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The Need for a Forceful Rebound for Membership Programs

Lara Mandell

The past two years have been challenging for association membership programs. When the pandemic hit, the entire nation was forced to shift their regular schedules to a life working from home. In-person meetings were moved to online platforms and everyday business lunches that employees looked forward to were no longer possible. The working world went remote, and managers were at a loss for how to communicate with and manage their employees. 

In a recent report, “Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report” released by Marketing General Incorporated, 47% of associations reported declines in their total membership, which is a decline in membership that organizations have not seen since the Great Recession. So, in a newly virtual world, how can associations capture attention from their members to prevent declines in membership? 

The answer is simple, really, and it all comes down to one keyword: innovation. Innovation is about creating or improving a product or service that adds value to members' and customers' lives. With 80% of annual in-person meetings being postponed and canceled over the last two years, companies have had to rediscover how to connect with their members through a computer screen. Many companies have had to adapt and change by increasing virtual professional development opportunities for members, developing new products and services to assist members, and reevaluating and streamlining internal processes.   

Innovative ideas won't necessarily develop overnight, so where do you start? Working remotely has shifted members’ needs, wants, and expectations within their organization, so the same outdated ideas won’t necessarily work to engage employees. Start by focusing on communication and collaboration within your own organization. In addition to traditional quarterly reviews, check in to see how employees are doing at home and ask if they need help to build a better culture of communication.  

It’s also important to build and reinforce a compelling value proposition. In fact, associations with renewal rates at or above 80%, and those with increases in new members and overall membership in the past year, are significantly more likely to report their association’s value proposition is compelling or very compelling. Values can help define an organization’s personality and help differentiate it from other associations. They give members a focus and a greater sense of purpose and engagement, reinforcing organization goals in the process.  

Beyond an aesthetic brand logo or engaging website, members are looking for associations that encourage them to be the best versions of themselves and those that make them feel heard. Here’s a few tips on how to encourage and engage members: 


Organize monthly happy hours and coffee chats to discuss other topics outside of work. 

A good work-life balance is an important factor for employees. For new employees, it can be hard to get to know their coworkers on Zoom or Teams since very few companies aren’t going into the office anymore. Organizing monthly happy hours and coffee chats for employees gives them the opportunity to put aside their work for a little and build relationships with their coworkers. 


Send emails to update members on organization-wide news and updates. 

Internal communication is a great way to keep members engaged in what’s going on within your organization. Sending emails to employees at least once a month about upcoming events, policy changes, new employees, and more helps create a sense of transparency and openness that members appreciate. 


Send out employee surveys to find out what changes and improvements members recommend. 

As previously mentioned, working from home has shifted employee expectations and needs within their organizations. Sending out employee surveys provides insight into the emotional needs of employees, increases employee satisfaction, and gives employees the chance to feel heard. 

So, while it’s been a challenging time for association membership programs, there are still points of light that provide hope for the future of a forceful rebound for membership programs. In a pandemic that has halted the ability to give handshakes and offer in-person networking events, there are still countless opportunities to make members feel seen and heard. 

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

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Lara Mandell
Lara Mandell
Marketing Intern