In this blog, we’ll be exploring the membership trends that are shaping our present and guiding us into the future. Join us as we discuss some of the key innovations and trends that are taking centre stage for membership organisations and associations.
Sustained growth for any organisation is most often determined by resilience and adaptability. These qualities allow you to prepare for and, indeed, adapt to changing environments. Monitoring industry trends is key to building resilience and ensuring that you thrive, even in periods of uncertainty.
1) Membership Engagement Strategy
We expect to see increased spending on membership engagement strategies as one of the most significant trends among membership organisations. Members who are engaged are more likely to stick around for the long haul, which is a goal shared by all organisations.
Yet, over 41% of organisations of all sizes struggle with engagement.
Fortunately, more associations are dealing with this problem. As of 2022, the sector's main goal for the fourth year in a row was to get members more involved.
But only 35% of medium to large membership groups and 29% of the sector as a whole have an engagement strategy.
Membership growth and expansion will be slower without an engagement strategy. Associations need to offer more than just membership to keep members engaged.
Communication and decision-making should be based on the preferences of today's customers, including those of Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. To win over today's consumers, you must adopt a culture of constant innovation and proactive member engagement.
Prioritising member data to provide a great experience for members is one obvious solution. Many smaller organisations realise the value of data analytics but lack the resources of larger organisations to provide their members with a better experience.
Even though data analytics is a top priority for 65% of professionals, only 35% believe the quality of their company's data to be above average.
They struggle to improve the member experience without the right tools to turn data into actionable insights. This is where a strong engagement strategy helps.
Here are some innovative engagement strategies that leading associations are adopting:
Personalisation—using an AMS (Association Management System)
Gamification and rewards
Membership reward programmes
Interactive online communities
Advocacy and social initiatives
2) Personalised Member Experiences
Personalised experiences are all around us, in media, in stores, and in ads. Personalisation involves tailoring experiences to members' needs and preferences. The modern consumer expects you to know their pain points and provide targeted, relevant solutions.
If they do not get a personalised experience on time, 45% of consumers will leave.
Your members have the same expectations from your association. From conferences to opportunities for professional growth to content suggestions, members want experiences that are tailored to their needs. They want to be able to join an online community that reflects their
values and understands their needs and aspirations.
If you do not give members the personalised experiences they crave, it could be disastrous for your membership growth.
3) Enhancing the Member Experience with Technology
Technology continues to dictate the way we interact with the world around us. It’s safe to say that the future of membership will include some level of dependence on tech tools and resources.
Still, only 16% of associations say they are very ready for the future in terms of technology.
That number needs to move in one direction: up.
In the next few years, technology will make it easier for members to support your mission and programmes. Here’s how:
Virtual Volunteering Platforms: Online platforms that allow members to contribute their time and skills remotely, making it easier to engage and support your organisation.
Interactive Webinars and Workshops: Utilising interactive tools and technologies to create engaging online events enhances member learning and participation.
Gamification: Applying game elements, such as rewards and challenges, to encourage member engagement and motivation.
Mobile Apps: Providing members with easy access to your organisation's resources and activities on their smartphones, promoting real-time engagement.
AI-Powered Personalisation: Using artificial intelligence to tailor content, recommendations and incentives to individual member interests and preferences, enhancing the user experience.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): Creating immersive experiences for members, such as virtual tours or interactive exhibits, that deepen their connection to your organisation's mission.
4) Changes in Member Demographics
Since older generations are passing the baton on to younger generations, it is clear that some of the "old ways" will not work anymore. Younger members expect an online experience that is engaging and valuable.
What does it mean for associations?
For associations whose members are mostly baby boomers, this could mean sudden drops in membership rates in the coming years. The second and more positive point is that there is untapped potential for younger generations to become members.
Associations that prioritise the needs of this untapped market will pave the way to creating membership associations in the future.
What should you do about it?
If your organisation wants to attract and keep younger members, it needs to learn what kinds of professional support those members want and how to provide it.
Their needs are quite different from those of their predecessors’. Younger generations are still interested in leadership positions, but they have less available time. They want to be involved, but in a less rigid and more time-efficient way. They want faster decisions and communication at their fingertips.
