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Top 13 #Association Posts on @GreenfieldSrvcs Blog in 2013

The team here at Greenfield is busy wrapping up the year.  We have been truly lucky to work with great organizations this year, learn new skills, and have the opportunity to contribute to the industry through our research and the knowledge shared on the Membership Engagement Blog.

In the spirit of sharing, we thought we would wrap up 2013 with a re-cap of our top-read blog posts this year - and we dug through our stats to put them in order of popularity:

  1. #Association Goals & Objectives [Infographic]:  Our first infographic on the Membership Engagement Blog, this post showcased some key statistics derived from our 2013 Pulse Report on Membership Marketing & Engagement practices.  This infographic highlights key goals, and key concerns based on the associations who responded.
  2. Are You Using Social Media to Engage Members?  This post was inspired by research and whitepapers produced by Avectra, a US-based provider to associations.  In this post, we encouraged an understanding that "the true value of social media investment comes from figuring out how many of those followers - or fans, connections, private online community members - are engaged in ways that align with your association's goals.  
  3. Smart & Steady Wins the Race: This post was inspired by Shelly Alcorn, CAE.  Her original post suggested that when times get tough, association executives' narrow their focus to looking for the one solution that will solve all their problems.  In contrast, we encouraged a smart and steady alternative (other than slow & steady - does that even exist anymore!) - by understanding what your members need and want, building reliable revenue sources, and adding secondary revenue streams.  
  4. Social Media Marketing - So Much More Than Just Technology: this post I believe hit home with our readers because it talks about creating strategies that are thoughtful, strategic, authentic and engaging versus jumping in hoping it works.
  5. Using Twitter for Events - Part 1: Preparation - my colleague Gwynydd Murray, our Social Media Coordinator, created this three-part series.  In Part 1, Gwyn encourages association's to truly be prepared for social media at events, including hard copies of important info, event hastags, and a low-tech contingency.  
  6. Where to Look for Member Engagement:  This post recommends that we recognize the opportunity that is just beyond our reach, and allocate our resources accordingly.  Communication & member engagement models are changing fast, and the future belongs to associations that can make the transition.  
  7. Using SEO to Make Your Website Searchable:  my colleague Jeff Chabot, our Web & E-Marketing Coordinator, created this post.  Jeff talks about what SEO is, and what it can do for your online brand.  He also suggests five things that associations can look at to increase their SEO ranking.
  8. Using Twitter for Events - Part 2: Mastering Your Tools - Gwyn's second post highly recommends that we don't just install the app to our smartphone and start tweeting.  Instead, we should become well versed in what the app can and cannot do, and prepare for it.  
  9. How to Listen to Your Members All Year Round:  In this post, we talk about member surveys.  While they are great for benchmarking, a continuous conversation is needed to truly listen and engage members today.  Social media can help - and we have offered up six steps to build your online presence into the continuous conversation that you and your members need.
  10. Effective Associations: Making Your Conference a Powerhouse - in this post, we talk about what it takes to make your conference the powerhouse it deserves to be - by getting participants to the table, giving participants what matters most, and the investment that matches the return.
  11. Declutter Your Communications with Your Members in Mind:  This post was inspired by Naylor LLCs study on communications.  They reported that most associations are pre-occupied with cutting through the clutter, but they are unclear on their strategy on how this will happen.  Our response to this study supported their findings in this post.
  12. Using Twitter for Events: Part 3 - Engagement:  In Gwyn's final post in her three part series, she talks strategically about using Twitter, and reminds us all that Twitter exists to engage; before, during and after the event.
  13. A Dangerous Disconnect on Member Retention:  Our final post in the top 13 discussed the strategy and marketing around member retention.  For the second year in a row, our Pulse Report showed that associations lack staff, strategy and resources to conduct a well-rounded retention marketing campaign.  

We hope that you enjoyed reading our thoughts and opinions on our blog this year.  Thank you all for your continued support!  We wish you all the very best this holiday season; we look forward to engaging with you in the New Year!

