Key issues from conference

Megan Griffith's presentation at the recent NCVO conference on membership schemes aimed to spark some discussion among those at our workshop - and we weren't disappointed. Here's some of the key issues reported back from group discussion, transcribed from the flip charts by Simon Berry. The groups were asked to consider:

  • What do you think are some of the major challenges and opportunities facing membership organisations in the 21st century?


  • What might your membership scheme look like in 5 years time?

Simon has grouped the responses:


  • Different people mean different things by membership: subscribers (to services); supporters; LEGAL members
  • "Membership is still growing but slowing down"


  • Access to information no longer a valued service (1st item mentioned in both workshops)
  • There needs to be more sophisticated use of information
  • Membership organisations as sources of trusted, filtered information.
  • What does trusted information look like? Does it come from the centre or from the network?
  • Aligning membership with mission and purpose . . . are we about restricting access to information?
  • What's your role? Lobbying? Source of expertise? Providing [membership] services? Advocacy?
  • Being clear. Is membership an income stream or is it a cost?
  • Members taking to each other (the network vs the hub and spoke model) - branding issues, danger of others doing things in the organisation's name
  • Information is not enough, 'belonging' is not enough. It's about networking - need to know more about members to enable this (RSA Networks allowing members to 'tag' themselves according to interests)
  • Need to communicate using old and new media - high costs
  • Technology is changing so quickly it is expensive to keep up
  • Members have more complex needs
  • Members have multiple networking opportunities (not just your offer)
  • Aging population - support, delivery media and access implications


  • Expertise not information
  • More tailored information to different classes of membership - members are expecting this
  • Creation of platforms to give people a voice
  • It's not just about membership fees it's about the whole relationship. Legacies, ad hoc donations, etc can be just as important
  • Members as lobbyists/activists/advocates - the more members the better!
  • Members taking to each other (the network vs the hub and spoke model) - the knowledge is in the network - online and offline, peer to peer mentoring/support
  • Collaboration. Use another organisation's network rather than try to establish one yourself
  • Don't assume that age is a barrier to use of ICT (eg NFU, SMS messaging to farmers)
  • Collaboration and networking opportunities between membership organisations
  • Movement should be away from commoditisation (free gifts etc). We need to focus on values.


  • Restricted 'Who's who'. Enable, opt-in, peer to peer interaction
  • Multiple memberships held by individuals could be matched by membership organisations linking up better