Throughout history, associations have played a significant role in fostering connections among individuals who share a common interest, dating as far back as before formal legal systems were even established. Whether it was farmers sharing agricultural techniques, athletes training together, or individuals with shared religious beliefs gathering for worship, informal meetings have taken place for centuries as a means to exchange information, advocate for representation, and cultivate a larger sense of community.
Over time, these informal gatherings evolved into more structured professional associations that now serve as an invaluable source for networking, skill development, and fostering professional growth for individuals across hundreds of industries. Formed by those working in a specific profession or sector, the overarching purpose of a professional association is to promote and advance the interests of its members and the profession as a whole. Associations also act as key growth drivers for shaping their respective industries, providing a collective voice to address challenges and opportunities, fuel innovation, and offer specialized support to industry professionals.
But just as associations have evolved, so have members' expectations. Now, as the world of technology soars and customer needs continue to grow, it's become more and more difficult for associations to meet their members' rapidly increasing demands. That's why leveraging technology, rather than holding onto tradition, will be the key to delivering innovative membership programs that enhance member engagement and drive industry development, redefining the landscape of association membership in its entirety.
The Reality for Professional Associations
Despite the positive impact associations have had—and can bring—to both aspiring and established professionals, the harsh reality is that many professional associations are facing critical difficulties in effectively engaging and retaining their member base; a concerning trend in which 47% of associations have reported decreases in total membership due to fewer new members and low renewal rates. In 2021, member renewals declined by 45%, nearly double the rate from the previous year (24%). However, it's important to note that the success of an association lies not only in its size or scope but also in the active engagement of its members.
Ultimately, members' changing expectations and preferences, coupled with the rise of alternative networking channels and a generational shift, have intensified the competition for member attention and engagement. Members now seek personalized and convenient experiences, tangible value from their memberships, and unique opportunities for active involvement and professional development. Here's what the numbers have to say:
- 76% of associations do not offer any benefit programs dedicated to increasing member retention.
- 50% of association members claim that a lack of engagement is their top reason for terminating their membership.
- 45% of association members do not feel like they have a connection with their professional organization.
Safe to say: there's significant room for improvement when it comes to maximizing the opportunities for member engagement and retention for professional associations—and now more than ever.
Turning Retention Challenges into Strategic Opportunities
While declining membership rates pose a significant challenge for professional associations, they also present a key opportunity for strategic growth and innovation. With 78% of associations experiencing a direct, positive correlation between prioritizing engagement and their membership renewal rate, the striking outcomes of an effective membership program are clear as day:
- 70% of associations with tactical engagement plans are more likely to experience increased membership and retention rates.
- Organizations with over 50% engagement retain over 80% of their members.
- 81% of associations with membership increases are significantly more likely to have a culture that supports innovation.
- Organizations whose members recognize their value proposition report higher renewal rates than those whose members don't remember the value proposition.
- 38% of associations that experience an increase in member renewal rates offer automated annual renewals.
In a world where enhanced engagement can now be achieved almost effortlessly, thanks to heaps of customer data and the technological means to deliver on growing customer demands, nurturing high member engagement becomes crucial for continued success. By re-evaluating your association's value proposition in alignment with member expectations and leveraging technology to provide top-tier member experiences, associations can adapt and attract new members in ways that will revitalize growth and engagement across every industry landscape.
Elevating Member Experiences Through Digital Innovation
The time has come for professional associations to leverage innovative technology to their advantage. By embracing digitalization, associations can drive member engagement and retention in unprecedented ways. If your association wants to modernize its membership program, look no further. Fobi's diverse digital solutions will help you deliver tailored member experiences for every occasion, regardless of your industry. From digital member cards and event tickets to vouchers and discounts driving sponsorship revenue, we're here to help you redefine what it means to make an impact for your association members.
Digital Membership Cards
25% of associations report that targeted communications campaigns have helped them improve their member engagement strategies. With Fobi's digital memberships cards, you can unlock a personalized, direct-to-consumer communications channel that will engage your members with real-time updates and tailored content sent directly to their lock screens. Whether it's the latest industry insights, upcoming networking events, or simply a satisfaction or feedback survey, you can rest assured that your association will engage its members in all the right ways.
Through its newly acquired subsidiary, Passworks, Fobi helped the Clube da Criatividade Portugal, an association for the creative advertising and media industry, deliver enhanced member experiences as a part of their new digital membership program. In place of the association's physical member cards, which required unnecessary production and distribution efforts (specifically time and money), all current and new club members now automatically receive a link to download their unique member cards into their mobile wallets as soon as they apply and confirm their membership. Now, members have a unique association card on hand wherever they go, receiving the latest club and event updates directly to their phones.
Digital Ticketing for Conferences & Events
Eliminating the need for paper tickets while providing key metrics to analyze and improve event performance, Fobi's CheckPoint solution will provide your association with an integrated digital ticketing system that will help you deliver seamless event experiences for new and existing members. In addition to tap-and-go entry, CheckPoint allows organizing committees and sponsors to directly engage with attendees before, during, and after each event, driving targeted customer engagement and maximizing revenue from sponsorship opportunities. With real-time communication, you can ensure attendees stay informed about venue details, speaker announcements, and scheduling changes right as they happen.
CheckPoint also offers valuable data insights, including attendance records, satisfaction rates, engagement, and overall campaign ROI, to help your association analyze and attribute member behaviour, personalize continuous interactions, and optimize logistics planning for your next event.
Sponsored Promotions, Coupons, & Vouchers
With the ability to deliver dynamic sponsored promotions, coupons, and vouchers directly to your member base, you can provide association members with a greater sense of value out of their memberships, all while maximizing revenue from your own sponsorship programs. For example, say your association aims to advance public policy issues, and that requires your members to travel frequently. With Fobi's solution for digital coupons and vouchers, you can provide your members with exclusive benefits to various airlines, car rentals, accommodations, and more, all in the palm of their hand, just by being a member.
Ultimately, by offering key marketing and branding opportunities to relevant sponsors and partners, associations can provide members with exclusive deals that incentivize increased purchases and further engagement, which sounds like a win-win for both your association and your existing or potential sponsors. Digital promotions are also an excellent way for associations to attract new members, who may be inclined to join your association due to exclusive connections and benefits not offered elsewhere.
Paving the Future for Membership Engagement
While navigating the evolving landscape of membership engagement, professional associations face both challenges and opportunities. Declining membership rates and changing member expectations call for a shift toward innovative strategies that prioritize member engagement first and foremost. From personalized digital membership cards to seamless event ticketing and sponsored promotions, embracing digital innovation will help effectively redefine the landscape of association membership, driving engagement, fueling industry growth, and shaping the future for associations in decades to come.
Ready to maximize your association's member engagement rates, all while driving industry growth and success for your profession? Click here to learn more about Fobi's solutions for professional associations, or contact us today to set your member engagement strategy in motion.