Top 13 blogs of 2013

2013 was a year of great blogs, opening the doors to great education opportunities.  Here are my top 13 blogs from this year:

  1. Mitchell Beer’s post on the Content Marketing Lifecycle encourages organizations to take a step back and really work the research and information they have to share.  He provides us with six questions to determine what an association’s content lifecycle could be.
  2. Don’t Poke the Meeting Feedback Bear Unless You’re Willing to Act. This has been the subject of many conversations I have had this year.  Why ask about the food when you can do a better job at getting feedback on the content of the meeting or conference?  Donna Kastner says it so well here.
  3. This year, I was thrilled to come across Daniel Varroney, a consultant based in the US.  His blog has been extremely informative.  One of my personal favorites is “Can Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth?” – the short answer is yes, but this blog both explains the dangers, and what you can do about it.
  4. As Jeff Hurt’s “unofficial #1 fan” – I always include a post of his.  And while there are so many to choose from, “5 Conference Conditions that Lead to Attendee Focused Attention” is my favourite  with his advice to increase the attention span of your conference delegates.
  5. Ever wonder what Gen X & Y need to trust you?  Sarah Sladek provides us with six ways you can build trust.   My personal favorite is about work-life balance.
  6. Personal connections still remain one of the best ways to keep sponsors, clients, and members loyal.  AllĂ©e Creative talks about this – and ways to implement on social media, in this post.
  7. To share or not to share?  This blog sparked some great conversations online, all about non-members and sharing your associations’ info.  Thanks to Associations Now for starting the discussion!
  8. How is your organization pitching your membership?  Membership180 shares five different ways associations pitch to non-members.  I really like the second point about “diffusing the objection” and explaining how an organization’s value goes far beyond networking events.
  9. The Infographic produced by Socious “The Anatomy of a Private Online Member Community” was full of great information.  It shows you the various steps of strategy, features and community building it takes to be successful.  
  10. Avectra produced a blog earlier this year on the skills needed to be a membership professional. The short answer is that it takes a lot of skills, but there is a breakdown.  Being a membership professional is not for everyone, but this can certainly be a great way to build your skill set!
  11. Putting the strategy into strategic planning by my friend Meredith Low is another great post. She is constantly challenging the status quo, and encouraging organizations not to be generic when they are trying to be strategic.  
  12. Virtual Inc.’s Association Management Blog posted a great article by Andy Freed on why professional associations’ need a strategic plan - right now.  Strategic planning should not be an annual effort, but should be looked at quarterly, especially with emerging technologies and changing member needs happening frequently.  
  13. Social Tables rounds out the top blogs I have seen this year with their two-part series on event marketing to Millennials.  With this generation, email, online and social media are in, and print & direct mail are out.  Check out their tips and best practices in part 1 & part 2 of this series.

What were your favourite posts this year?

Image courtesy of cooldesign /

Greenfield Director, Meagan Rockett, to speak CSAE Trillium Winter Summit

Greenfield Services' Meagan Rockett will be speaking at the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) Trillium Chapter Winter Summit on January 31, 2014 in London, Ontario.

“A Lost Opportunity? Membership is Declining and We Need to Pay Attention” is the subject of the session where Rockett will report on key statistics from Greenfield's latest Pulse Report on the membership marketing and engagement practices of Canadian associations.

Participant outcomes include:
- Opportunity to discuss the key findings of the study;
- Identify areas for improvement and appropriate strategies in these key areas;
- Peer exchange and discussion amongst of strategies that have worked

For more information on the Winter Summit, or to register, please click here, or download a copy of the Greenfield Pulse report here.

Meagan looks forward to joining other esteemed speakers at this conference, and helping Canadian association executives with ways to work through membership engagement issues!

An #Association Powered Career

This post was provided by Victoria See, Marketing Manager with MultiView, and offers a compelling story about how association membership has worked for her.  Thanks so much for sharing Victoria!

My association membership got me my job.

You can really stop reading there. That’s the story. My association membership got me my job. Without my association membership, I would not have been hired four years ago by a fantastic company that saw my potential and pushed me to it and even beyond it. Without my association membership, I don’t know where I’d be, but I wouldn’t be succeeding like I am now.

I’ll paint you a picture. It’s 2009. August. The Great Recession had never been greater—or worse, if you’re a recently graduated 22-year-old with nothing but internships under her belt. I was desperate. My internship had ended without an offer because they just didn’t have the money. I was living with my parents. I was sending out resumes and posting my portfolio, doing everything I could think of to find a job.

And then, one day, like magic, I got a phone call. MultiView wanted to know if I could come in for an interview. MultiView? I hadn’t heard of them. If I’d sent in a resume there, I was pretty sure I’d recognize the company name, at least. I was drawing a total blank.

