Encouragement to Innovate and Strengthen Membership

As you may have gathered by reading this blog, I am an optimist. So amidst all of the negative data that we see circulating, I thought I would point out a couple of positive perspectives.

Let me start with an interesting factoid that I came across the other day. What decade in the 20th century do you think had the fastest productivity growth? Most people pick the 90’s with the development of the internet. It actually was the 1930”s.

[“Recession] is often a stimulus for the adoption of new technologies. The decade of highest productivity growth in the 20th century was the 1930s. In the 1930s a lot of technologies developed in the 1920s were put into use because people were looking for any angle to improve their productivity. The personal computer revolution took off in the early 1980s when we had a really lousy recession.” [1]

I see our current time as a period where we can choose to hide and retrench or be challenged to innovate. I see many groups taking the innovation challenge.

The second piece of encouraging news comes from the data from Kevin Whorton’s Survey Report: Economy's Effect on Association Membership Programs that was released and shared at the Alexandria Brown Bag lunch last week. Scott Oser and Erik Schonher also presented at the session with Erik sharing his Whitepaper on marketing in a recession.

The research shows that associations are seeing shortfalls in revenue in a number of areas. But as I have reported, it also looks like membership acquisition is performing better than other areas for many associations. Kevin’s numbers encouraged me in this belief.

The survey reported that 23 percent of individual membership associations (IMO’s) are seeing a decrease in the number of “new membership inquiries” over the past six months. That means that 77 percent are seeing the same number or an increase.

Based on working with associations for over 20, it is pretty normal to have 23 percent in a membership decline.

I am also encouraged by the response to innovate and do more that many associations reported in the survey. Despite the current conditions, 66 percent of the IMO’s are “increasing” their membership touches in order to strengthen their membership during this time. And only 14 percent of IMO’s are eliminating campaigns.

What are your takes on this research and the opportunities to innovate? Please feel free to share.

[1] Awar Bhide, Facetime, BusinessWeek, January 7, 2009.


Scott Oser said...


Thanks for the shout out and I appreciate your mentioning the Brown Bag that I did with Erik. It was great. The amount of energy in the room and the ideas that people were discussing was so refreshing and exciting considering all of the doom and gloom that I have been hearing about.

Like you, I, too, am an optimist. Although I never think it is good to experience times as tough as these are proving to be for some organizations, I do think this is forcing many organizations to work smarter and leading to a lot of innovation and also a lot of stopping of bad habits that were formed during times when money was easier to come by.

Kevin's research is great and just as you did here, Erik and I did point out at the Brown Bag that even tbough a decent percentage of associations was forecasting lower reponse rates there were twice as many organizations that were not predicting decreases in response rates. The only complaint I have about Kevin's research is that it took a recession to make him do it. If Kevin had done this when times were "good" we would have data that we could benchmark against. Wouldn't it be great to know if the current results are any different than any other year? Just imagine if we had data from past surveys and discovered that the results during this recession are not much different than they were in 2000 when VC money was flowing and all of the Internet companies couldn't spend fast enough.

I really think that smart organizations with smart employees will use this time to really improve. Unfortunately the economy may not allow them to see the results right away but they definitely need to keep trying and I am confident they will improve faster than those who cut back and stop marketing.

Tony Rossell said...

Hi Scott -- Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the insights you have shared on this blog.

I also heard very good feedback from the session and I am encouraged that membership marketing professionals are hitting these issues head on. Tony