Will membership of professional bodies survive the recession?

Many of us belong to professional organisations. Some are essential in order to practise at all, whilst others may have offered benefits when we initially subscribed to them. Over the years we're likely to have paid a lot into them without really questioning what such memberships provide.

But now, with the drive to reduce overheads that recession brings, all outgoings including membership subscriptions are being questioned and re-evaluated. What does each organisation provide to its members? What benefits does each offer? What is the merit of belonging to more than one professional body? To what extent can we do without such memberships?

KW Research has helped many professional membership bodies grapple and effectively deal with these issues and threats, enabling them ultimately to ensure the retention and growth of revenue going forward.

Multi-faceted professional bodies

Professional bodies are usually multi-faceted organisations, very much like the memberships they serve. The requirements and roles placed upon them can include:

Diverse membership

Our research has demonstrated the diverse nature of the membership of most professional bodies with whom we have worked. Sole practitioner to partner in a multi national firm, part time to full time worker, rural setting to central London, all members belong to the same organisation yet are likely to have very different perspectives and interests. How can one such body appeal to such a wide variety of operations and interests? Not easily, for sure.

Pinpointing the shortfalls in some research processes

Professionals don't often respond well to box-ticking exercises as we ourselves recognise. How many times have we received a lengthy structured questionnaire in which the listed responses don't match any of our own and the terminology is unrecognisable?

KW Research believes that a rather more open-minded approach is better, in which members are properly listened to and a real understanding into what is happening in their world is developed. Intelligent, sensitive and in-depth research can unpick what is felt and what is needed. Where relevant, different research channels (on and offline) can be used to broaden our perspective further, adding depth to the picture.

A common area with which we're asked to help currently is in gathering views of the post-recession shape of the industry, identifying what membership bodies can do to help assuage any damage to the profession they might be facing. We offer services such as evaluating websites, email and paper communications, discussion forums, training programmes, membership benefits and linked associations, whilst the strategic direction of the organisation is further enhanced by discovering members' needs today and in the future.

Time after time, our research helps clients respond successfully to significant issues, helping to ensure increased revenue when the business climate improves.

Kate Willis and Lucie Wernicke
KW Research
March 2009