Cut to two days later. I interviewed—and I was hired on the spot. I finally found the courage to ask just how I’d gotten in the door in the first place; and that’s what I found out: my new boss had found me on the AIGA member website.

Yup. As a student member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, I had posted my resume, clips of my work and a link to my website as part of my profile. “Looking for a new designer,” said boss who had perused local profiles. He found my profile and had HR bring me in for an interview. Without that membership, I never would have had this job.

Maybe not all stories are as direct as mine. Maybe a prospective employer sees an association on a resume and is herself a member.  Maybe her company partners with that association. An association membership connotes a seriousness about that profession that little else can.

Associations also provide unique networking opportunities that can help you get a foot in the door. Even most nationwide associations will have local chapters that meet once a month—a monthly meeting of professionals in your industry that you can rub elbows with, collect business cards from and meet with for professional advice. Even if the people you meet don’t hire you outright, they can point you in the right direction or pass on the tips they’ve picked up along in their careers that have gotten them to where they are now.

What’s your association story?

Top 5 Challenges In Dealing With Multiple Chapters

Lori Halley provided this guest post.  She is the Blog Writer (Engaging Apricot) at Wild Apricot, cloud software for small associations, non-profits and clubs. With a background in associations and non-profits, Lori tries to offer tips and information to help the staff and volunteers of small organizations with day-to-day challenges.  We thought this was an interesting perspective on multi-chapter associations and their communications.

We recently released our final report on the Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey that we conducted this summer. The survey report and an additional highlights article, summarize both the benchmarking data and insight into the unique characteristics and practices of organizations with multiple chapters, branches or affiliates. But in addition, we wanted to offer an inside look at some of the specific challenges that multi-chapter organizations or HQ's) face.

As we noted in our post – Insight into Multi-Chapter Relationships – one of the key themes that ran through the survey responses was that multi-chapter organizations have both special, and often complicated, relationships between the central organization (or head office) and the chapters. Since our survey gathered information and insight from both the chapter and central organization point of view, we thought we’d share some of the candid responses we received to one of the open-ended questions in our survey:

What are the key challenges or hurdles central organizations face in dealing with multiple chapters?

Maintaining consistent organizational practices across chapters

In looking through the survey responses, we found, understandably, that establishing and maintaining standard, consistent procedures and practices across a number of often disparate and dispersed chapters was a key challenge. The following verbatim answers illustrate the central organization’s challenges:

  • “Getting chapters to function as part of a larger organization and not isolated organizations.”
  • “Political tug-of-war about who owns what.”
  • “Inconsistent quality of service delivery; variety of locally autonomous groups setting their own processes and policies.”


Communications were identified as a key challenge for both chapters and HQs. The following verbatim comments demonstrate the communications issues central organizations face in dealing with their chapters:

  • “Lack of communication from chapters to the central organization.”
  • “Communicating - there are e-mails coming to people from our national organization and from our local organization. Nobody wants to read 7 e-mails a day from our organization's various entities.”
  • “Two way communication and insuring timely task completion.”

Membership data management

As providers of membership management software, we understand the many challenges organizations face in maintaining membership databases, managing renewals and growing your membership. But the survey findings confirmed that these processes can be even more complicated when information is captured, stored, or shared between central organizations and numerous chapters. These survey responses articulate some of the “hurdles” multi-chapter HQ's face with their chapters:

  • "Integration of local data with national data.”
  • “Trying to reconcile membership reports with chapters is a BIG issue - especially since we don't get immediate reports about new members, etc. because we only get reports once a month!”

Leadership development and turnover

Since chapters are often volunteer-led, HQ participants suggested they face challenges in developing and maintaining effective volunteer leaders:

  • “Maintaining volunteer personnel”
  • “Leadership or talent development at the level of the boards of local chapters”
  • “Lack of involvement from chapter officers”

Website management

Our survey findings suggest that website management is a challenge for both HQ and Chapters – with 62.7% of chapters being responsible for developing their own websites, and just under 13% receiving technical support and guidance from their central organization. Here are some of HQ’s challenges:

  • “Keeping consistent with website and processes.”
  • “One of the hardest challenges is that a lot of our Branch leaders do not handle technology very well.”
  • “Getting the local chapters to find and develop web experts to manage their local pages.”

What challenges do you face in dealing with your multiple chapters?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Want Association Revenue Growth in 2014?

