing members is an unfortunate reality for every association. This is especially true in 2020, when new outside pressures—particularly the financial turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic—might have more people ready to cut membership fees out of their expenses, on top other reasons [reported above] that people let memberships lapse.”
Business as Usual or a New Mindset?
There is no doubt that 2020 was a year of “financial turmoil,” but as a keynote speaker for associations I know that to attribute membership declines and a lack of engagement to lockdowns does not tell the whole story.
Unfortunately, in some associations the decline has gone on for years. Ironically, associations are needed now, more than ever. The glue that holds professionals together is the professional association.
Jan Hill, writing for Onelegal.com, a website directed at law associations, listed 10 advantages to belonging to an association. Among those advantages were: getting your name “out there,” job prospects, mentoring programs, networking and resources. If we couple those advantages with the survey above, it is apparent that there is a vision and mindset problem because the advantages an association offers are exactly the things members need.
Associations should be “blasting off” with new members at this time – and they’re not. COVID should be serving as a catalyst for expanding association membership and not a damper.
What is needed is a new association mindset. Whether the association addresses financial services, accounting, agriculture, manufacturing or dentistry, members need the combined expertise and common bonds shared with like-minded people.
Does your association have the mindset and the vision to engage existing members and to attract new members? If, as the survey showed, more than a third of your members may be dropping out because they think it’s too costly, or if more than a quarter of your members have left because they see little value, what is your association’s vision for new programs or services or engagement messaging? Very seriously, if members are leaving because of the declining quality of your association’s professional benefits, what is the collective mindset for improving that quality?
As we are being led out of the pandemic, the association must be there to lead the way and to put a public face to your industry. A healthy industry must have healthy associations. It will take mindset, vision and grit.
Book Scott Burrows, association keynote speaker by contacting him through this website or his office at: (520) 548-1169