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Community Brands Digital Member Study Finds Professional Membership Organizations Struggling To Meet Member Expectations

Study shows that while tech powers member loyalty, the chasm between what members value and what organizations deliver widens when it comes to technology strategies to drive retention

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Community Brands, a technology-driven company that delivers purpose-built solutions for the world’s leading associations and nonprofits, announced today findings from its Digital Member Study: Examining the Gap Between Member Expectations and Association Technology. This study explores current member experiences and the technology used by their professional membership organization, as well as the importance of emerging technologies and how members want to engage.

“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” said Sig VanDamme, Membership Software Evangelist at Community Brands. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization. Members who believe they are receiving personalized content feel significantly more satisfied and connected with their organization. However, less than a third of surveyed members believe their organization currently delivers personalized content based on member-provided data.”

VanDamme added: “Organizations need to take these technology experience gaps seriously and progress to more seamless experiences that align with evolving digital behavior, and meet increasing member expectations for flexibility and personalization in everything they do.”

Key findings include:

  • Technology drives member loyalty. There is a strong correlation between loyalty and technology. Members who see their organization as an early technology adopter are significantly more satisfied with their membership and feel more connected to their organization. 
  • Members are ahead of the technology adoption curve. Sixty-three percent of members say technology plays a big role in their life. Most members describe themselves as ahead of the curve or early adopters of technology. 
  • There’s a growing member experience disconnect. Gaps exist between what members value and where they believe their organization delivers the best experiences. Members give lower technology experience ratings for many of the key benefits that drive retention, such as certifications, training and advocacy. 
  • Professional membership organizations don’t leverage personalization. Most organizations believe personalization makes members feel more engaged. However, the majority today do not put enough emphasis on creating a personalized experience with recommended content members value. 
  • The future is analytical, predictive and personalized. Organizations which consider themselves early adopters are more likely to use data science and predictive intelligence. Most organizations are also interested in providing more personalized content based on past activity. 
  • Professional membership organizations do NOT feel prepared to meet member expectations. Few see their organization as technologically advanced or even technologically prepared for the future and able to meet members’ expectations. Thirty percent of surveyed staff describe their organization as laggards when it comes to technology adoption. 
  • Only a quarter of professional membership organizations say they will increase their technology investments in the future. The main barriers are cost, questions about return on investment (ROI), and the ability to impact the member experience, as well as concerns about integrations and member usage.

The entire report can be downloaded at

About the Study

Commissioned by Community Brands, Edge Research fielded parallel surveys to 1,032 U.S. members who self-reported they belong to a professional membership organization and 400 staff representatives who work at these organizations. Survey respondents were recruited through an online non-probability sample, and quotas were set so the survey was representative by key demographics. The survey, which was fielded October 18 – 30, 2017, examined attitudes, values and behaviors about technology from both member and staff perspectives.

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