This post was provided by Dan Varroney, President & CEO at Washington, D.C. area based Potomac Core Consulting, a leading Association revenue growth management firm specializing in Growth Strategy, Executive Coaching & Sales Training, and Competitive Strategy. 

Want Association Revenue Growth in 2014?  Association CEO’s and the senior management teams are looking ahead. Budget discussions are underway and board leadership wants to see an Association revenue growth budget. Corporate profitability is rebounding and the expectation is that Associations too will achieve the same level of robust growth. What can Associations do to improve their competitive edge and grow in 2014?

Stiffening Competition

Renewals remain challenging and while organizations are seeing increases in new member growth they wonder how long it continues. It’s not just the economy anymore, Association Executives for the most part are experiencing increased competition. For profit companies continue to enter markets once owned exclusively by Associations. In addition, new solutions including Not for Profit organizations, coalitions and consulting companies are offering competing products and services.

Sharpen Your Competitive Edge

Thanks to new technologies, data is more accessible than ever before. Associations who capture, interpret and apply data driven strategies can dramatically improve their competitive positioning. In a real time world data provides Associations with speed to market.

These 3 Steps Work

  • Competitive Analysis. Hard knuckle comparison to other Associations and solutions.   What are the gaps and opportunities?
  • Impact Survey. Engage your members. For example, products, services and advocacy.   Are they impactful? What can your Association do to best connect to member business needs and objectives?
  • Business model. Utilize the competitive analysis and the impact survey data to adjust shape a business model that accelerates your Association’s impact.

Buy In

Share the data with your executive committee; seek their input on accelerating your Association’s impact. Engage your senior management team. Work with them to build a vision in that closely reflects the data and the executive committee’s perspectives. They will see the staff efforts as prudent and timely.

Want Association Revenue Growth in 2014?

A number of Associations are experiencing membership growth and increased participation. Recognizing heightened competition they utilized data driven strategies to improve their competitive position. In some instances Associations doubled revenue. How? Better differentiated value and accelerated member participation.

The path to Association revenue growth next year and beyond is paved with a data driven competitive edge.

What strategies did your Association employ to engage members and grow revenue?

Tourism Richmond (BC) Presents 2013 Pulse Report Highlight Session

Pulse Report Cover
Greenfield Services is thrilled to announce a very special collaboration with Tourism Richmond, BC.

On November 14th, Greenfield's Chief Strategist, Doreen Ashton Wagner, and Director of Client Solutions, Meagan Rockett, will be co-presenting a session on the six essential strategies that successful associations implement to maximize stakeholder engagement and revenues from meetings and conferences.

This session is based upon the findings of Greenfield's 2013 Pulse Report, which surveyed 173 Canadian Associations to assess their membership marketing and engagement practices.

Taking place over lunch at Sassafraz in Toronto's Yorkville district, we look forward to sharing research results and imparting best practices to help association executives improve their engagement levels with meeting attendees, exhibitors and sponsors. And improving their revenue in the process.  We thank Tourism Richmond for sponsoring this thought-leadership session.

Attendance is by invitation only.  If you are interested in attending, please click here to indicate your availability, and we will be in touch with you.  For questions on the event or The Pulse Report, please email Meagan Rockett.

About Tourism Richmond

Richmond, BC is the perfect place to host your next meeting or event with 24 brand-name hotels and offers diverse, multi-functional, multi-purpose meeting and event space. This 2010 Olympic Venue City is home to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), and the Canada Line rapid transit line

Want to learn more about Richmond, BC, Canada as a meeting location? Click to watch a video on Vimeo of their meeting facility experience.

For more information about Richmond, please contact Deidre DeVico, National Sales Manager, at 604-821-5480.

Greenfield Services to speak at Canadian Construction Association Conference

We are delighted to announce that Greenfield’s Director of Client Solutions, Meagan Rockett, will be speaking at the Canadian Construction Association’s 2013 Chief Operating Officer’s Conference this November in Ottawa.

Leading the panel, Meagan will address membership marketing and engagement practices, offering tips and best practices based on our 2013 research (please see our 2013 Pulse Report – “Opportunities Beyond Our Grasp”).

Other panelists include Beckie MacDonald with the Ontario Library Association, and Karin Sheldrick with the Niagara Construction Association, who will offer insights on what has worked well with their respective associations.

Meagan looks forward to joining other esteemed speakers at this conference, and helping construction associations work through their respective engagement issues.

