Declining membership is a problem facing many professional associations, with 68% of organisations struggling to grow their membership since 2020. But what is causing this decline in membership, and how can you prevent it in your association?
Why are professional associations experiencing a membership decline?
Although there are many reasons for this decline, the main culprit is that associations are not responding to member needs and financial uncertainty.
Associations are not responding to members’ needs
Social disruptions in recent years, alongside shifts in values and communication preferences, have altered the way members engage with associations and the experiences they wish to get out of their memberships. Along with changes in the values of existing members, the junior demographic of potential future members is not being considered by many associations.
The pandemic and current conflicts have put even more financial uncertainty on an already unstable economy. For many, the decision to become a member of a professional association is primarily financial, with factors of both membership cost and the benefits returned highly impacting their decision. With economic uncertainty as it is, for many, the benefits do not outweigh the physical value of the membership.
With many free resources and communities available, associations need to prove that they provide a higher value.
How can you combat membership decline?
To combat membership decline in associations, there are two areas that you’ll need to address: increasing the retention of your existing members and attracting new members.
How to increase retention of existing association members
1. Create valuable experiences for specific member segments
Not all members of your association will have the same interests. Use the data you have (or conduct surveys and interviews to gather more) to identify your existing members’ various interests and needs so you can ensure your association addresses all of the relevant areas as part of the membership package. This may include hosting talks and discussion panels on a range of specific topics or providing resources and support for a set of particular challenges.
2. Create value for long term membership
It can be easy for long term members to feel forgotten and less valued than the new members of your association. Turn this around by making your long term members feel like VIPs – this will make them more likely to renew at the end of their current membership. For example, you could offer long term members a discount on their renewal fees or access to exclusive events, meetings, and networking opportunities. Benefits like these can also help incentivise new members to identify the value of long-term memberships quickly.
3. Create a community within your association
Communities give us a sense of belonging and somewhere to get support from those who understand. This is increasingly valuable for members of medical associations who often face stressful and intense workdays.
Create a private community for your association members that they will be hesitant to leave behind should they choose to end their membership with you. Associations are already in a solid position to build relevant communities since their members are part of a niche audience.
How to attract new members to your association
1. Use social media
Regardless of your ideal association member, they will likely be somewhere on social media. Research which platforms they will be likely to use and what content they’re interested in so that you can build a social media strategy around this.
One of the best places to start your research is with your current members – ask them what attracted them to your association and how they found you.
Need support with member acquisition campaigns? Get in touch with our team of association membership management experts.
2. Offer exclusive experiences
People will be more likely to sign up for memberships if they believe your association offers something they cannot get elsewhere. For example, invite high-profile speakers to your events and meetings, offer discounted conference entry with membership or highlight which prolific industry experts are existing members that present enticing networking and mentoring opportunities.
Review what other offers are available for medical professionals and determine what unique offering your association has.
3. Utilise your existing members
Your existing members can be some of your best advocates: they can demonstrate to others that they are happy to pay the membership fees and discuss the benefits they have had first-hand.
Share your member’s stories and quotes in your marketing materials, such as social media posts and emails. Try to engage with your existing members on social media and support them by publicly celebrating their success – they will be more likely to share your association with their colleagues if you show an active interest in helping them too.
You may also want to consider offering a discount or monetary reward to your existing members to encourage them to promote your association and refer new members themselves actively.
4. Collaborate with others
Collaborating with other brands and associations can help you reach your ideal members while simultaneously getting a recommendation from an organisation they already trust.
For example, a representative from your association could speak as a guest or during a joint symposium at another association’s conference. While not everyone at these events may turn into members, they will have a greater level of trust for your association alongside a higher level of brand awareness that may lead them to recommend you to their colleagues in the future.
RELATED: Brand collaboration in professional conferences
Although associations are having difficulty growing, many are still boasting solid foundations. Simply following the advice set out in this article and responding to member needs, professional organisations can begin to see a positive change in their membership levels.
At Congrex, we are passionate about delivering exceptional member experiences to retain and grow your association memberships. Get in touch with our team to explore the possibilities for your association.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations, and corporations.