Not since the economic downturn in 2008 has the W.A.C.E. annual Membership Retention Survey seen 60% of participating chambers report an increase in membership over a one-year period, but that is what was reported in the 2018 survey.
The last time this mark was reported was in the 2007 Membership Retention Survey, when 61% of chambers showed an increase in membership.
“I believe there are multiple things at work here,” said W.A.C.E. Vice President Russell Lahodny. “It’s easy to say that the economy is strong right now, but I also feel like many chambers that survived the last decade have managed to prove themselves as a catalyst for business growth, a convener for leaders and influencers, and the champion for stronger communities.
“The more chambers focus on the 3Cs moving forward, the easier it will be for chambers to weather any future economic storms,” Lahodny said. “In 2009, only 24% of chambers were growing. To have 60% of chambers growing this year is a great sign, but we must always communicate our role in building a strong local economy for when we face such a time again.”
A large part of membership increases for chambers is retention. It’s easier to retain a current member than it is to sign up a new one. Overall, this year’s membership retention rate was 86%. For chambers with fewer than 500 members, the membership retention rate is 87%. Chambers with 500 to 999 and those with 1,000 or more members both had a retention rate of 84%.
W.A.C.E. was able to collect data from 14 western states and Canada in this year’s survey. Of the participating states with more than one respondent, Nevada had the highest retention rate of 92%, followed by Arizona at 89%. Texas had the lowest retention rate at 82%, followed by Southern California at 83%.
As part of the membership retention survey, W.A.C.E. also asks chambers to report their base membership dues for both employee-based and tiered dues structures. Overall, the average entry dues for employee-based memberships is $290, while the average entry dues for a tiered membership structure is $335.
“The data points out two distinct differences between the two membership structures,” Lahodny said. “The first point is obvious in that the average entry membership level for a tiered dues structure is 16% higher than that of an employee-based membership model. The second revealing difference is that the average entry dues for the tiered dues structure increased across all chamber sizes, while those with employee-based dues saw no real increase from last year.”
This year’s Membership Retention Survey report can be found in the members only section of www.waceonline.com.