The ease of connection afforded by technological tools could tempt one to call into question the very need for associations. But associations do have a vital role to play in enabling individuals to connect with one another and access information, but, as membership organizations, they must explore new routes of engagement and connection to stay relevant to their members. It has never been more important or timely for the association community to critically assess how associations, and association membership models, are evolving. To effectively serve their constituencies, and to thrive, associations must consider the future of their membership structures.
The Exploring the Future of Membership research program included grant funding to four research teams, as well as an immersive and collaborative two-day workshop among the researchers, association CEOs and membership professionals to discuss the findings and identify common themes. These discussions distilled the findings of the four research reports into five key themes that will serve as the basis for future exploration of association membership.
Exploring the Future of Membership, a new report summarizing the themes of the research reports and the research retreat, is now available! This report zeroes in on leading concerns and trends affecting association membership today and highlights actions taken by associations to continue to effectively engage their members. While critical shifts in the social and technological landscapes are changing the way people connect and communicate with each other, Exploring the Future of Membership illustrates that associations are proving adept at meeting these challenges and preparing for the future.
Read the four research reports here:
- The Future of Association Engagement — Association Laboratory
Analyzed secondary research on association engagement conducted by Association Laboratory, results from Association Laboratory’s 2014 association environmental scan “Looking Forward,” and data collected via discussions with 33 association chief staff officers and senior membership professionals via online bulletin boards. This study in particular examined the macro forces and large-scale social changes that affect membership decisions on an organizational level and an individual level
- Innovations in Membership Engagement: A Benchmarking Study — Avenue M Group
Examined 14 organizations that have created successful and innovative membership models that both encourage growth and support the mission of the organization. In their exchanges with these organizations, Avenue M Group identified five key factors organizations took into account when making successful changes to their membership strategies.
- New Realities Existing Within Converging Trends: The Future Is Now — The Haefer Group, Ltd. and Blanken Consulting/Results Technology, Inc.
Used in-depth interviews, a literature review, and multiple case studies to focus on the value proposition of the future for membership organizations. The study relates six “new realities” associations must understand and address to engage their membership: demographic shifts, technology and co-creation, networks, volunteerism and civic engagement, blurred sector boundaries, and recent economic shifts and the changing labor market. These external realities shift in importance depending on the internal needs of the members/associations, so it is incumbent on associations to identify how the new realities relate to their situation and find a balance between them.
- How Can Professional Associations Provide Meaningful Value for Their Members: Creating Models of Affiliation and Engagement — Department of Public Administration, University of North Texas (UNT)
Employed surveys, in-depth interviews, and focus groups to query 12 international doctoral students studying in the United States about their experiences with associations. From these conversations, the study gained more information about how these students came to choose their association affiliations, how they engaged, and how they would like to engage in the future.
ASAE Foundation’s Research on Membership
The above publications represent a portion of the ongoing membership research ASAE Foundation performs and supports. Other recent ASAE and ASAE Foundation resources on membership include The Decision to Join (ASAE 2007), The Decision to Volunteer (ASAE 2008), and 10 Lessons for Cultivating Member Commitment (ASAE 2012). A summary of the themes discussed in these resources can be found in "7 Drivers of Membership" (PDF), while the Resource Guide (PDF) identifies which books to consult to learn more about specific themes.