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Community Brands Report Reveals the Increasing Importance of Professional Growth and Learning as Drivers of Association Membership

2018 Member Education and Career Development Report examines holistic learning, professional and new skill growth, and job advancement opportunities actively pursued by professional organization members

August 28, 2018 – ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Community Brands, the leading provider of cloud-based software solutions for associations, nonprofits, schools and faith-based groups, today announced the results of its 2018 Member Education and Career Development Report. One of the more telling findings is the shift in member motivation to more strongly engage with associations and other professional membership organizations through career advancement.

The report finds that 51 percent of members surveyed state they joined their current organization for continuing education and/or networking. That number has increased by 9 percentage points since the company conducted its Member Engagement Study in 2016. Those who became members out of a sense of professional responsibility dropped by 5 percentage points since the findings of the 2016 study.

“We’re seeing a foundational shift in why members join their professional association. They are joining less frequently out of a sense of professional expectation or obligation,” said Tristan Jordan, EVP and GM of Careers and Education, Community Brands. “Instead, they are increasingly motivated by their organization’s ability to help them advance their careers through learning, networking and job opportunities. The valuable learning programs and job placement opportunities many associations offer is now a critical component of the overall member experience.”

The report examines the connection between professional development and career advancement from the perspective of association members. It highlights for association leaders the increasing importance learning and career advancement play in today’s member experience. The report also calls attention to how organizations can further expand their services to meet member expectations.

Additional key findings from the report and what they mean to associations and other professional membership organizations include:

  • Members favor association-based training over employer-based training. During the past two years, 83 percent of members have completed some sort of professional development. Only 53 percent have done that through their professional organization. These same members also rate the quality of training and education directly received from employers as being significantly lower than that received from their association. Organizations can competitively grow the volume of learners they serve by promoting and capitalizing on their ability to deliver higher quality content and learner experiences. 
  • Members are multimodal learners. Members want diverse learning options to fit their needs and lifestyle. A variety of learning options can help professional organizations reach more members. From live to on-demand, there are areas of opportunity in short video, webcasting and mobile learning. 
  • Personalization is vital. Each member wants to develop his or her own learning path based on personal, professional and career development goals. Organizations can provide support and guidance on required job skills, certification requirements and career advancement by using technology to recommend the right learning path for each individual learner’s goals. 
  • Members—especially Millennials—focus on career advancement. Eighty-nine percent of Millennials and 72 percent of Gen Xers strongly desire a form of career-matching services from their professional organization. Organizations can offer a range of programs, technology and tactics that connect members with employment opportunities based on their learning history and proven competencies.
  • Gender perception gap exists among members. Women are more interested in what their organizations can provide them; but are less likely to feel their organizations have helped them advance their careers. Organizations can help them grow as a professional in their jobs through continuing education.

Online Learning a Growing Part of Member Experience

Based on live data pulled from its learning management systems and job board/career center solution, Community Brands reports a significant trend in increased online learning activity. (Data was extracted from customer use of Crowd Wisdom™—formerly YM Learning, Freestone and YM Careers.)

During the first six months of 2018, activated learning courses rose from 4.5 million (1Q) to 5.9 million (2Q), or more than 31 percent. Job opportunities also rose from 1.4 million (1Q) to 1.8 million (2Q), or nearly 29 percent. In addition, during the past 12 months running, Community Brands customer data shows more than 12.4 million learners have enrolled in professional development courses and programs at their association.

As for the tools associations are offering learners to advance their professional development, the most used during the past 12 months are live webinars and live webcasts at, respectively, more than 2,800 and 1,800 sessions each. Adoption and use of video is steadily increasing as a career development tool, with more than 1,500 clips produced for learning courses during the same period.

The Member Education and Career Development Report is the latest in a series of Community Brands ongoing industry research efforts, which include the recent Digital Member, Donor Experience and Member Loyalty studies.

To learn more about Community Brands and its Association SolutionsNonprofit Solutions and K-12 Solutions, visit

About the Report

Commissioned by Community Brands, Edge Research conducted an online survey of 1,018 U.S. members who self-reported they are 18-years-old or older and a member of a professional membership organization. Survey respondents were recruited through an online non-probability sample, meaning findings are not projectable to the larger population of members. When the term “members” is used, it specifically refers to those who were surveyed. Quotas were set so the survey is representative of key demographics. The survey was fielded March 28 through April 4, 2018.

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