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Association Performance

Are You a Data-Driven Association?

When your association has the right data easily accessible, and relevant base metrics…only then can you truly be a data-driven association.

This article has been written after reflecting on a recent discussion with an Association CEO, and the gap in their knowledge about how data can lead to immense growth opportunities if your association is equipped with the right knowledge and strategies.  

Causeis provides associations with digital transformation consulting, and in our experience associations that lead with data are more agile, innovative and focused on performance improvement to grow their association. Before we embark on exploring how to be data-driven, let’s explore what a data-driven association looks like:

  • Ability to talk with metrics and performance KPIs
  • Measures past success to enable future decision-making
  • Collects the right data for reporting
  • Eradicates data-silos
  • Data is managed, secure and maintained
  • Uses data to personalise the member communication and experience
  • Uses data to segment and analyze member behaviour
  • Has trust and confidence in their data reporting
  • Ability to access real-time performance metrics (retention, conversion, engagement, performance)


Silos to Single Source - graphic


According to Gartner, McKinsey, and other think-tanks, data is considered your most valuable asset and competitive advantage. Your association's data tells a story, whether good or bad.

Data is everywhere, you use it every single day, and every hour to make decisions, respond, and adapt. Data is used to easily see your performance goals, targets, and data can even evoke emotion.

As an association leader, how do you create an association powerhouse that collects, maintains and measures the data that really matters?

In this article we will explore:

  • The data you must collect
  • The questions to ask your team to drive data thinking
  • The metrics you need to measure


What’s holding your association back?

Spend 5-minutes asking what is holding back your association from performing at optimal levels and what role your data plays in this. When working with associations on their performance improvement, we ask them to consider whether they have any of these data frustrations and limitations:  

  • Data is not accessible 
  • Data is siloed
  • Data required simply does not exist  
  • Skills internally to report on it
  • Relies on a staff member to create and run the report
  • Data cannot be trusted  

Do any of these frustrations resonate with you? Does it feel too hard to fix? Associations should embrace their data strategies and bring them to the executive conversation. There are simple techniques you can apply to positively drive a conversation about your data and its future power.


Let’s start to talk about data

By bringing a conversation about your data to your meetings, your member communication design, your education journey, and to your performance reporting, you will see an immediate shift within your associations culture and appreciation of data. You will create an appetite for data among your peers. Here are some questions you can use today, to bring data to the conversation:  

  • What systems do we have that collect data?  
  • What happens to the data?  
  • How are we using this data?  
  • How are we validating and maintaining this data?
  • What could we use this data for?
  • Could we easily report on this data via real-time dashboards?
  • Can we eliminate a data silo by using our AMS, like iMIS, as the single source of truth

By using these questions within your everyday conversations, your association can identify new data opportunities.


Conversation about data


What data do we need?

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when exploring data, or trying to identify where to start. If you want to get started, then consider identifying your Minimum Data Set. The Minimum Data Set is the absolute critical data that your association must collect and maintain for all members to ensure effective communications, segmentation, basic performance reporting and establishing a baseline for trusted reporting. Imagine your association having a baseline of core data that exists and is maintained for every single member. 

A Minimum Data Set should be no more than ten (10) data points for each member that your association can validate and maintain. These data points should include the following as a starting point:  

  • Join date
  • Financial status
  • Date of birth or year of birth
  • Location (Zip, State or Region)
  • Industry profile (such as specialty, discipline or industry classification)
  • Email address
  • Mobile phone number
  • Workplace or employer

Your association can easily start with validating and assessing the minimum data set of your members. You don’t have to invest in complex systems and tools, simply start in Microsoft Excel to audit and review your member data.

Icons representing the minimum data set


What is the next level for your association’s data maturity?

To become a data-driven association, there are key metrics your association should be able to report on.  

Retention Rate:

The retention rate is the measure of the number of members you retained after the renewal campaign excluding your new members. Once you calculate retention, dive further into the retention by first-year members, categories, age, career stage, region, segments, and compare year-on-year retention.  


Membership Tenure:

Defines how long members stay with your association and is calculated by dividing your lapse rate into 100. For example: If your membership retention is 84%, then your membership lapse rate is 16%. Tenure = 100/16 = 6.25 years is how long members stay. Every 6.25 years your entire membership population is recycled or churned.


Marketing Effectiveness:

This goes beyond the individual email campaign. Marketing Effectiveness drives readership, behavior and outcomes through learning your marketing impact across communication medium, readership, and action.


Online Behaviour:

Tracking how members are accessing your secured, gated content or benefits. What number of members are logging into your website? How many have accessed the portal in the last few months?


Engagement Scoring:

Measure of participation and the ability to rank your members’ behavior. This includes identifying the utilization of members accessing your benefits and services. For example: 40% of members are highly engaged, 20% of members access CPD benefits in a year, and 4% use the advisory line.  


Let’s return to thinking about your association. If you had these metrics at your fingertips, what influence could you have? Imagine the power of your data and what you could achieve! If you have the right data easily accessible, paired with relevant base metrics, then you truly can be a data-driven association.  

We encourage you to start your data-driven journey today. Start simple, but start.


Want to learn more about how to be a data-driven association? Watch Causeis' 20-minute webinar, "Measuring What Matters".


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