Communications In A Multi-Chapter Environment (guest post by @WildApricot)

Lori Halley provided this guest post.  She is the Blog Writer (Engaging Apricot) at Wild Apricot, cloud software for small associations, non-profits and clubs. With a background in associations and non-profits, Lori tries to offer tips and information to help the staff and volunteers of small organizations with day-to-day challenges.  We thought this was an interesting perspective on multi-chapter associations and their communications.

What are the key communications and outreach challenges for multi-chapter organizations? 

We all know that communications are critical to any relationship. And our recent Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey findings suggest that multi-chapter relationships are no exception. Survey respondents identified communications – both with members and their Central Organization (or HQ) – was one of the key challenges their organizations face.

While communicating with members is always the top priority for any membership organization, we recognize that those with multiple chapters have additional layers or levels of relationships to manage and maintain.

While our full Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey Report offers detailed insight, we thought we’d share some of the highlights of our findings on multi-chapter communications and website administration in this post and through our new infographic.

Communicating with members in multi-chapter organizations 

Our survey data indicates that more than 60% (64.3%) of respondents reported that their chapters work together with the central organization to communicate with members, with slightly less than a quarter (24.5%) of participants reporting that chapters are solely responsible for communications.

With the shared communications roles across chapters and HQ, we wondered who was responsible for which member communications and what methods were used.  This visual from our infographic illustrates the top four communications methods.

You'll note that email is the top communications channel for both chapters and central organizations. However, the chapter understandably plays the key role in terms of face-to-face meetings (81.6%). Both organizations offer newsletters and are involved with managing social media.

Website Branding and Development:

Websites are the primary online identity for membership organizations. Your website is where you engage with and inform your members, supporters and prospects. It’s where folks manage their membership profile, sign up for events, and generally, find out what’s going on at your organization. But our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey identified some key challenges involved with developing and maintaining chapter websites. Some of the specific hurdles that central organizations identified included:
  • Getting the local chapters to find and develop web experts to manage their local pages
  • Trying to get standard look across website platforms
  • Keeping consistent with website and processes
  • Technology – knowledge of and ability to use tools as well as consistency around website process and updating 
On the flip-side of the chapter-central organization relationship, it was also interesting to note that when we asked what additional resources they’d like to receive from their HQ, chapter respondents noted they’d like to see central organizations providing website templates, design standards and technical support to chapters.

Here are some of the survey highlights around website management at multi-chapter organizations:
  • 62.7% of respondents reported that chapters are solely responsible for developing their own websites
  • Just 12.7% of chapters receive technical support and guidance from their central organization
  • In addition, close 77.8% of respondents indicated that there are no standard website templates or brand standards available to chapters
  • 8.8% of chapters do not have their own website, however some respondents noted having pages on the state or national organization’s website

Who manages chapter website content?

More than 80% of respondents noted that chapters manage their own web content; while fewer than 10% of sites are managed by the central organization.
  • 84.8% - said that each chapter has its own webmaster
  • 8.7% - reported that the central organization manages all chapter websites
  • 6.5% - noted other website content arrangements

Want more details on our Multi-Chapter Benchmarking Survey? 

This was just a snapshot of the insight we've gathered about communications and website management at multi-chapter organizations. If you’d like more detailed survey findings on these and other topics, you can register to receive the full survey report here.

Is #Sales Really a Dirty Word in the #Association Space?

On September 19th, I was part of a panel discussion at the CSAE National Conference & Showcase, talking about membership engagement and non-member marketing.

My activity on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn had led me to believe that the term “Sales” in the association space is not popular; in fact, some people believe that they are not selling anything.

But during the panel discussion when I said that as association executives, you are always selling, and that we need to shift our mindset away from it being taboo, there were a lot of nodding heads in the room.

So, was I wrong in my thinking?  Are association executives in a place now where they recognize the funnel that is in place for membership recruitment, retention and engagement?  Or are we just scratching the surface?

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments below.

Image courtesy of

Associations Scramble to Do More with Less

For the second year in a row, research by Greenfield Services shows that Canadian associations are scrambling to build strong, effective organizations without the resources to do the job.

That means they’re living out an axiom that we forget at our peril:

Beyond a certain point, you don’t do more with less. You do less with less.

