In a recent benchmark study, Community Brands set out to discover what’s going on behind the scenes at associations with small staffs (10 or fewer). What are their top priorities? Are they expecting growth? How are they preparing for the future?
It turns out that associations with small staffs have opportunities to boost their use of technology to increase member retention and non-dues revenue as well as provide members with information and communications more targeted to their needs and preferences. The report gives small associations insights to help them take advantage of these opportunities by evaluating their own organizations and identifying areas for improvement.
Here are some of the key findings from the report and what they mean to small associations:
1. While new member acquisition and revenue is growing and the outlook for continued growth is positive, member retention has been a mixed bag, and small associations are less optimistic about member retention in the future.
Most respondents say their association has a strategic plan in place or is in the planning process. Survey data suggests the strategic focus has been on member acquisition and increasing revenue. Fewer have been or think they will be successful at increasing retention, although this is a goal. Given that it can cost five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, an increased focus on member retention is an area of opportunity for small-staff associations.
Recommendation: Small associations can place a stronger emphasis on member retention by employing their online communities to find out what members want and what they don’t, and in turn improve member satisfaction.
Given that it can cost five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one, an increased focus on member retention is an area of opportunity for small-staff associations
Increasing non-dues revenue is an important strategic priority over the next 12 months, yet few small associations are leveraging technology to accomplish this goal. Most of the small associations participating in the study have less than $1 million in annual revenue. Half of that comes from member dues, and a third from non-dues revenue. A majority earn non-dues revenue from events, sponsors and exhibitors. Increasing non-dues revenue is a priority for most, but few are using technology beyond event-related tools to generate this income. This points to an opportunity for small associations to leverage technology in other areas to increase non-dues revenue.
Recommendation: Organizations can leverage technology including job boards, eCommerce platforms, webinars and mobile apps to deliver benefits members want and are willing to pay for, and in turn increase non-dues revenue.
2. Most small association professionals do not feel technologically prepared to meet member needs today and in the future, yet few say that upgrading or integrating new technology is a priority.
Most small associations describe their technology adoption as average to lagging. In addition, beyond conference registration, paying dues and customer service, few survey respondents feel their technological offerings are high quality. Upgrading and investing in technology is not a priority. These factors translate into few small association professionals feeling technologically prepared for the future or to meet their members’ needs. Another report, Community Brands Digital Member Study, found technology drives member loyalty, which suggests the lack of emphasis on technology in small associations could leave many of their members questioning the value of membership, which in turn, could impact retention.
Increasing non-dues revenue is a priority for most, but few are using technology beyond event-related tools to generate this income.
In addition, two-in-10 respondents are not even aware if they have association management software, and there are many technologies, including online communities and job boards, they’re not using. While many are tracking acquisition, retention and revenue data, few are collecting demographic information, and/or targeting communications based on demographics or preferences. This suggests an opportunity for small associations to use technology to gather demographic data and provide more personalized content and services to their members.
Recommendation: Small associations can re-think their technology and strategic plans with an eye toward using modern association technology solutions to help their small teams operate more efficiently and thereby be able to spend more time focused on strategic priorities such as enhancing member value and driving membership growth, engagement, loyalty and revenue.
Two-in-10 respondents are not even aware if they have association management software, and there are many technologies, including online communities and job boards, they’re not using
While your association may be small, it still has big opportunities. Read the full benchmark report and learn:
- Insights on the strategic priorities, growth outlook and technology usage of small associations
- How your organization compares with other small associations
- Tips on how to use data from the report to more effectively meet your strategic priorities and grow your organization