MemberWise Digital Excellence Report: Key Talking Points

Ida Vejzagic
December 16, 2021 9 min read

What are some of the things membership organisations are struggling with the most? How has that changed in the past few years, and how to overcome those issues? 

As a digital agency working closely with a number of membership organisations, and a MemberWise supplier, we’ve had the chance to see various issues and help our clients towards a stronger digital presence. 

Some of the most prominent issues were outlined in the MemberWise Digital Excellence Report for 2021/22. We’ve chosen to discuss five of these issues.  

1. Membership organisation goals 

Goals are among the most significant points analysed by the MemberWise report – or any report, really.  

Expectedly, the top three priorities of membership organisations have remained the same since 2018. Member engagement is the number one goal, followed by acquisition and retention. Member value is now the top 4th goal, having pushed satisfaction to the fifth place, while the sixth priority is participation.  

This makes a lot of sense. Showing people why they should become (or remain) members is arguably the most difficult step. So, the top three priorities are highly likely to remain firmly in place. 

Plus, we’re all aware the pandemic has had a huge impact on both personal and business budgets. This, of course, has made the challenges even tougher. 

In the digital world, all these priorities are tightly linked to website quality (especially UX) and good content marketing.  

Sector news from the MemberWise Digital Excellence Report 2021/22

With more and more membership organisations investing in a digital strategy, engagement has fortunately spiked in the past 12-18 months. However, so has the workload, with other important goals remaining where they were.  

One of our clients, RoSPA, was looking to increase engagement, acquisition and retention as well. To help them improve these goals while not increasing the workload, we implemented a platform called a member portal or zone. It’s a self-servicing portal where members can see all info related to their tier, make changes and pursue courses.  

Providing a portal like this, where everything’s at the member’s disposal, is a great way to showcase member value and boost engagement and retention. Besides, a fully functional, smooth digital presence is an excellent selling point to find new potential members as well. 

2. Biggest obstacles 

Ten main obstacles towards online success were outlined in the report. We want to emphasise those we’ve seen the most in our clients. They include: 

 Inability to measure engagement (which only 53% of membership organisations are actually measuring)

  • Lack of data or inadequate data management 
  • Multiple databases and silos of information
  • Inability to personalise the experience for users 
  • Inadequate integration of website and membership management system 

Without thorough, organised information about members, it’s difficult to identify improvement opportunities or reach any of the top goals. A good number of our clients in the membership sector weren’t measuring any of the crucial data. So, we helped them understand the importance of it and implemented software and tools like Google Analytics and Clarity.

To enable these clients to leverage all data and achieve goals more easily, we’ve shown them what info to track and how to interpret and utilise reports. We’ve also done numerous integrations and custom coding solutions and enabled automation of certain processes. This considerably decreased manual labour and enhanced data management. 

That way, membership organisations can understand their members’ needs and expectations better, personalise their experience, and find opportunities for business growth. 

3. Member expectations  

No matter what, in the digital age user expectations will always be high. As we’ve said countless times in our discussions of SEO, UI/UX design, CRO, etc., users are always number one. 

For membership organisations, this is stressed even more. After all, without users (members), there would be no organisation. This is precisely why all the goals and obstacles are also largely connected to their experience and require catering to them. 

In the image below, you can see the most common expectations that members have from the online experience with their organisation. 

MemberWise Digital Excellence Report 2021-22 biggest member expectations

Clearly, expectations largely boil down to quality content marketing and fast, easy navigation/use (great UI/UX in general). Indeed, to show members the value of being part of your organisation, you have to give them a remarkable experience. You also have to provide an answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?” 

For instance, personalisation is more significant than ever. Each user wants to feel as though your content and offers are tailored specifically to them as individuals. Yet, only 39% of organisations are investing in personalisation. 

And even for them, it’s at a basic level due to the required investment in new systems. But with the majority of members expecting personalisation, wouldn’t it be an investment well worth making for the long-term success of your organisation? 

Automation, for instance, is another key aspect of a better UX. However, less than half of organisations are actually investing in it. As mentioned previously, we’ve provided clients with data organisation and personalisation and automation solutions. 

These have ultimately led to better engagement and retention. Such decrease workload in a way that allows organisations to focus on members more closely and give them a valuable experience. 

4. New term – AMS 

The report presents the suggestion to drop all terms describing member databases (CRM, CRM system, membership database, etc.). The idea is to replace them all with AMS (Association Management System). Apparently, the old terms are outdated and no longer accurately describe the processes and systems required to manage all data. 

Ultimately, this makes sense, because memberships have transformed and are now more layered and demanding than ever. This is particularly reflected in the goals and member expectations we’ve just now gone over. Terms such as “customer relationship management” and “membership database” are simply too restricting to cover these new complexities.  

So, what did the report say about AMSs? They’re currently the top tool used for personalisation and automation, but mostly of processes that are transactional in nature. To no one’s surprise, it’s predicted that memberships will have to step it up and focus their AMS use more on relations, engagement and participation. 

Side note: The MemberWise survey shows that the most popular AMSs, other than bespoke ones, are Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce! 

5. Member Value Proposition (MVP) 

An integral part of any membership organisation, the MVP is an essential discussion element in reports like these. It’s defined as “the rationale for members to join, belong, renew and participate”. 

Therefore, the MVP is fundamental to the success of any membership organisation. Yet less than 60% have a clear MVP. Of those who do, only 23% use it strategically to inform their activities.  

With member expectations constantly on the rise, it’s important to make communicating value to them a priority. From what we’ve seen, the MVP is positively impacted by the digital services provided to RoSPA and other membership organisations. 

These are the most signficant results: 

  • An increase in new members 
  • Better profiling 
  • Higher conversion rates 
  • Additional cross-sell and upsell opportunities 

If that’s not the outcome of an MVP communicated well, I don’t know what is! 


We can safely assume that the top goals of membership organisations will remain the same for years to come. It’s the members and their expectations that are constanly changing and growing. As confirmed by the MemberWise Digital Excellence Report, they are getting more complex and more demanding each year. This means organisations require consistently effective digital strategies.  

From the report and our experience, we’ve concluded that the critical points are data management, automation, personalisation and self-service. 

But what’s next after all these areas are covered and no longer a talking point? I guess we’ll have to wait for future reports to see. Until then, membership organisations can continue to invest in the requirements at hand. 

If your membership organisation needs help crafting and implementing a successful strategy for online success, please feel free to reach out. As a MemberWise recognised supplier, digital agency GRM Digital can be your trusted partner along the journey. 

If you want to know more about membership performance in 2022, view our video below!