Tips for Forecasting Membership Growth in the New Year

As the New Year gets started, it is a good time to review membership marketing plans and forecast where membership counts are headed.
Here is a method to help make accurate projections on long-term outcomes and run possible growth scenarios.  It is called a Steady State Analysis.  The concept of steady state can be illustrated with a bucket of water.  If there is a steady input of water and a steady outflow, eventually the bucket will come to a balanced level or equilibrium.
To do a Steady State Analysis with membership, you use a simple calculation based on current new member input and the organization’s lapse rate (non-renewal rate). Using these two numbers, the formula calculates the level where your total membership will reach equilibrium or a steady state.
Here’s the formula. Annual New Member Input / Reciprocal of Renewal Rate (or Lapse Rate) Shown as a Decimal = Total Membership Steady State.
For example, with an input of 5,000 New Member over a .25 Lapse Rate, the steady state of membership will be 20,000.
Steady State Analysis is also a useful tool for studying different membership growth options.  Here are three sample scenarios varying the new member input and renewal rate from the example above.
•The first option maintains a 75% renewal and increases the new member input to 7,000 per year and results in a steady state membership of 28,000 members over time.
•The second option increases the renewal rate to 85% and reduces new member input to 2,000 per year and results in a steady state of 13,333 members over time.
•The third option increases the renewal rate to 80% and also increases the new member input to 6,000 per year and results in a steady state of 30,000 members over time.
In order to create the optimal strategy, associations can use a Steady State Analysis to define where the opportunity for growth lies — through enhanced acquisition efforts, renewal efforts, or a combination of both.
When calculating an association’s steady state, the question often arises as to how long it will take to reach the projected membership number.  The timeframe will depend on how close or how far away an organization now is from its equilibrium.  The further away the longer it will take.  However, a simple spreadsheet calculation can be used to establish an accurate time line for reaching equilibrium.
One important message that can come out of a Steady State Analysis is that incremental changes in new member acquisition and renewals can make a big difference over time in membership counts.  Take some time to see where your membership is headed and run some scenarios to see what strategy might be most effective to focus on in 2017 to maximize your organization’s long-term membership growth.

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