Staying Current with International Members’ Drives Future Program Development

“Studying association members’ participation, satisfaction and needs increases membership and retention rates.”


An international association was looking for membership feedback on their involvement and satisfaction with the association to assist with setting goals and a strategic plan for the next few years. The association wanted to measure members’ participation level in various educational opportunities, product certification and other programs they offered.

In addition, the association wanted to evaluate their members’ satisfaction with specific services and the level of industry and legislative support they offer. To help the association focus their strategic business plan, the research also needed to identify preferences for specific benefits and communication channels. The association also wanted the gauge members interest in a few new programs and identify other opportunities to better serve their members.

Since the association was international, they wanted the survey instrument to be translated into three different languages to accommodate their memberships base in other parts of the world. To protect members’ confidentiality, the association was looking for an outside research company to manage, collect and analyze the data.

Staying in touch with members and understanding more about their interests and needs can help an association keep and grow its membership.


Originally the association gathered this type of information in three separate surveys. To eliminate member fatigue and boost response, AIM recommended the association use only one survey.

There are three other immediate benefits that AIM knew about in consolidating the multiple surveys into one besides eliminating fatigue:

  1. Consolidated Data: A single survey allows for the consolidation of all relevant data in one place, making it easier to analyze and interpret results. Such consolidation provides a clearer and more comprehensive picture of member involvement and satisfaction.
  2. Lower Administrative Burden: Managing multiple surveys can be challenging, requiring additional time and resources. A single survey streamlines the process, reducing the burden on association staff or in this case, AIM. It simplifies response and allows for a more in-depth exploration of member involvement and satisfaction, as it can include a wider range of questions and topics without overwhelming respondents.
  3. Improved Response Rates: Members are more likely to respond to a single survey than to multiple surveys over time. Typically, associations over poll their members, producing not only surveys, but newsletters, special announcements, etc. Using only one survey with a third-party research firm actually produces higher response rates that can lead to more representative and reliable data.

AIM designed and implemented a 22-question online survey to the association’s membership base. Once the survey instrument was approved, AIM had the survey translated into three Asian languages and loaded to a single web platform AIM programmed for the project. Respondents could easily select their preferred language. In addition, AIM’s technical team was able to provide unique links for each region the client wanted to study. The links also allowed easier segmentation analysis.

To boost response, AIM recommended the association use an incentive to encourage participation and completion of the survey within a particular time frame. The association offered respondents the opportunity to be included in a drawing to get one of five “free” publications offered in in each of the 4 regions studied.

Working with a limited budget and time constraints, AIM recommended the association send out email invitations and reminders to all members. Since the association communicated regularly with their members via email, it eliminated the number of emails that would end up in junk/spam email or be blocked by their server. The invitation clearly stated all responses were confidential and would be collected and managed by a third-party research firm.

Hiring a Third-Party Research Firm Ensures Confidentiality and Encourages Honest Feedback

Today there are many reasonably priced survey platforms available which make it easy for associations and companies to design and implement their own online research. While this offers some benefits (i.e., maybe a quicker turnaround or slightly lower cost), doing surveys internally can also negatively impact the results. Often, members knowing they are talking to association management aren’t always forthcoming with specifics.

But, using a third-party research company gives respondents confidence that their honest feedback won’t negatively impact their service or relationship with the sponsor of the research, the association itself. In addition, a third-party research company offers a certain level of “legitimacy” that increases a respondent’s comfort level and understanding that the data they provide will be confidential and reported properly.

A third-party research company also provides their expertise in structuring, designing, implementing a survey instrument that will deliver the information needed to make more informed business and market decisions. Often how you word a particular question or the format of a question (i.e. rank, rating, etc), can influence the results.

Using a third-party research company also offers unbiased analysis and reporting of the data. Many times, when organizations try to conduct research internally, they may end up cutting corners, missing important questions or even struggle to correctly report the findings. A third-party research company eliminates the “bias” or tendency to only report positive results.

Research helps organizations stay current on the issues, trends, satisfaction and activities occurring within the market. With market driven information, companies or associations can make more informed and business decisions to increase business or maintain members/customers.


AIM was able to successfully help the association gain current and valuable insights on some of the issues, activities and programs important to members. Not only did the research reveal where the association could improve the services and benefits that they offer members, but open-ended feedback identified specific topics and technical support that members wanted. In addition, the research gave the association feedback on new programs they were considering and where they could improve their communication to members by offering more online education and technical support.

Research is a great tool to support organizations interested in learning and understanding their target audience. As revealed in an Interline Creative Group case study titled, Research Helps Marketers Understand Media Buys During Digital Disruption especially in times of market chaos or disruption, research can provide information to help make better strategic marketing and business decisions.

A third-party research company like AIM can develop a customized research program that will provide objectivity, unbiased direction and valuable insight with any complex market or product issue.

For more information on how AIM can assist you with phone interviews or other types of qualitative or quantitative research email or call 847-358-8558.