Food for Thought: 6 current Trends in Membership Organizations

1. Long-standing organizations have the advantage of name recognition but may have the disadvantage of a perception that is incorrect or possibly outdated.

2. Oftentimes, volunteers are more inclined to respond to a cause than to join an organization.

3. There have been exceedingly rapid changes (in technology and other areas) over the past decade and sometimes membership organizations are by their nature very slow to change: by-laws, tradition-valued, long-term members of the organization who sing the chorus, "but we've always done it that way…." New members trying to join do not find a home in an organization that is not open to new ways of serving.

4. It is quite rare for a membership organization to effectively involve a number of generations, especially since there are so many differences in values, work ethic and style, and communication systems.

5. A major threat to membership organizations is that there are so many new/other ways for people to spend their diminishing discretionary time.

6. Universally, most membership organizations have problems in developing leadership. Often a core group of people will run the organization for years because, they say, no one else will do it. If that's the case, the leaders of the organization need to ask the question - "why is no one interested in taking on leadership in our organization?"

As seen in the California Alumni Association's Online Resource Leadership Center. Originally appearing in The Non-Profit Resource Center, Betty Stallings, 1995.