There are also younger members who want less formal networks and more of a community. To build their careers, they want things like:
Certifications and training
Connections for mentorship
Instant access to industry news and experts
Resume-building activities like leading and participating in committees
Additionally, providing digital programmes makes it easier for everyone to get more value from their membership. This includes member rewards programmes that mirror the reward programmes tech-savvy Gen Z’ers and millennials commonly see in purely commercial enterprises.
You can use these programmes to provide innovative member experiences that are perfect for their needs. The scalability and flexibility of digital programmes make them the ideal approach for enhancing membership value.
5) Online Events
From virtual to in-person to hybrid, associations have tried it all with events! Some prefer on site events, while others prefer virtual events.
Which side wins the debate?
Virtual, on-site or hybrid events?
Associations will redefine hybrid models in the coming years. Expect many in-person events to have a digital component for members who can not attend. Associations will be looking to add a new dynamic to hybrid and virtual events of the past with unique elements like:
Daily Highlight Blogs and Articles: Highlighting the day's most important moments and providing a comprehensive overview of the event's key takeaways and highlights.
Live Streaming Key Sessions: Allowing remote attendees to watch and participate in the most important sessions in real time
On-Demand Session Videos: Making selected event sessions available on-demand after an event helps members access and revisit the content.
It’s also worth conducting a member survey to ask what they want from events and how they would like to attend.
Ongoing event engagement
The hybrid model will transform one-off events into ongoing engagement opportunities. Associations will look to achieve this with strategies that target multi-channel promotion. Technology will also play a vital role in driving this change, with:
Effortless registration processes that enable attendees to select and customise their event experience by choosing from a range of sessions and activities
Surveys and polls that engage attendees and give event organisers valuable feedback
Digital badges for staff, attendees, speakers, and other event participants, facilitating networking and recognition
A digital repository for attendees to download session materials, handouts, and other resources.
Online forums where attendees can discuss, share, and network before, during, and after the event.
People who meet at an event can easily connect online after the event is over with this technology.
You have probably noticed by now that all of the trends involve digitisation. A digital transformation is a big strategic and cultural change that will affect how your association interacts with its members and other important people. Think about how the above trends could be met with a digital-first culture.
Integrated systems enable members to access networking, content, and services on any device, anytime.
Digitisation features drive engagement in virtual learning programmes and hybrid events.
Integrated digital strategies allow you to personalise member experiences.
A digital-first culture lets you increase membership value and association revenue. Data analysis, like personalisation, reveals member needs and shapes your strategies to benefit everyone.
7) Diversifying Revenue Streams
These trends are forcing associations to rethink their business models. Many are rethinking membership models and revenue streams. Traditional membership models can be complex and inflexible, creating an environment that deters new members.
Traditional membership dues-based associations are diversifying their revenue streams. Some are considering virtual training and member rewards programmes as alternate revenue sources.
Other ideas gaining traction include:
Tiered Membership: A tiered approach benefits both your association and its members. For example, higher tiers could provide full access to event materials and resources that lower tier members cannot access.
It involves bundling offers into different packages depending on the member’s subscription value. This approach can boost revenue and membership value.
Partnerships: You can also benefit from forming alliances with associations or organisations whose services complement yours to offer potential members more value.
8) Encourage Agility and Open Communication
Associations have learned that their internal operations affect their ability to serve members, adapt to new challenges, and survive. Developing an agile mindset is a great place to start.
Encouraging open communication internally can help you achieve this.
Improve your internal communications by being more deliberate. You can even centre member messaging on your new agility commitment. It will show members that you understand the importance of responding quickly to their changing needs.
You can foster agility and communication by:
Using the Right Tools: If your current management and collaboration tools don’t meet expectations or your needs, then you need an upgrade.
Create an Action Plan: Defining a clear strategy and metrics for optimising communication in your association are essential.
Ask for Help: Survey your members and staff to identify communication issues and possible solutions. Doing this will boost the impact of your new plans.
Stay Plugged In!
Change isn’t going away anytime soon.
There will be new trends that come along after these, and you will have to change your strategies again. What matters is that you know where you stand and what you want to do.
You should also be willing to look at your relationships with members on a regular basis to keep up with trends and changes in their expectations.