Greenfield’s 2013 Pulse Report painted a stark statistical picture of the day-to-day struggle facing too many organizations. The research showed that:

  • The majority of associations with 2,000 or more members “were trying to deliver exceptional service on budgets of $5 million or less,” and one-third of them with 10 or fewer staff. 
  • Two-thirds of associations with fewer than 250 members (67.7%) were operating with five or fewer staff, and more than four-fifths with 250 to 750 members (81.6%) had 10 or fewer staff.
  • Between 2012 and 2013, difficulties meeting members’ specific needs and insufficient staffing became even more prominent as the biggest member engagement challenges facing Canadian associations. 
  • Between 30% and 40% of respondents expressed concern about their associations’ lack of strategy, budget, or member-driven research to support broader member engagement.

It all adds up to “a necessary fiscal prudence that might still be starving organizations of the resources they would need to attract larger memberships,” the report stated.

The Cost of Saving Money

Every organization should operate as efficiently as it can. But after years of scraping by on the barest possible budgets, many Canadian associations are scraped raw. They’re so lean that they can’t afford to invest in the educational programming or member engagement strategies that will help them thrive, rather than just surviving.

And after a while, a bad habit becomes a vicious circle: substandard outreach erodes member engagement, so that retention rates drop or remain stagnant…just in time to drag down next year’s programming budget.
The cost of saving money is crystal clear in the responses to the Pulse Report survey. Two-thirds of associations see membership growth and retention as a top priority, and nearly half want to boost their revenue, visibility, and member participation. But fewer than half identified the ability to demonstrate member ROI as a top priority—indicating that they either lack the strategic focus to deliver on members’ needs, or just can’t afford to get the job done.

The ‘Insurmountable Dilemma’

For the second year in a row, a question about membership retention strategies showed that associations weren’t doing nearly enough to open year-round conversations with their members and make a strong case for them to renew.

“With traditional funding sources drying up and established membership models shifting, it’s no surprise to find Canadian associations in search of more revenue,” the Pulse Report noted. “But with the Internet creating multiple new opportunities for professional development, networking, recognition, and any of the other benefits that associations have traditionally offered, associations will only attract and retain members by offering superior levels of service and engagement.

“For many associations, this may create an insurmountable dilemma: as long as current resources are insufficient to fund quality programming, that programming will fail to draw enough member participation and revenues to support a more robust, responsive organization.”

Greenfield Services Inc. released the 2013 Pulse Report at the National Conference of the Canadian Society of Association Executives, September 18-20, 2013 in Winnipeg. Contact us today to receive your own copy by email.

A Dangerous Disconnect on Member Retention

You know it’s time for a new strategy when research points to a big, dangerous disconnect between standard practice and best practice.

That’s exactly what’s happening in one of the most important areas of association management. But despite two years of data pointing to gaps in most associations’ member retention strategies, there’s little sign of change on the horizon.

In its 2012 Pulse Report, Greenfield Services found that only 13.6% of Canadian associations scheduled seven or more member touchpoints as their renewal dates approached. In the 2013 Report, that total improved only marginally, to 15.4%:

Touchpoints for Membership Renewal, 2012–2013


If only associations could hope to get the same member retention with a more modest outreach plan. But the message from established sales and marketing strategy is clear: it takes eight to 10 touchpoints to break through the clutter of competing media and priorities with a message that requires a decision and action.

The Hope and the Reality

It isn’t that associations aren’t keenly interested in member retention. On the contrary, two-thirds of the association executives who responded to the 2013 survey cited membership growth and retention as a top priority.

After two years, the problem is clear: the vast majority of associations lack the staff, budget, and strategy to run the strong, effective member retention programs they need and want. 

They’re reaching out too infrequently. And they’re starting too late. More than three-quarters of 2013 respondents said their organizations began renewal outreach no more than three months before a membership was set to expire, compared to 71% last year.

2013 Pulse Report respondents knew they had a problem: among their most serious member engagement challenges, they listed insufficient staff, lack of a strategy or plan, and lack of member-driven research. But many of them were also dealing with tough budget realities that had forced them into a continuous cycle of trying to do more with less. (More on that in next week’s blog.)

The Plan Your Retention Plan Can Be

A retention plan only works when members are satisfied with their association experience, so year-round engagement is the cornerstone of an effective outreach plan.

But here’s the good news: once the retention program begins, associations can use a variety of tools, techniques, and media to capture members’ attention. A single touchpoint might be an email, a phone call, a text message, a direct mail letter or post card, a survey, a contest, a magazine ad, or social media messaging.

