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Association Management

KPIs for Membership Organizations: How to Measure Success

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks February 14, 2023
Table of Contents
10 min read

How do you know how well your membership organization is performing? Easy! If your membership engagement metrics are high. But what are membership metrics? How do you set them? And how do you measure nonprofit organization performance via metrics?

That’s a lot of questions. Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get the answers.

Even if you’ve never heard of the acronym ‘KPI’ before, this article will teach you everything you need to know to decide which KPIs to adopt, how to measure them, and why you need to track and report on them monthly, quarterly and annually. Already know what a KPI is but need to refine your association metrics? This article is for you, too.

What are KPIs?

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. They are used in different industries and roles to measure success.

For you, YOUR KPIs should be core membership metrics that your organization tracks in order to understand how well you’re performing around everything from member retention to membership engagement.

When it comes to KPIs for membership organizations, they could include things like membership referrals, member satisfaction, email open rates, membership growth and more. Ultimately, KPIs are a way to track your performance over time so that you can spot trends, see how well changes are going over and correct your membership strategy when you misfire.

Why do KPIs matter?

KPIs matter for a wide variety of reasons. Here are some of the most important:

  • Determine budget allocation: The KPIs that your organization chooses to measure can help you decide where to put your money. For example, if you’re prioritizing membership satisfaction, you might put more money into surveying your members and consulting with them to improve their satisfaction. Focused on membership growth? You could budget for membership referral bonuses.
  • Report successes to board: KPIs help an organization (and the board) track their improvement and success over time. These are hard numbers that speak to the actual health of your membership association.
  • Help to set achievable and realistic goals: Association metrics are important because understanding them and how they have historically trended helps your organization set more achievable goals. If your board decides they want you to double your membership next year but historically you’ve only ever grown your membership by 15% a year, metrics will help your association realize that doubling your membership isn’t likely to be achievable.
  • Uncover trends in membership: Did your membership grow significantly after you implemented a new program? Did a lot of long-term members cancel after a leadership change? Trends showing improvements or losses in your membership metrics can help you double down on what’s working and correct for what isn’t.
  • Help identify needs of members: Your membership won’t always tell you want they want. But they will speak with their actions. If they don’t renew or if attendance at your events goes down, that’s a good indicator that people aren’t happy with your membership association. You can use your KPIs to better understand the needs of your members.
  • Prioritization of time an effort: If you know which membership metrics make the most impact on the health of your membership program, you can prioritize your staff’s time and effort towards meeting those metrics rather than trying to do everything with limited capacity.

Identifying the right success measurements for your membership organization

So, how do you best measure your nonprofit organization’s performance? Not every organization tracks the same association metrics. Why? Because each organization has different goals and are at different stages in their membership life cycle.

For example, a relatively new membership organization will be more focused on things like their membership acquisition rate compared to an older membership association that might be more focused on things like membership lifetime value and length of membership.

To zero in on the KPIs you should be tracking, ask yourself these two questions:

  • What are your goals?
  • What are your board’s goals?

Once you know the answer to these questions, you’ll know which KPIs are the most important. For example, if your goals are to keep your current members happy while acquiring members your KPIs should be focused on your membership retention and membership acquisition. Once there is an agreement on the KPIs your organization should be tracking – and who is responsible for them – you can focus your organization’s work to optimize for them.

Popular KPI metrics to measure

8 kpis you should be tracking as a membership organization

Unsure what kind of membership metrics you could be measuring? Here are some popular association metrics.

  • Membership retention rate: You spent all kinds of time and money acquiring members, so why not pay attention to the rate at which you retain members? Your membership retention rate will help you understand how much value you’re providing to your members – and when your programming isn’t serving your membership.
  • Membership life expectancy (based on loss rate): Your membership life expectancy is how long a member remains a member of your organization on average after joining. The higher the number is the healthier your organization is. This is important to know because acquiring members can be expensive so if your members churn quickly then that’s a sign that your organization has to do more to keep them around.
  • Membership growth quarter over quarter: Understanding how your membership is growing is key since it’s a key driver of your revenue and budget – as well as the health of your organization. The more you know about how your membership growth is changing, the better you can adjust and optimize your programming to improve it. 
  • Member lifetime value: This is a metric that looks at the average dues and non-dues revenue per member over the average membership lifespan. So, if your organization charges $100 a year for a membership and a member pays an addition $50 per year for events on average and stays a member for an average of three years then your membership lifetime value will be $450. Knowing this figure allows you to understand how small changes can greatly impact your future revenue. For example, if you can improve the average membership life expectancy to five years, your membership lifetime value will be $750.
  • Member stats: It’s important that you track things like your membership’s average age, location, gender and job title. Why? It helps you identify who your ‘ideal member’ is so that you can target your membership outreach to that same group of people for greater success. Or you could decide to diversify your membership by doing outreach to groups not represented in your current membership.

Tracking success for individual events

Now, you might be wondering how you measure success for individual events. Event-specific KPIs will look different than general organization metrics. But tracking success and measuring KPIs for events helps you to identify if your event was successful based on your goals and needs.

You can track things like:

  • Registration numbers
  • Attendance rates (number of registrants VS how many people actually attended)
  • Post-event survey results
  • Funds raised
  • Engagement during events (questions in a webinar, participation in in-person event activities, etc.)

