How Well Do You Know Your Members?

When it comes to developing a strategic plan, evaluating program or service changes, or identifying new ways to recruit and retain members, data about an association’s members provides the foundation for many decisions. Member surveys can gather data on what members really need and expect from the association.

Gathering good data starts with a clear understanding of the member survey’s goals. Do you want information about a proposed price increase and how it will affect members, or an evaluation of association publications and their effectiveness? Once the goals are developed, design questions to elicit usable information.

For example, don’t just ask “Do you like the association magazine?” Instead, ask questions that discover if the member reads the publication and how often; if they read the print version or access it on their desktop or mobile device; and if they find the information valuable and easy to access.

Once you have the data, use it to obtain buy-in from other association leaders to alter or proceed with plans based on what members say they want.

Member surveys are important to conduct because anecdotal information or opinions expressed by your most vocal, involved members may not reflect the opinions of the overall membership. One author points out that the general belief in her organization was that too many emails were sent to members. However, she was able to put that “urban myth” to bed by keeping the results of the biannual survey with her at all meetings related to membership program decisions – and pointing to the numbers that proved members thought they were getting “just about the right amount” of email!