Big Association Survey Reveals Member-Engagement Trends

Originally published in MeetingsNet, March 2023. Reprinted with permission
Rob Carey | March 01, 2023

MCI’s Association Engagement Index finds only a “moderate” engagement level overall, but also finds areas where engagement can be deepened—including meetings.

A survey by association-services firm MCI of more than 12,700 members and customers from 51 associations around the world shows that a sizable majority of associations—67 percent—are engaging their membership only to a moderate degree. Just 20 percent are engaging their membership strongly, while 13 percent are engaging their membership in a “weak” fashion.

Overall, the average engagement score between associations and the responding members and customers was 88 out of 150.

From these results, the authors of the post-survey report note that there is considerable room for associations to get better: “It’s clear that associations can improve their understanding of key drivers so as to enhance their relationship with members…To be future-proof, associations must consider the interests, preferred styles of engagement, and ease of access desired by the younger members of their communities.”

First, the report notes that more associations are now considering actively involving younger professionals in their governance structure, ensuring that their voices are heard in the boardroom. At the least, “each association’s strategy and vision require the input of this target audience.”

Across respondents of all ages, the report finds that subject-matter expertise and relevance of content are among the elements where associations are “excellent” in their performance. On the flip side, fostering innovation, “representation of my company’s interests,” and providing value for money were areas where no more than 30 percent said their association was “excellent” in its performance.

Let’s Get to Meetings
When it comes to an association’s learning and networking events, 56 percent said they prefer to engage with content and industry peers both in person and online, rather than exclusively in person (44 percent). Further, 73 percent say that virtual events are a good alternative and should complement in-person events. The report’s conclusion from these results: “Members and customers have shown that the ‘right’ way [for education] is omni-channel. It fits with customization and choice. The more an association can facilitate choice, the more it ensures the member/customer journey matches the needs of the individual or company and builds strength of relationship and engagement.”

Among Millennial and Gen Z and respondents in particular, “if associations focus on leveraging technology, such as artificial intelligence, machine-learning algorithms, and predictive analytics to understand member/customer preferences and personalize each member’s journey, they will increase members’ quick and seamless access to content and programs that are relevant to them,” which will encourage greater engagement.

Lastly, while members’ ages did not correlate with the strength of their relationship with their association, there is a clear variance between age groups when to comes to net promoter scores, which are a sign of an association’s future prospects. For example, members above age 60 had an average NPS of 42, while members under age 40 had an average NPS of only 30.

In conclusion, the report emphasizes that “associations must consciously seek to understand what drives and motivates Millennials and Gen Z in order to secure their active involvement and brand loyalty.”