If you’ve followed me for any time at all, you’ve probably heard me say that there are three things that a membership organization needs in order to be successful:

  • Members who pay – you have to know what’s going to attract your ideal member and persuade them to take the risk on joining.
  • Members who play – you need to be offering benefits that make people want to engage and connect with what you do.
  • Members who stay – you have to convince members that they’ve received enough value from their involvement so that they want to renew again and again.

How do you achieve all three? In short, by understanding what members want and how they think.

Your organization likely knows this and has the best of intentions for what you deliver, but there are a few things that most organizations get wrong.

Here are a few overarching things that members wish the organizations that they join would do better.

  1. Stop distributing surveys and start having conversations.
    When was the last time your organization REALLY had an a-ha moment as a result of someone’s survey response?  With the average survey response rate sitting at a dismal 5-10%, it is unlikely that you are gaining a meaningful sampling of what members think with a typical survey.  Instead, consider hosting feedback sessions at your conference, conducting focus groups via Zoom, or simply picking up the phone and having conversations with members to find out what their most pressing issues are.
  2. Stop offering a buffet of benefits and start solving specific problems.
    Every member who joins wants *something* to be different at this time next year.  Do you know what that is?  Do you understand how to connect what you do to solving those problems?  Gone are the days when a marketplace full of discounts would attract members. Now, organizations have to be creative and collaborative problem-solvers on behalf of members. Assess what you’re offering and why. Show that you understand what keeps members up at night and that you are committed to solving those challenges for them.
  3. Stop marketing and start leading.
    In a noisy world, members are growing dismissive of marketing. If your communications with them are always promoting the latest thing that your organization is offering, you will be tuned out. Instead, members are looking for organizations that lean in, listen, and lead. Practicing these qualities with your members will feel very different – for you and for them.

Would members tell you these things themselves? Maybe…but more than likely, they wouldn’t articulate these desires very clearly. However, any experienced leader would likely vouch for the validity of these insights.

I’d love to hear about your experience in collecting feedback from members. What are the big lessons you’ve learned about what members ask for and what they actually want?

Drop a reply in the comments below and let me know.

If you’d like to catch the Crowdcast that I did recently on this topic, you can go here.

Have a great rest of your week! 

How I Can Support You:

When you're ready to do a deeper dive into the member experience that you're delivering so that your organization can grow more quickly and easily, I can help in 3 ways:

1) Strategy Only – where we map out your best approach to solve challenges and you implement on your own; or

2) Strategy + Team Support – where we map out your best approach to solve challenges and my team helps you implement;

3) Strategy + Group Support – where we map out your best approach to solve challenges and you work alongside other organizations who are working on the same thing.

The best way to get started is by scheduling a quick call.


Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.  Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.

You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.