Revitalising Association Membership by McKinley Advisors

17th June 2024

McKinley Advisors has unveiled its latest research-driven report, Membership Reset: Delivering on the Promise of Membership, providing a strategy to rejuvenate the association membership model. This report highlights the persistent decline in association memberships and presents actionable insights to reverse this trend, essential for sustaining the vitality and financial health of associations.

The report reveals that since the 1950s, associations have faced a steady decrease in membership, which has significantly impacted their business models. The portion of revenue generated from membership dues has plummeted from 96% in 1953 to an average of 35% in 2021. Despite efforts to attract the next generation through innovative marketing and strategic planning, many associations still struggle to resonate with younger professionals and mid-career members.

Informed by interviews with for-profit organisations that have successfully leveraged membership models and success stories from association executives, the research shows the need for a strategic change. Key findings indicate that membership must be treated as a distinct business model, with adequate resources and a clear value proposition to meet evolving member needs.

The report identifies five common barriers to maximising membership potential: lack of focus, inadequate resourcing, difficulty in differentiating membership benefits, technological challenges, and ambiguous membership value propositions. The report suggests that associations can learn from for-profits by adopting community-building strategies, enhancing member engagement, and leveraging data-driven insights.

Among the actionable recommendations, the report emphasises the importance of defining the core problem that membership solves, aligning membership with the association’s mission, and investing in technology to deliver personalised member experiences. Successful case studies from the American Society for Microbiology, the Association for Supply Chain Management, and the Society of Women Engineers illustrate the benefits of a focused and intentional membership strategy.

You can read the full report here.

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