Reality Check: 10 Questions To Ask About The Future of Membership

Is it time for a reality check for your organization?


For more years than most would like to admit, the talk around association board and staff meetings has included two topics on a regular basis:

  • We are going to face a substantial vacuum when the baby boomers start retiring; and
  • We need to work to gain the next generations into membership.

These issues are now the reality. Despite all the talk through the years, how honest is your association being right now about the future of your membership?

Take a look at the ten questions below. How many can you answer with certainty? These can help guide you to determining whether your association is honest about the future, or if it’s time for a reality check.

  1. What is the number of current members who are 55+ years old?
  2. What percentage of the group above is going to be leaving the industry or profession in the next 5 – 10 years?
  3. What is the number of current members who are under 35 years old?
  4. What is the average age of leadership (board, committees, and key volunteers)?
  5. At what rate are new people entering your industry or profession? Is it enough to make up for those departing?
  6. Does the association have a job bank or other service highly-valued by those younger in their careers?
  7. Has the association examined the membership structure to determine any barriers to younger members joining or participating?
  8. How is the association helping retiring members with succession planning and finding/developing talent?
  9. What decisions in the last five years has the board made to deal with these demographic shifts?
  10. What budgetary commitment has the board made to back up those decisions?


While these questions can lead to dozens of others, having this information can give an association a valid reality check. There are associations that have looked at these questions and used the information gained to turn talk into needed action.  They should be applauded for understanding that their association, and possibly their industry or profession, can face dire consequences if action is not taken now.

The years of talk without action has placed many associations in a less than desirable position.  Saying “I wish we had done something sooner” is no excuse for not taking crucial action now.