July 2018: Question and Retain (Q&R) in partnership with MemNet, hosted a round table and workshop:

Membership organisations – Transformation In Face Of New Threats – held at the offices of the Food and Drink Federation, London


  • Ian Wright, Director General, Food and Drink Federation
  • Sue Froggatt, Managing Director, Sue Froggatt Consultancy
  • James Jeynes, Founder and CEO, MemNet
  • Sean Riches, Director, Erskine Nash
  • Chair, Annabel Dunstan, CEO and Founder, Q&R

Attendees included representatives from Institute of Physics, British Chambers of Commerce and the National Day Nurseries Association.

In our Pulse Check conducted among c1000 UK based Membership Organisations 83% said they faced threats ranging from Brexit, free content (from digital giants Google, Apple, Facebook Amazon and Microsoft, (GAFAM)), staff churn and lack of relevancy to Gen Y/Z.

One respondent commented:

“A combination of pressures: on individual members’ disposable income, not seeing student members transfer to Associate members on graduation and changing landscape in management in the UK meaning that fewer people are doing more and more at work so having less time to take part in events and/or getting involved in national/regional roles”

Discussion topic highlights:

  • Challenge is to create events that members will pay for and attend
  • With high churn among senior staff it can be difficult to progress new ideas
  • Member orgs need to be put under the microscope and to transform to remain relevant and fit for purpose
  • Membership is not relevant to Gen Y/Z – they work on relationships and association/communities
  • Students don’t relate to membership or see the value of it
  • Key to right size your membership and de-emphasis the word ‘member’
  • Instead consider – Value – Connection – Relationships
  • We are in the business of Association
  • Create ways to attract younger new recruits – frame the offer in terms of opening doors to a career, to go places and gain experiences
  • Building communities is the way ahead
  • Prepare for the external factors – in times of peace prepare for war!


Annabel Dunstan sums up:

“Member orgs need to carefully review how relevant they are. Content is now freely available and the employees of the future are driven by relationships, values and connectedness. Membership is not part of their world as perhaps it is/was for the baby boomers”.

As one respondent to our Pulse Check put it:

“We had to dismantle our membership organisation some years ago, because of the costs involved in employing someone to collect annual dues, and our inability to find anyone reliable who might do it on a voluntary basis. Since then it has posed no problem with involvement, attracting more and more interest on a casual basis who are prepared to donate or to attend for particular causes and events that we bring up via our newsletters. Our Mailchimp newsletter list requires nothing but the willingness of readers to sign up.”

For more details of our work to measure and manage the member experience please call us on t. 07790 216441 or email e. nicki@questionandretain.co.uk