Small is Beautiful or Too Big to Grow?



As we analyze the data from our 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research, we see many interesting data points that we will share when we officially release the report.
Here is one interesting point; it looks like the larger an association is in either total members or operating revenue the less likely it is to see the rate of membership growth increase.
Overall, 46% of participating associations reported that their membership has increased over the past year.   However, when we look at these associations that increased membership split out by operating revenue, we see varying levels of median growth rates.
  • Up to $1Million: 8.35%
  • $1 Million to $4.9 Million: 4.72%
  • $5 Million to $19.9 Million: 3.91%
  • $20 Million or More: 2.82%
This trend seems to hold true when we look at these associations split out by their total number of members.  For individual membership associations, here is how growth rates break out.
  • Up to 1,000 Members: 7.95%
  • 1,000 to 5,000 Members: 6.32%
  • 5,001 to 19,999 Members: 3.95%
  • 20,000 or More: 2.71%
Economists debate whether or not “small is beautiful” when it comes to companies, cities, and countries.  So size is not necessarily a predictor of fast or slow growth.

What is interesting are the reasons noted by both larger and smaller associations as their challenges to growth.  In the research, associations with the lowest operating budgets site insufficient staff as the chief challenge that they face in growing their membership.  On the other hand, associations with the highest operating budgets site the difficulty in communicating value as the major challenge for them in growing membership.

Lower budgeted groups may be resource challenged, but larger groups are challenged in focusing their superior staff and resources to present a clear value proposition. 

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