Zzeem conducted the fifth annual survey of Canadian membership organizations for 2016. The numbers tell an interesting story. Below is a short synopsis.
In a nutshell, associations are not out of the woods yet, but we may have reached a plateau from which we can move upward. Industry and trade associations are lagging professional associations so for them, it may take a little longer.
Trend in Membership Numbers, Revenue
Each year, respondents are asked for the 3-year trend in their membership numbers and gross revenue. Last year we saw a sharp spike upward in the respondents who were reporting a downward membership trend and a more muted but still meaningful increase in the respondents reporting a downward revenue trend.
This appears to have stabilized in 2016. In 2016 we saw a sharp increase in the number of respondents showing a flat trend in both membership and revenue. Although the percentage of respondents showing an upward trend has been steadily declining since 2013, the rate of increase in the downward trend has substantially abated.
Current survey results in the U.S. are showing an uptrend for associations. If Canada follows the U.S. as we often do, this trend may be reflected in Canada in the not too distant future.
Financial reserves have increased substantially from 2015. The percentage of respondents with a surplus that would cover more than 1 year of operating expenses has increased from 36% to 56%.
Industry/Trade Associations versus Professional Associations
The 2016 survey shows that industry and trade associations are more likely to be struggling in the current environment than are professional associations. The reasons for this may be related to the following facts:
- Corporate Membership. Industry and trade organizations are much more likely to have corporate rather than individual members. The employees who are the direct users of member services are often not the decision-makers who approve the member dues payment. If the decision-maker is not aware of the member value, and/or if cost reduction is on the agenda, then memberships are vulnerable.
- Amalgamations/Takeovers. Canada has seen considerable consolidation in its corporate landscape over the past few years. When 2 companies combine, one membership is lost to the association. Also, when a Canadian company is taken over by a foreign firm, the head office decision-making is no longer in Canada and Canadian memberships are vulnerable.
Looking for higher revenue?
If higher revenue is important for your association, consider adopting as many of these attributes and practices that make sense for you. Organizations that have these attributes and practices are more likely to have an upward revenue trend and those who don’t, are more likely to have a downward revenue trend. The top best practices are noted in the diagram below. Those on the right, with a yellow highlight, are consistent with the results for 2015. Those on the left, with a green highlight, are new for 2016.