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Member Benefits, Association Surveys, Benchmarking for Associations

Important Priorities for Associations

Mar 23, 2023 11:00:12 AM


Non-Dues Revenue, Membership Growth, and Advocacy serve as the most important priorities for associations in January and February of 2023.

This month we released the results from our January-February top initiatives survey.  It’s enlightening to see what association leaders have been focused on in the first two months of 2023Some themes have continued from 2022 but others seem to be gaining traction.  We will talk more about those results later, but first let’s discuss what associations can do to move the needle on the top trends. 

It came as no surprise that membership growth was a top trend for both professional and trade associations. Due to economic, health, and social factors that have been top of mind for members over the past 4 years, many associations have either seen their membership decline or remain stagnant. That has inspired associations to get creative with their membership packages and offerings. Members are not only more value conscious but younger members are changing the priorities and pushing initiatives like DEI and ESG. Education and networking remain key factors in the decision to join an association or remain a member. However, our results demonstrate that more high-profile topics such as DEI education, sustainability resources, pay scale data are drivers to get members to engage. Associations are quickly recognizing that these drivers are new opportunities to keep themselves relevant with their members.  

Non-dues revenue was the second trending focus for professional associations. According to the ASAE Foundation’s Operating Ratio’s report, 45 percent of trade associations revenue comes from membership dues, while only 30 percent of professional associations revenue is derived from membership dues. In BKD’s State of the Non-Profit Sector Report from 2022, 55 percent of associations stated they were in a worse financial position than last year, with 40 percent experiencing a decline in event revenue, and 34 percent seeing a reduction in member dues. Associations are getting more creative in their non-dues revenue generation. They are using less traditional revenue generators that allow sponsors to engage members with thought leadership resources like benchmarking and sponsored online resources. Building the bridge between members and sponsors has never been more important for associations. Partners are looking for more value and are willing to pay for it.

Advocacy was the second highest trending focus for trade associations. Advocacy efforts have increased in importance for members of trade associations and that is likely due to new regulations and laws. The last couple of years have ushered in new labor laws, pay scale laws, environmental and social factors. This not only means the association needs to be providing legal resources to their members, but also needs to be the data collection source for its members. Data is gold when it comes to advocacy, and the best means for an industry to gather credible data is through the industry association. Associations are the natural hub for collecting data, but that exercise does come without potential perils. It is important that the association use controlled and legal environments for this process. 

Now to the results...

In a 4 question survey we conducted from March 1st – March 7th on trending initiatives, we gathered data from 52 respondents and the results highlight the different initiatives between professional and trade associations.  

The Collective Data
The collective data shows that membership growth was the number one trending initiative for all respondents with 30 percent stating it was their top trending priority.  Non-dues revenue came in second with 26 percent stating it was a top initiative. 

However, when you filter the results based on type of association that no longer holds true.  For professional associations, 37 percent ranked non-dues revenue as their top trending priority, while 38 percent of trade associations ranked advocacy as their top trending priority.   

Professional Association Data
Professional associations overall ranked membership growth and non-dues revenue as top initiatives.

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Trade Association Data
Trade associations ranked advocacy and membership growth as their top initiatives. 

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Of the accounts that identified themselves as “other”, not trade or professional, they placed a higher emphasis on advocacy, DEI, and sustainability. 



What else were associations focused on in January & February? 

The other initiatives respondents said they were focused on were their trade shows, member value initiatives and benchmarking resources for their members. 

As we move into March and April, it will be interesting to see how these initiatives evolve or shift.  We will be following these trends and will send another survey at the end of April.  If there are questions you would like to see asked, feel free to send those to our team at 

Would you like to share these results with your team? Click here to access the entire reporting dashboard. 



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