December 11, 2018

It’s Time to Look Back at Your Association’s Membership Metrics

It’s Time to Look Back at Your Association’s Membership Metrics

Has your calendar sped up too? Days whoosh by in the sprint toward shopping (and mailing) deadlines, and work deadlines in anticipation of holiday time off. In the rush to get it all done, don’t forget to gather the membership metrics you need to look back at your association’s performance this year.

Membership metrics can help you assess the health of your organization, spot areas that need work, and identify reasons to celebrate. After all, ‘tis the season to celebrate.

Track Only Useful Membership Metrics

Your association management software (AMS) gives you access to all kinds of data, especially if your AMS is integrated with other systems. But you have only a limited amount of staff time to manage all that data—and your colleagues and leadership have only a limited amount of attention for data. Don’t collect data or track metrics that you don’t need. Only track membership metrics that help people make decisions.

If someone requests a metric, find out how they plan to use it. Some metrics, like retention rate and membership growth by segment, are an indicator of the health of your association. But don’t bother tracking “nice to have” metrics—your time is better spent elsewhere.

Membership metrics must be aligned to strategic or departmental goals. The data must tell you if you are making progress toward those goals. For example, if one of your association’s goals is to increase your reach into the millennial market, then you’ll want to segment your membership data and metrics by age or career stage so you can see how you’re increasing that market share and retaining those members.

Membership Metrics Requirement: Data Integrity

Inaccurate and incomplete data leads to misleading metrics. Let’s return to the millennials example. If the age field is blank in the majority of records for those young members, how can you get an accurate retention rate for that segment? You may think the segment’s retention rate is 90 percent when in fact the only records with age field data are members who participate on the young professionals committee. In reality, the retention rate could be much lower.

Clean and complete data is a must for trustworthy membership metrics. A data governance team is the first step toward data integrity. This cross-functional team plans how your association collects, maintains, and uses data. They make sure you can compare apples to apples by developing rules, such as who’s included in active member status, or when a lapsed member who renews is considered a new member or a renewing member.

Membership Metrics to Track

Decide which membership metrics you’ll track based on what staff and leaders need to know. What metrics will help your association spot problems and places for improvement? What metrics will help you identify areas to focus more resources?

Membership Growth

Many associations track these membership metrics:

  • Number of members by month/year
  • Number of new members by month/year
  • Year over year total membership decline or growth
  • Year over year new member recruitment
  • Changes in growth by membership type and other segments
  • Conversion rate from prospect (lead) to member
  • Number of prospects in each stage of your pipeline


Marketing General, Inc. (MGI) published a post earlier this year on how to calculate your membership renewal (or retention) rate. Retention metrics you could track include:

  • Year over year retention rate
  • Monthly and annual retention rate of first year members
  • Monthly and annual retention rate of subsequent year members, for example, year 2, year 3, years 4-6, years 7-9
  • Average membership tenure
  • Changes in retention by membership type and other segments, for example, early career members, executive-level members, industry partner members
  • Conversion rate from one membership type to another, for example, student or young professional to full member

Membership by Segments

Analyzing membership metrics by segments helps you understand where to focus your efforts. Examples of membership segments include:

  • Membership type
  • Membership stage or tenure
  • Career stage
  • Job title/position or specialty
  • Age
  • Business size or type
  • Chapter or geographic region


Keep an eye on membership dues trends and the lifetime value of a member (LTV). The LTV is the average dollar value of a member over the time they stay a member. MGI explained how to come up with an LTV in their post on membership marketing calculations and formulas. A “guesstimate” is better than no number at all, but calculate LTVs by membership segments. An average LTV may be skewed because of outlier members, for example, large companies with deep pockets.

Chapter Metrics

Track the same type of membership metrics for each of your chapters so you can identify high performers and find out what factors influence their success. What are they doing that others aren’t? Chapter metrics can also help you identify at-risk chapters that need additional coaching and resources.

Looking Back and Forward

Once you’ve gathered your membership metrics, find out where you met goals and where you fell short. Discuss possible causes and the changes you can make for next year. For example, if the retention rate of new members is less than desired, perhaps you need to improve your onboarding process. To see how your association’s metrics compare to others, download MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmark Report.

Set goals for next year, but make sure your association can handle success.

Some membership goals can get you in trouble. If the board requests a 15 percent increase in membership, do you have the bandwidth to onboard that many new members effectively? If not, next year’s retention rate will plummet—as will your association’s reputation with those disappointed members.

Share Membership Metrics with Colleagues and Leadership

Create different types of dashboards for staff and leaders. Find out what questions they need answered to inform their thinking or make decisions. The answers they need will determine the type of data to share with them. Typically, the C-suite and board will want high-level information on membership trends and revenue. But this is also your chance to bring problems or emerging issues to their attention.

Colleagues who work with chapters will want to identify high-performing or at-risk chapters. They must be able to spot trends in certain geographic areas or with specific types of chapters, for example, chapters who are holding on to their aging members, but aren’t growing.

Your education and meetings colleagues may be interested in specific segments of the market, for example, a new growing specialty.

Find out how people want to receive information. Some may prefer a different report format than the one you like. Use the report scheduler to email the reports they need at specific times each month.

Dashboards are another great way to tell a story or explain a trend. With Report Studio’s intuitive and user-friendly interface, you can combine data from multiple MemberSuite modules and perform in-depth analysis of your association’s data. You can also design reports, build custom data visualizations, and create dashboards for your colleagues and leaders. Find out more by downloading our Report Studio information sheet.