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Data insight essential for UK membership bodies to retain members

Data insight essential for UK membership bodies to retain members

Major membership organisations in the UK confirm that the need to apply insight to their membership data is one of the major risks they face it there are to continue to retain and grow membership numbers.

Twenty membership bodies, including the Royal British Legion, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and The Fostering Network, met recently at a seminar hosted by Advanced Computer Software Group’s NFP division, to discuss the challenges of gathering and using data. There was a recognition that membership bodies faced a challenge in demonstrating the value of a membership fee, in the fact of extensive free information and guidance being available online. With so much available for free, why pay a membership fee?

The majority of seminar attendees agreed with the findings of Advanced’s latest research State of the Nation study, which revealed that 96% of UK nonprofits are struggling to manage the swathes of data they now hold on their members.

The research was carried out amongst more than 300 UK charities and not-for-profit organisations. It found that most do not have a single accurate source of data on their members, employees, finances and organisational processes. Many of the attendees recognised this situation.

In addition, 80% reported difficulties in producing consistent reports due to information being stored in different places and within different systems.

All of the participants agreed that membership bodies like theirs had to make it a priority to make content relevant and age-appropriate, and move away from the one-size-fits-all traditional approach.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director at Advanced Business Solutions (Advanced NFP), said:

“Membership organisations rely on support from the public in the form of subscription or membership fees to survive. Many, however, report membership erosion, resulting from increased choice and ‘member fatigue’. This is made worse if inaccurate or out-of-date contact data means irrelevant content is sent to the wrong member – or doesn’t get there at all.”

Membership successes

At the seminar the Scouts and Army Cadet Force Association explained how they had started to tackle this challenge. They report that, by creating clever (and age appropriate) communication, they had seen member numbers grow and attrition reduce.

“Targeting 14 year olds with Barney the Dinosaur won’t work, we have to look carefully at what the data tells us about our membership and match outreach with that insight.”

Fowler advises:

“If membership organisations take time to combine, clean, corroborate and classify their member data and create a tailored approach for each segment, members are more likely to want to stay. After all, longevity of membership is the key priority for all these organisations.”


Photo: members only by Micha Klootwijk on


Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Research massive growth in giving.

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