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The Membership Advantage

The Membership Advantage

By Paul McKay

  • Membership: The state of being a member, as of a society or club.
  • Advantage: Any state, circumstance, opportunity, or means especially favourable to success, interest, or any desired end.


It is interesting that, of the two words above, the word “membership” has the higher difficulty or comprehension score, in that only some people would be likely to recognize this word and what it meant, compared to the word “advantage” which is ranked as a word most people would be likely to know and understand.

This has some important consequences for those of us engaged in the profession of developing and engaging membership, that is, asking people to become members of an organization. The fact of the matter is, for the most part, membership and civic involvement levels across the board are in decline – a phenomenon first identified a decade ago by Robert Putnam in his essay Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital.

It is simply a statement of fact that more and more people understand less and less about membership – in the sense of what membership means, and, for that matter, why they would want to be a member.  

That said, on a more optimistic note, most people do understand what an advantage is, and the importance of taking advantage of situations, opportunities, and, using these advantages, competing most effectively in their marketplace of choice.

Clearly, we need to identify the advantages and explain what becoming a member means. More specifically, in keeping with changing times, priorities and preferences, we need to adapt our communication (delivery) of the advantages and perhaps replace the membership component of the communication with the concepts of networking and access, which may be more contemporary and more attractive to the people we serve.

Fortunately, there are significant forces for change at play, at this very moment, within the association sector and the community of association professionals. This new membership movement will deliver opportunities favourable to the success, interests and objectives of those involved in the organizations mandated to serve their interests. Relevant, accessible, contemporary, and fully-networked – the new membership movement stands ready to serve the current and emerging generations of people who are passionate about making a life for themselves within the always-evolving, always-engaging, contemporary marketplace.


Paul McKay is a Certified Association Executive based in Toronto. With a focus on service, advocacy and programming to develop positive, profitable operations through customer-member growth and retention, Paul can be reached at https://ca.linkedin.com/in/paul-mckay-a6b5604b.

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