If you’re reading this, you’re likely interested in tracking more data points about your members in your association’s membership database. But a random influx of data isn’t necessarily better for your association, and tracking the wrong data points can overwhelm your organization and lead you down a detrimental path.
Instead, you want to collect the data points that will help you make the most effective, impactful decisions for your association. Likely, you already have member names and payment information on file for regular dues collection. But this is only scratching the surface of the data you should collect, analyze and use.
In this short guide, we’ve compiled the six most important data points to collect for your database to better connect and understand members:
- Contact Information
- Demographic Information
- Firmographic Information
- Committee, Group and Event Involvement
- Communication Preferences
- Reason(s) for Joining
Once you’ve collected this information, you can start putting your association data to use. We recommend leveraging your data to:
- Clarify your target audience to better market your association to them.
- Improve the member experience for your current members by understanding who they are and what matters to them
- Discover and optimize the best channels for your outreach efforts based on your member preferences.
- Anticipate future trends in your membership with predictive data analytics.
As we dive deeper into the data points, think about how each will help further your programmatic and organizational goals.
1. Contact Information
It’s more common than you’d think that some contact info is missed during member registration. Plus, as members move around, contact information can quickly become outdated. With 17% of Americans changing addresses each year, you likely have members who are forgetting to update your association on their move.
When this happens, you have no way of getting in contact with your members. That means that any other data you collect will be for naught. Plan on an annual basis to collect and update your members’:
- Phone Numbers
- Email Addresses
- Physical Addresses
If you haven’t been collecting this information or your records are outdated or incomplete, you can append your in-house data with third-party data. If you’re looking to bring in new members, you may also choose to supplement your database with the contact information of these individuals. Moreover, you can identify prospective new members by conducting targeted demographic research and appending their contact information to your database.
2. Demographic Information
Demographic information is the data you collect on association members and is crucial to effectively engage and retain their support. Demographic data includes info like:
- Marital Status
- Level of Education
- Buying Behaviors
Having your members’ interests and characteristics at hand is useful for conducting new member campaigns as well as for designing activities and subgroups that are tailored to meet the needs of your audience.
For example, if you know that many of the members of your community organization have young children, you may choose to host family-friendly events. On the other hand, a marketing association might be more interested in the specific roles and levels of their members to best tailor trainings to their needs and experience.
In this sense, depending on your association, you’ll likely want to collect specific demographic info that directly addresses your primary focus and goals.
Moreover, if your association is a registered nonprofit organization, you can pair this information with a matching gifts database to significantly increase the impact of every donation. Research from Double the Donation indicates that over 18 million individuals work for businesses that will match their employees’ donations—sometimes at a ratio of $3 for every $1 donated! With so many possible matches, it’s quite likely that number includes at least some of your association’s supporters.
3. Firmographic Information
If your association targets businesses rather than individuals, you should include firmographic information in your association management software (AMS) system. Firmographic information is the data you collect on organizations and businesses. Depending on your target membership, include the following data points in your database:
- NAICS Code
- Internal Structure
- Annual Revenue
- Market Segment
- Key Contacts
- Phone Numbers
- Website Address
- Email Addresses
- Start Date
As with demographic information, if your current data is incomplete or you’re planning to expand your reach to new businesses, you can supplement your existing firmographic data with third-party data enhancement.
4. Committee, Group and Event Involvement
Relatedly, you should collect information from both members and potential members about their involvement in your association’s committees, groups and activities. Some event registration platforms, such as MemberClicks’ event registration tools, can integrate directly with your AMS solution, making it easy for involvement data to automatically flow into your member database.
Before you plan your next association event or committee, consider asking the following questions to collect actionable data:
- What committees or groups are the most popular?
- What types of events have members regularly attended?
- What type of events or groups would members like to participate in?
- What industry topics currently interest members most?
- What are members hoping to gain from future events or committees?
- What, if any, events or programs have members sponsored?
In addition to data on your in-house groups and events, you should also use a combination of surveys and third-party data providers to gather information on your members’ involvement with outside organizations. This can help you identify gaps in the services you offer, competing associations and valuable partners that you can work with to better serve and engage members.
When you conduct outreach for groups and events, you can segment your data based on expressed interest and/or past involvement to connect with the right people and businesses and not overwhelm everybody’s inboxes.
5. Communication Preferences
Speaking of inboxes, it’s a best practice to always store and update your members’ communication preferences. These include:
- Number and frequency of messages. Some members will love every up-to-the-minute update and opportunity you send. But others will likely feel overwhelmed by so many messages. Give members the option to choose whether they receive communication on a daily, weekly, or quarterly basis.
- Topics of messages. Not all members are alike. As we’ll discuss later, they’ve joined your association for a wide array of reasons. As a result, not all of your communication (including newsletters, events and opportunities and specific committee updates) will apply to them. Store their preferences in your database and create segments to send each member only the desired content.
- Delivery methods. How do they want to be contacted? Common methods are by phone, email, text and direct mail. In order to reach as many people as possible, consider offering a variety of ways for members to receive your communication. In fact, leading organizations use 16% more outreach tactics than their peers.
- Favored social media platform. Today, using social media is an all but necessary tool to keep your members’ regular attention, and it should be included in any outreach approach. But not all of your existing and potential members all use the same sites. By collecting social media information, your organization can determine the platforms (e.g. Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn) where your members are most active and prioritize these.
If you contact your audience according to their preferences—rather than bludgeoning them with everything you’ve got—they’ll be infinitely more receptive to the calls to action that they do receive.
6. Reason(s) for Joining
For both your new and existing members, don’t hesitate to ask why they’ve joined or plan to join. Be direct. Ask: “What are you looking to achieve by joining our association?”
For a streamlined process, we recommend including a field in your initial signup form to collect this information as well as sending a short survey over email to your existing members.
In general, their reasons will commonly fall into several categories:
- Learning and development. For many, this is the primary reason for joining an association. If this is the case, consider using a learning management system to manage continuing education and professional development activities of your association.
- Networking opportunities. If your data shows that this is a main reason that members join your association, you might emphasize social events such as mixers, sponsored outings and panels with industry experts.
- Community advocacy. For local associations, members will often join as a way to give back and advocate for their community. If this is the case, you might highlight your charitable giving and volunteer opportunities.
Whatever their reasons for joining your association, plan to keep this data up-to-date and organized in your management software. Over time, member priorities will likely shift, so it’s a good idea to regularly survey members on their reasons for joining and remaining involved.
Before, during and after you add any data to your AMS system, make sure to clean your database. With an influx of data, it’s easy to introduce errors into your system—whether it’s outdated, incomplete, duplicate, or inaccurate data.
According to AccuData’s guide to data hygiene, these errors cost U.S. businesses around $3.1 trillion each year. To counteract this effect, decide on (and then implement) regular processes to standardize, verify and complete any missing data. By filling your database with clean and useful data, you’ll be able to better engage your existing members and forge new connections with potential ones.
Author: Gabrielle Perham, MBA, Director of Marketing
Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.