Thursday, June 27, 2013

Defining "Membership Growth"

In the past few weeks I have had a number of conversations with some good friends and colleagues where they used the phrase “membership growth” but in each case their definition differed.  Essential for any association, and almost always a key factor in their strategic plan, a clear understanding of what you mean by “membership growth” is needed to truly measure if the efforts you are making match the results you seek – so here are a few definitions that may apply to what you are trying to do:

Traditional Definitions

      New Member Count Increase – You have succeeded in attracting new members to your organization – congratulations!  Key to this growth is an understanding of WHY they joined – a particular product?  A connection with a component?  A fellow professional encouraging them to do so?  Their employer requiring membership?  Tracking the reason for joining will let you hone your recruitment techniques to connect with the right professionals in the right way.

        Specific Segment Count Increase – In my world this has recently been that our count of global members has grown as opposed to domestic.  Depending on the focus of your organization, these could be segmented by geography, experience in industry (student, young professional, retired, etc), investment in organization (prospect, customer, custom member, full member), etc. 

       Increase in Renewal Numbers – Your organization is retaining a higher percentage of members, resulting in month over month/year over year longer affiliation with your organization.   Particularly when calculating the lifetime value of a member, the longer their affiliation the bigger bottom line return your association will see.
        Total Member Count Increase – Most often the addition of numbers 1+3 above – and also most often the bottom line the Board wants to see.  This is an increase in the total count of members affiliated with your organization.

Less Traditional Definitions

       Member Engagement – Are more members taking advantage of the value engagement opportunities that you present?  Are they getting more involved?  Is there an increase in conference attendance, resource utilization and feedback on your current offerings?  Perhaps an increase in member engagement means greater dialogue – members commenting of private and public social media platforms, participating in surveys and research or achieving your certifications.  Any of these factors could be considered membership growth.

     Volunteer Participation – Though I have only heard it used this way once or twice, an increase in the number of volunteers and/or growth in the tasks they accomplish may indicate a growth in membership as well.  Particularly for organizations where there is a strong reliance on volunteer efforts for membership drives and localized value and programming, this may be a key factor in the expansion of the association.

If your organization has a definition of membership growth I have missed, please add it to the comments below.

At different moments, with varying stakeholders, the definition you intend for my ‘membership growth’ may not be the same one that others are picturing.  While in general ‘membership growth’ is a yay factor, it is key to know what you are celebrating!

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