Ask the Expert: What Your Members Really Value

Ask the Expert: What Your Members Really Value
Forum Magazine cover

In the April 2015 issue of FORUM magazine, published by the Association Forum of Chicagoland, McKinley’s Patrick Glaser, MPA, MA, discusses research recently conducted to learn exactly what members value. See below for an excerpt from the article “Ask the Expert: What Your Members Really Value.” And also Patrick’s previous blog post on the same study.

The basis for nearly all associations is the benefits they provide their members. But what if all you offered was a single benefit? Would your overall membership decline? Perhaps you might see an influx of new professionals. Or maybe your membership demographics wouldn’t change at all.

Associations often offer a lengthy list of reasons to join with the expectation that between a set of tangible and intangible benefits, something will resonate with members and prospects. With so many benefits, however, it’s difficult to know exactly what members value—and what might cause them to leave if certain benefits were eliminated.

With that in mind, association consulting and research firm McKinley Advisors recently conducted industry research to learn exactly what members value. Using sophisticated survey techniques, McKinley pinpointed how important certain benefits are relative to everything an association might offer. Additionally, the survey found that association members are happier and more satisfied with their careers than nonmembers. Here, Patrick Glaser, director of research for McKinley Advisors, discusses the groundbreaking findings and their implications for associations.

FORUM: Your research attempted to address the balance between the tangible and the “good-of-the-order” benefits that most associations feature. What did you find there?

Glaser: We really wanted this research to be applicable to associations in a broad sense, and we wanted to be able to look for differences between professionals who belonged to associations and those who did not. We collaborated with Survey Sampling International, a survey panel company that provided a sample of working professionals over age 18 with four-year college degrees. Then we used qualifying questions in the survey to identify association members and nonmembers from this general population.

April-2015-ChartTo test the importance of benefits, we created four categories that we examined in the survey: 1) practical advice, 2) good of the order, 3) news and trends, and 4) career and networking. Within these categories, we looked at the importance of a variety of common association offerings. However, rather than simply asking respondents to rate their level of importance for each benefit, we created a “forced choice” exercise, where respondents were asked to compare two benefits side-by-side and choose which they felt was most important. Continue reading>>>