A Response to Acronym Blog: Membership Recruitment and Retention are Alive and Well

Scott Briscoe wrote a post yesterday on the Acronym blog entitled, “RIP: Membership?” He writes, “I am firmly in the camp that this model is dying. I believe that the nature of the way people affiliate, and what they expect to get out of it, is changing.”

I think everyone will agree that the world is changing, but I am not ready just yet to put association membership in the grave.

Here are several of reasons.

First, in our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 45 percent of association executives reported that membership had increased over the past year. Only 35% saw a decrease. That is pretty good considering the economy—it beat the stock market.

Additionally, 49 percent of association executives reported an increase in new member input over the past year. While only 21% saw new member input fall. The survey had over 500 participants.

Finally, I think that there is a more important indicator out there related to health of membership model. If the concept of membership is in decline then why are for profit companies running full speed toward a membership business model? I believe that they are doing it because it makes economic sense.

In the past, I have highlighted this strategic embrace of the membership concept among companies and organizations. Here are some of the posts discussing this trend.

Corporations Coop Membership Marketing – For profit marketers argue that every company should offer membership.

Costco Membership Up 30,000 per Week and Renewals at All-Time High of 87% -- Costco does not seem to be having a problem selling membership.

A Wake-Up Call for Associations – Magazines are offering association membership services

Exploring Alternative Membership Models -- Everyone from insurance companies to museums to retailers now offer membership.

So perhaps the issue is not that association membership is dying, but that association membership needs to be more effectively presented and managed.

One of the goals of this blog is to help membership marketers more effectively use this customer relationship called membership. I continue to believe that membership is an ideal model for an organization that provides good value and services to customers and wants to strengthen that relationship.


Kevin RIley said...


In a day where "Social" is become more and more relevant, membership to professional associations or even online communities like facebook or linkedin will only continue to grow.

From by perspective I see a bright future with the membership business model. People will always have a need to connect with like minded people. And people will always be willing to pay to be connected if it provides value and convenience.

my 2 cents



Tony Rossell said...

Hi Kevin -- Thanks for the comment. Since writing this post last year, many membership organizations have seen a decline in membership. But I think your point and those in this post still apply. I really like this quote as it applies to membership:

[There is} a very basic human need – the need to belong. Our need to belong is not rational, but it is a constant that exists across all people in all cultures. It is a feeling we get when those around us share our values and beliefs. When we feel like we belong we feel connected and we feel safe. As humans we crave the feeling and we seek it out.”

Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Penguin Group, 2009, page 53.