Jennifer Loftus

Association Member Surveys: Asking the Right Questions

The long-term success of any association depends on delivering value to members so that they remain engaged, loyal, and happy to renew. But how exactly do you know what your members find valuable?

The answer is association membership surveys. Read on to learn:

  • Why association member surveys are valuable
  • How to create an effective membership satisfaction survey
  • How to determine what questions to ask

Why are association member surveys valuable?

Associations exist to represent and unite members around shared interests, often professional. Everything you do needs to be in service of that; it needs to be member-centric.

Member surveys are the perfect tool to help you achieve this. They let you collect member feedback and information on members so you can learn what’s important to them. You can then use these surveys to identify current programs or activities that aren’t delivering value and learn more about the programming and benefits that will attract members.

From there, you can address issues and optimize what’s working to drive long-term membership and renewals.

How do you create an effective membership satisfaction survey?

An effective membership satisfaction survey needs to gather the right information about your members so you can understand what they value. To create one, follow a structured approach where you:

  1. Set clear objectives. Review the results you want to achieve and work backward to create questions to get those results. For example, to learn why meeting participation has dropped, create questions that cover potential barriers to engagement.
  2. Keep surveys short and questions concise. Short surveys take less time to complete, so you’ll likely get better response rates. Straightforward questions also make it easy for respondents to answer. Consider providing specific choices like multiple choice questions, yes and no questions, and rating scales.
  3. Test the surveys. Test your survey draft on a small engaged sample of members, e.g., your board of members. Review their answers to see if the questions helped you get the information you wanted. Also, talk to the sample group to get feedback. Was there any ambiguity? Was the survey the right length?
  4. Get your timing right. According to research by Survey Monkey, Mondays are among the best days to send surveys as they receive a 13% higher response rate than the average, whereas Fridays are generally the worst.
  5. Promote your surveys. Promotion helps you get good response rates. You can post your survey to your website and social media, encourage members to promote it, and send an email newsletter that links to the survey.
  6. Share the results. Share the results with participants and your general membership for transparency. Take the time to thank participants and inform everyone how you’ll use the results to improve.

These same best practices apply to any type of survey an organization might conduct, like a nonprofit HR team learning more from employees or a business learning more from customers. With a basic blueprint for creating an effective survey, let’s look at what to ask.

How do you know which questions to ask?

Your goals and current priorities will guide the types of questions you’ll ask. For example, if improving retention ahead of renewal season is vital, ask questions relevant to retention.

Similarly, if some members have expressed interest in a particular type of event and you want to test how it might perform, ask questions about the event.

That being said, most questions will generally fall into specific categories. Knowing these categories and the types of questions you can typically ask to assess members is a good starting point for creating your survey. Here are eight categories to consider:

  • Occupational. These include questions about demographics and professional background. For instance:
    • What industry do you work in?
    • What is your role in your company?
  • Benefit offerings. This category covers questions about benefits you currently offer or that members want. For example:
    • What benefits do you currently use? Why?
    • What benefits would you like us to add?
  • Education and training interest. Members join associations to network and learn from others, so it’s important to ask questions to gauge their interest in certain programs like seminars and online learning. You also want to determine what new programs and topics members may want. Example questions include:
  • Committee and volunteer interest. Members who join committees or volunteer are more likely to become long-term donors. So, ask questions to gauge their interest, including:
    • Are you part of a committee? If not, why?
    • What would make you consider joining a committee?
  • Communication preferences. Members enjoy different communication channels. Some like email, while others prefer social media. Use this category to determine how to communicate with various members and show you care about their needs. Here are some questions to ask:
    • How do you prefer to stay updated about association news?
    • What platforms do you use to follow our association?
  • Availability. Use this category to understand when members are available for meetings and prefer to receive communication to improve attendance. Questions to ask include:
    • Do you currently attend meetings? If not, why?
    • What day of the week would you prefer to meet?
  • Satisfaction. This category can help boost membership renewals if you act on the feedback. Ask members if they’re happy and find out why if they’re not. For example:
    • What are you most happy about as a member?
    • What should we improve?
  • Advocacy. Include this category if your organization currently participates in any advocacy activities, or plans to. Questions to ask, include:
    • Do you partake in our advocacy initiatives? If not, why?
    • Is advocacy important to you?
    • What issues do you care about the most?

Use member surveys to boost membership renewals

Membership surveys are an excellent way for any association to collect member feedback so they can understand what’s important to members. When creating your survey, pay attention to key areas like your objectives, survey length, timing, and promotion.

But remember: an effective survey is pointless without action. Act on the feedback to make improvements that will add value to your members and grow membership.


Kerry McCreadie, MemberClicks, Senior Content Marketing Manager

This post was contributed by a guest author from MemberClicks.

What matters most to membership organizations? As the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Personify’s Wild Apricot and MemberClicks products, this is the question always on Kerry’s mind. Their goal is to help nonprofits, associations, and clubs discover the solutions that solve their most frustrating pain points—while growing and retaining their member base. The CEO and Founder of their own nonprofit organization, Kerry is passionate about nonprofit and charitable work—especially in the arts.

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