Member surveys can be used to address a variety of objectives. In this blog I look at the benefits that can come from three types of surveys.
When I talk to member-based organizations about survey research, it’s often a low priority item. After all, they argue “we have our fingers on the pulse of our membership”. They support this by saying, “we talk to our volunteers, we see a large number of members at our annual conference and we chat with members via email and telephone when they have problems”.
This is all very true but here are three problems with that approach. First, you’re only hearing from a select sub group of your members – typically the most active. What about other members who are less involved? Secondly, most of us have a propensity to be polite. Researchers refer to this as a “politeness bias”. We are unwilling to put forth our true feelings in face-to-face conversations if we think it may hurt someone else’s feelings. Thirdly, we have a tendency to towards “selective listening”. Essentially this means that I tend to hear only the good news but unconsciously filter out the bad.
What we need is a method of listening, learning and responding to our entire membership. Survey research provides us with this opportunity. Using established sampling techniques, coupled with a sound questionnaire we can overcome the biases outlined above.
Here are three ways that survey research can be used to better serve your members.
Understanding Your Members
Your members are multi-generational with vastly different levels of knowledge and experience. Coupled with these differences, comes a diverse set of challenges. A well constructed survey can help you segment your membership based on theses factors. Armed with this demographic and psychographic information you will be able to prioritize your efforts and tailor products and services to target specific needs.
Attitudes Towards Your Organization
Your organization provides your members with a variety of benefits in the form of products and services. A survey will allow you to quantify the number of members who are aware of and use these product and services. Furthermore, you will be able to measure attitudes towards these offerings and examine other benefits and delivery mechanisms.
Sharing information
Members of an association, whether they be individuals or organizations, have information related to their profession or business. An association can tap into this vast pool of knowledge by collecting and distributing that information for the benefit of all members.  These “knowledge products” provide information that will help members in their decision-making efforts, for example, compensation and benefits surveys, industry outlook or benchmarking/best practice surveys.
These are three general ways that survey research can be used to help your organization meet the evolving needs of your members. Of course there are dozens of other challenges that will arise that can be addressed with a well thought out research study.
Guest blog courtesy of
Gerald Bramm, Principal, Bramm Research
For more information on association topics, check out our live interviews with association leaders on our VIMEO channel including the 2015 Benchmark Survey – Preliminary Results webinar