8 Other general KPIs to track

There are a few other general and important measures to keep track of to keep tabs on the health of your organization.

1. Website visits

How many visitors are coming to your website? What about specific blog pages? How many are reading through you membership page? These are all important metrics to track. When you track website visits, you get a better idea of what pages your potential membership find most interesting. You can then add a call to action and link to your membership page on particularly popular pages to improve your membership conversion rate.

2. Returning visitors

Ok, this one’s pretty self-explanatory. A returning visitor is one that has visited your website at least once before. The more returning visitors you have, the better. This means your content is perceived as valuable and worth coming back for. Return rates vary by industry, but generally a 15 percent return rate is considered pretty good. If your site falls below this benchmark, try updating your content regularly or adding a blog to keep pages dynamic.

3. Bounce rate

A bounce rate is when someone comes to your website but leaves without visiting any other pages. In general, high bounce rates indicate issues with your web page – perhaps poor content, long load times, poor mobile optimization, or no visual appeal. According to HubSpot, the average bounce rate for content websites is between 40 and 60 percent. For blogs, the average bounce rate is between 70 and 98 percent. These benchmarks, of course, vary by industry, but feel free to use them as starting points when analyzing your own data. If your site or blog falls below these levels, try adding links to more pages within your site throughout existing content. 

4. Social engagement and shares

Social engagement and shares reflect the number of times your pages are shared or engaged with on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or other social media sites. When it comes to social engagement, there’s no magic number for how many likes, shares or mentions your page should have. But obviously, the more you have, the better. To encourage social sharing on your website, be sure to include visible share buttons on the top, bottom or side of your page.

5. Email opens

Do your members open your emails? If they stop opening them then it could mean that they’ve become disengaged. Or you’re sending them too many emails. Or your emails subject lines aren’t interesting. Paying attention to your email opens allows you to get creative on your email strategy. You might even decide to A/B test different subject lines to see which are more likely to get opens. Then you can optimize your email program to fit your audience.

6. Completion of courses

If your membership organization offers courses, you might choose to include the completion level of your courses as a KPI. If your completion metrics are low, it could mean that people aren’t finding your courses valuable enough to continue with them. That could indicate that they’ll be less likely to renew their membership next year and that you should update your content.

7. Engagement in your online community

If you have an online community, measuring how engaged your members are in that community is an important KPI. How many members use your community regularly? How many posts are made each day, each week, each month? How many jobs are posted? This is a great metric to gauge the health of your community and help you understand how to promote more engagement.

8. Use of benefits by members

If your membership organization offers membership benefits, knowing how many of your members are taking advantage of those benefits is key to understanding how much value your members are getting out of your organization. It could help you decide to increase certain benefits or retire others that aren’t widely used. It helps you understand the cost/benefit of your benefits so you can optimize them for your membership.

Click through to learn about MemberClicks’ membership management software tools, MC Trade and MC Professional.

Tips on reporting your KPIs

Once you’ve decided which KPIs are important to your organization, it’s time to start reporting on them. But how do you do that most effectively? Here are some tips:

  • Focus on what the numbers actually tell you: The numbers are important but they mean nothing alone. Your goal is to connect the numbers with what’s driving them. Figuring out the story behind the KPIs is critical. Did you make more money at your event this year because you had a silent auction? Or did you make more money because you sold more tickets? Animating your KPIs with this info is key for ensuring they’re meaningful to your organization.   
  • Look for trends over time: Looking at trends quarter over quarter or year over year helps your organization understand how changes or investments you’re making are paying off. That’s key to continue to improve your organization or to catch downward trends before its too late. 
  • Remember change can take time: While we all want to turn around the bad trends quickly or see significant growth, the big changes often don’t happen from one quarter to the next or even from one year to the next. Investing in optimizing and improving your association can take time. Make sure you manage expectations around your KPIs. You might want to even consult with similar organizations around what KPIs they have and what kind of growth they’re seeing.
  • Adjust your goals as needed: KPI goals aren’t set it stone. The important thing is that you adapt on the ground as things change. If you had a goal of growing your membership revenue by 20% this year but your membership is facing financial stress, that’s unlikely to happen. Revise your goals to be better in line with your reality in those cases.

The right tools make tracking easy

You might be wondering how you’re going to track all these KPIs. If this is starting to sound like a massive make-work project, don’t worry. A great Association Management System (AMS) makes setting, tracking, and reporting on the KPIs we covered in this post easy.

Not only does a great AMS do it all automatically for you but it also allows you to view historical trends, store all your data securely and better understand membership engagement. Before you decide staying on top of your KPIs is impossible, consider finding an AMS that makes it simple if yours doesn’t.

Measuring success at your association

There’s a famous adage that you don’t do what you don’t measure and that’s especially true for associations. There are so many things to do and not enough people to do them. But the benefit of KPIs is that they can help your association zero in on the things that are most important to your organization. When you decide which KPIs are key to track and start analyzing your results, you can better understand and evaluate how the things you’re doing impact those metrics and focus on the things that generate the highest return on investment. That will cause your KPIs to improve much faster than doing what you’re currently doing.

Don’t have an AMS that makes tracking your KPIs over time simple? Consider MemberClicks. We help you focus on what matters most so you can focus on what makes the most impact.

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.