With more outreach methods available to them than ever before, we've been encouraging our clients to review their marketing plans and vary their messaging between established and emerging marketing methods, rather than relying exclusively on familiar tools like email and direct mail. The tone of member renewal campaigns can and should evolve, as well, with more emphasis on “pulling” people into voluntary, enthusiastic participation in a thriving association community, rather than “pushing” them to buy their association membership as a product. 

Greenfield Services Inc. will release the 2013 Pulse Report at the National Conference of the Canadian Society of Association Executives, September 18-20, 2013 in Winnipeg. Contact us today to receive your own copy by email.

Going to the CSAE National Conference & Showcase this year?

The 2013 edition of the CSAE National Conference & Showcase is almost here, and Greenfield Services Inc. is proud to be attending for the third year in a row!

Keep an eye out for Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions who will be exhibiting at the show.  Association executives attending the showcase are invited to stop by booth #9 to pick up complimentary new resources:

  • Invest In Your Future – Tips & Best Practices for Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
  • Executive Summary of the 2013 Pulse Report on Membership Marketing & Engagement Practices

Right after the showcase, she will be on a panel discussing “Blurring the Boundaries – Member Engagement and Non-Member Marketing (or is it the other way around)?” with Beckie MacDonald (Ontario Library Association), and Mike Brennan (Canadian Physiotherapy Association), with moderator Meredith Low (Meredith Low Consulting).

We will also have prize draws available at the booth – many reasons to stop by and say hello!  If you would like to set up a time to chat during the showcase, please email Meagan to schedule a time to discuss how Greenfield can assist you in achieving your marketing goals.

Safe travels to all attending, and we look forward to seeing you in Winnipeg!

Education or Networking? Members Drive for the Bottom Line

One of the most striking results of Greenfield Services’ 2013 Pulse Report was the declining importance of member education.

It’ll be interesting to see how this statistic develops over the next few years. But in 2013, the 173 respondents who completed the Pulse Report survey saw education and professional development declining as a reason for prospective members to join their associations.

And with that change, Canadians’ motivations fell more closely in line with the results of a similar association survey in the United States.

A Sharp Decline

Of all the questions from our 2012 Pulse Report that we repeated in 2013, this was the one that showed the most dramatic change.

Last year, our survey of association managers, leaders, and executives identified education as the single most important factor in members’ decision to join, with 24.4% citing it as a top reason. Networking placed third, at 16%.

A year later, education had plummeted to fifth rank, with only 7.4% of respondents listing it as a top motivator, while networking surged to the top of the list, at 24.3%.

Two years of data can paint an incomplete picture. But if this trend carries on through future editions of the Pulse Report, it will point to shifting member expectations that put more emphasis on business relationships and less on professional or personal growth.

Top Reasons to Join a Canadian Association, 2012–2013

Access to specialized information
Affinity programs


The Bigger Picture

With some of the questions we ask in the Pulse Report, it’s interesting to cross-check the results against the annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report by Marketing General Incorporated (MGI). And in the U.S., an emphasis on member networking is nothing new. For the second year in a row, the MGI report found that education took fourth spot, with only eight percent of U.S. respondents identifying it as a leading reason for their members to join.

Top Reasons to Join an Association, Canada and U.S., 2013

Access to specialized information
Affinity programs

Interpreting the Results

There are a couple of possible conclusions to be drawn from the survey results.

Canadian association executives may be right that their members are putting their professional development on hold. Knowledge and education are still important—they may be more central to members’ performance and success than ever before. But it’s hard to maintain your business or professional standing if you don’t have a job, so networking might be the prime focus in a tough economy.

But there’s another possibility. If associations are listening to the tone of the times, rather than the needs of their members, and positioning themselves accordingly, they may be missing an opportunity to boost member engagement and retention. If their programs and marketing emphasize networking, when members are really interested in education, organizations could lose ground with their single most important audience: the people who pay membership dues and trust their associations to represent their best interests.

Time will tell, but there’s a way to find out without waiting for next year’s Pulse Report. If you’re not entirely certain of your members’ programming priorities, a focused, well-designed survey could be the best investment you make over the next year.

Greenfield Services Inc. will release the 2013 Pulse Report at the National Conference of the Canadian Society of Association Executives, September 18-20, 2013 in Winnipeg. Contact us today to receive your own copy by email.