Ways to Respond to Declining Association Membership

2020 and 2021 saw a distinct reduction in membership retention among a variety of organizations. There are numerous reasons for this, some involving internal management, some involving factors beyond an organization’s control. The health scare of 2020, which has managed to extend into 2022, has been a big factor impacting memberships overall.

Still, this isn’t the only reason there’s been a steady decline in membership over the last several decades. With smartphones, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, decentralized working environments, and general global commerce, people are busier than ever.

Memberships may not represent the same advantage they did. So, what do you do about that? First, identify any problems, and work to correct them. To do that, it’s a good idea to consider advice from consultants and other experts. Amanda Kaiser, Joy Duling, and Sarah Sladek are a few corporate professionals featured on WildApricot.com who weigh in on this issue. The following four points are condensed from their insight:

• People are Busy: Make Application and Membership Easy
• Assure Organizational Goals and Membership Needs Align
• Growth Considerations: Membership Decline Isn’t Always Growth Loss
• Don’t Be Faceless, Be Responsive: What do Members Want, What do They Need?

People are Busy Make Application and Membership Easy
Because of how fast society seems to move in the modern age (owing to technology and economic realities primarily), you’ve got to make membership easy to acquire and manage. It shouldn’t be an uphill battle for the kind of customers you’re trying to court. Nobody’s got time to spend one or two hours filling out an application.

Ideally, features of membership for your organization ought to make things easier for target clientele. Reduce complication in onboarding and find ways of saving your members time with what you do. For example, if you’re running a nonprofit charity, perhaps have an automated function that provides members with statistics related to the sort of help you’ve been able to provide, and how well those who your members have donated to are doing because of their donations. This is a straightforward example but think outside the box a little and find good reasons to email those your organization serves.

Assure Organizational Goals and Membership Needs Align
Sometimes an organization seeks to secure members for its own needs, rather than the needs of those members. That’s a recipe for disaster. There needs to be an alignment between your organization and the members you’re trying to reach.

One of the best ways to do this is providing them real value. If you’re noticing a decline in membership, maybe add coupons or discounts for existing members who agree to extend associated memberships. Also, establish a way of acquiring feedback to see where you’re doing well, and where you should improve.

Growth Considerations: Membership Decline Isn’t Always Growth Loss
Sometimes organizations feel they’re not growing if membership isn’t increasing. This isn’t necessarily true. Sometimes those who were members are still doing business with you, they’re just doing it in a different way.

Keep note of numbers to determine if you should respond at all. Establish relevant and reliable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Sometimes membership itself is a KPI, sometimes it isn’t. Determine if that’s the case before you have a knee-jerk response.

Don’t Be Faceless, Be Responsive: What do Members Want, What do They Need?
This concept was briefly explored as regards feedback: whenever members ask anything, or seek to communicate with your organization in any way, it’s fundamental to respond expediently and to the satisfaction of members–as is possible, of course. Increased responsiveness helps reveal what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can do about it.

Taking Proactive Tips to Retain and Expand Membership
Be responsive, have KPIs to determine growth, establish feedback options, align your goals with what members generally want, and remember that with the fast-paced busy nature of modern society (especially in the wake of our ongoing health crisis), clientele don’t have the time they once did.

Members may not be able to do what they could before owing to basic pragmatic realities. If you keep these things in mind, you should be able to reduce membership losses and even expand how many members your organization serves.

Learn about how Grow Associations helps organizations like yours.