by Tatiana Morand
Do you want to grow your membership?
For most organizations, the answer is, “Of course!”
If you have a vibrant, growing membership, you can do more work towards your mission, or share your programs with more people.
But, as you probably already know, wanting to grow isn’t the same thing as growing. Increasing member retention, raising more money, and reaching out to new members are all things that challenge many organizations.
Growth requires plans, strategy, and action. You have to think creatively, improve your communication and outreach, and create more opportunities for new members to find and join you. From building a great membership website to starting a bring-a-friend event, you have a lot of options.
But with so many options, it can be difficult to know which tactics are best. It can help to see what other organizations are doing that’s working well.
That’s why we put together the 2020 Membership Growth Report! It’s the result of surveys from organizations that have grown their membership, along with those who didn’t, and it explores what they did, what works, and what doesn’t.
Download the report now, or keep reading to learn more key statistics on growing both membership and revenue.
What makes someone become a member? Finding and appealing to new members is one of the major challenges most organizations face when they’re trying to grow. Which channels are the best to reach out on? Are some organizations more likely to grow than others? What kind of technology is essential?
- 68% of organizations have difficulty growing membership, so if you’re struggling, you’re not alone! (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Referring a friend is the most effective membership growth tactic. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Associations seeing an increase in new members in the past year are more likely to have increased their budget in all phases of the membership lifecycle. (Marketing General)
- The top three tactics for driving membership are a referral from a friend, email, and your organization’s website. Bonus: these tactics are all COVID-19 safe! (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- 76% of associations say that email gets the best response to re-engage lapsed members. (Marketing General)
- Organizations that had been in existence more than 10 years saw higher levels of shrinking than younger organizations. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Organization size does not seem to influence membership growth. Large and small organizations seemed to experience similar levels of growth. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- “More targeted communications” was the tactic to which the most respondents attributed improved member engagement. (GrowthZone)
- A multi-tactic approach to membership growth seems best. Leading organizations used 16% more tactics (1 1/2 more tactics) than their peers. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- 81% of associations with membership increases in the last year were significantly more likely to have a culture that supports innovation. (Marketing General)
- The most commonly cited challenge to growing membership is “difficulties reaching potential members.” (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- The second-most commonly cited challenge to growing membership is “not enough time.” (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Organizations surveyed found Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and posted flyers to be the least effective tactics to grow membership. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Organizations whose members recognize their value proposition reported higher renewal rates than those whose members don’t recognize the value proposition. (GrowthZone)
- 78% of associations that have seen a renewal rate increase in the past year also have a tactical plan to increase engagement. (Marketing General)
Many organizations face an aging of their membership — it’s especially hard for them to attract young people, including Millenials and Gen Z. In order for organizations to be sustainable and continue in their missions, recruiting and retaining younger members is essential.
- Associations that reported increases in their one-year and five-year membership numbers were more likely to have Gen X and Millennials make up a larger percentage of their membership. (Marketing General)
- Young members remain committed to membership. 87% of respondents reported it is important to be part of an association, and 51% reported being part of an association is becoming more important than it used to be. (Personify, 2019)
- Only 40% of young members surveyed report their membership experience is worth their membership dues. (Personify, 2019)
- 2 in 5 young members report being recruited by someone they already knew. (Personify, 2019)
- Gen Z members are disproportionately more likely to learn about organizations through Instagram. (Personify, 2019)
- Career-focused messaging is effective in getting young members to join organizations. (Personify, 2019)
- Young people are widely regarded to hate the phone, but 78% said that phone calls were somewhat to very effective in engaging them. (Personify, 2019)
- The most popular reason for young members to join an association was for educational content. (Personify, 2019)
- 76% of younger members who receive direct mail from their organizations report it to be either very or somewhat effective. (Personify, 2019)
- Younger members find importance in an organization’s mission including a commitment to greater good. 97% said it was important. 59% of those said it was very important. (Personify, 2019)
- Of all young members, African Americans seem to value an organization’s commitment to the greater good most highly, with 76% citing greater good as very important in their decision to join an organization. (Personify, 2019)
- Despite the overwhelming majority of young members identifying giving back as important, only one quarter report participating in community service events. Additional promotion of community service events to younger members or the creation of volunteer opportunities that are aligned with their skills, availability, and preferences, may be effective to resolve this discrepancy. (Personify, 2019)
- Almost one-fifth of all young members have let a membership lapse in the last year, with “decline in benefits or quality offered” being the most common reason. (Personify, 2019)
- Associations reporting declines in their one-year and five-year membership levels are significantly more likely to report challenges in attracting and/or maintaining younger members. (Marketing General)
Membership Organization Revenue
Raising revenue is another piece of the organizational growth puzzle. Membership organizations obviously rely on their members for some portion of their revenue, and increasing membership can also raise funds. However, some membership organizations are finding success in diversifying their fundraising beyond member dues.
- Only 51% of organizations surveyed were able to grow their revenue in 2019. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Roughly half of the organizations surveyed failed to grow their revenue in 2019. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Organizations that have been in operation for less than 4 years were much more likely to experience their 2019 revenue falling below their 2018 totals. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Organization size does not seem to impact membership growth, but it does impact revenue growth. Small organizations were 4 times more likely to have their revenue fall than their medium-sized peers, and twice as likely as larger organizations. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- Leading organizations were 72% more likely to source between 26% and 75% of their revenue from non-membership sources. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)
- The biggest challenge to growing revenue that respondents cited was people not hearing about the organization. (Wild Apricot 2020 Membership Growth Report)