Last week, McKinley hosted its 3rd Annual Roundtables event. We invited eight associations to participate this year in a benchmarking study, where we compared membership data and best practices across associations, then met at McKinley’s Washington, D.C. headquarters to discuss the results.
The participating associations represented a variety of industries and a wide range of budgets, dues, and revenue structures. Yet when it came to membership trends and challenges, they looked remarkably similar. Each association in the room struggled with the same problems: converting student members into regular members, expanding into international markets, and finding the right balance between providing free content and offering additional value through member benefits. As a newcomer to the association world, I found the three-hour discussion around these and other challenges to be incredibly valuable, but I know even the most seasoned association professionals in the room learned a thing or two from their peers.
Membership executives shared their experiences and obstacles related to tracking students after graduation, maintaining an effective membership database, and obtaining crucial demographic data on members. Key questions that were raised during discussion spanned from the highly strategic to the highly tactical: “What’s the ideal lifetime of a member?”, “How do we get that loyalty from transactional relationships like Amazon Prime and Costco have?” and “What about a monthly billing option?” While not every problem was solved during this three-hour discussion, the conversation certainly unveiled a new set of ideas and best practices that will undoubtedly lead the attendees closer to finding solutions in their own organizations.
While there were many “A-ha” moments during the Roundtables discussion, perhaps the most comforting for many participants was the idea that their association was not alone in its daily challenges. Everyone left Roundtables with a benchmarking study to show to their Board, a set of action items, and new ideas to talk about with their staff. And maybe most importantly, participants gained a few new friends in the association world to call up whenever they need to talk about the challenges, successes, and new ideas that come with being a membership executive. You can also call McKinley.