• ESAE

Membership retention: Zoom fatigue in an increasingly competitive environment

45 Association Professionals worked together in groups, addressing some major retention challenges Associations might be facing in today’s disruptive environment. These sessions took place as part of our April 2021 event “How to avoid a membership retention crisis?”. The case studies, developed by ESAE, allowed for participants to share insights and expertise to develop potential solutions together.



Case: European Society of Remarkable Association Professionals


Staff: 1 Executive Director and 1 intern.

Membership: Individuals and Associations. 85% in Belgium and 15% in other European countries.

Finances: Revenue of €80.000, 60% from membership and 40% from sponsorships.

Main activities: Seminars and networking events.


Case study scenario


During the pandemic, the Association was very reactive to changing customer needs: it digitized its offer and delivered excellent content and community. New members were successfully recruited especially from other EU countries. However, in 2021 "Zoom fatigue" and an increasingly competitive environment is becoming a challenge, and the Association needs to find ways to capitalise on its earlier successes. Member retention is not an issue, but members do not increase either. The Association would like to raise membership across Europe with the help of a personalised training offer, certification schemes, and other new member benefits.


Tips from the ESAE community


To better meet the needs of current members, a membership survey could be conducted. In a crisis environment, the Association should focus on interaction with and between members, being agile and trying out hybrid alternatives to meet the "Zoom fatigue", to the extent that this is possible. Hybrid events could take form for example as “multi-hub” events, where members can gather in person in smaller groups. This way, the crisis can become an opportunity. Finding a balance between face-to-face benefits and digital opportunities is key, in order to appeal both to the traditional audience as well as to the digital one. A new, digital membership category could be introduced to generate more revenue in a flexible way.


"Accessibility is an opportunity: capitalise on it."


When it comes to attracting new members, relevant areas of growth should be identified. To really understand what the opportunities and potential pitfalls within the current situation might look like, a market landscape analysis could be conducted. To stay ahead of competition, certification schemes could be introduced as an addition to trainings and other online sessions. Parallel to these educational offerings, the Association could also explore the possibilities of defending member's interests, as well as finding ways of increasing sponsorships and partnering up with other organisations. This could even involve organisations that are similar to the Association in question.


Many thanks to Eusebiu Croitoru and Chloe Menhinick for skillfully moderating the workshop and to our participants for their excellent contributions. ESAE members have received a full post-event report with all key takeaways summarized, together with a recording of the plenary session. Check out our Knowledge Library for more useful material and join ESAE to be part of the dialogue!