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Expanding to New Markets: Key to Growing Membership Base?

association membership

Do associations want to increase membership? The answer may be obvious, however many organisations seem to struggle with how to achieve that. Due to changing industries and the evolving environment they operate in, associations are challenged to reassess their membership in terms of strength and greater engagement.

While generally they provide significant benefits to their members, for example with lobbying or networking, their ability to grow their membership is an integral part of the perceived value they can deliver. And even though they may be nationally focused, they can successfully operate in foreign markets and leverage the opportunities that arise.

Taking a world view

There are numerous marketing tips and tricks that vouch for greater acquisition and retention, from high-quality content dissemination and email marketing to networking events and incentives. But no one can ignore the elephant in the room; globalisation.

Globalisation has had a powerful impact on societies and how they function, so associations increasingly seek information – and more often than not, entry – in new markets. Having an eye on global expansion is a key approach towards increasing membership, but it is no easy feat.

But, are you ready for the world?

The first step is to assess the size and scope of the new market. Market research can help you further define the options for growth, but there are multiple angles to consider. Factoring in the competitive landscape, which markets are the most ripe for expansion? Is the association’s vision and strategy aligned with the resources required in order to achieve long-term success and relevance? Addressing such questions before designing a growth strategy is a focal element of a well-crafted approach.

Understanding your association’s global maturity

In order to help leaders understand the challenges and requirements for going global, ASAE (American Society for Association Executives), with the support from MCI Group, commissioned a series of research projects to determine the state of success in the sector and identify the factors that lead to success.

These projects invited 100 international organisations to take the Global Maturity Assessment in order to understand their international maturity level.

Results showed that nearly all of the association leaders who participated in the study reported already having members in other countries, which may explain why global strategy has become a priority for them. Among respondents, it was most common for international members to join a U.S.-based association, whether it is a global or a national association.

Associations do appear to see a return on recruiting members in foreign markets. The percentage of annual revenue the associations received from international markets closely mirrored the percentage of members from international markets.

Of the participating associations that do have international members, most tend to reach into many markets. More than half of respondents with international members (52 percent) have members in more than 20 countries. This may reflect the effect of technology on global business, with prospects in international markets finding it easy to join and receive benefits even when the association does not have a local presence in the market.

If you are looking more insights, our association experts can help you solve your challenges and unlock opportunities, so visit us at  to explore your options.

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