Members matter. Here’s the math.
It’s no secret: Membership is important for generating revenue and engaging audiences at cultural organizations. But if you think that members are all just glorified visitors looking for a “deal,” think again. Data shows that members really are worth going out of your way to cultivate and satisfy.
But how much more valuable is a member than a regular visitor?
Take a look at the math in this week’s KYOB Fast Facts video:
Effective membership programs are arguably more important than ever before for cultural organizations. I had the opportunity to reveal this research last week during a keynote for the American Museum Membership Conference, and it’s time this information is shared more broadly so cultural organizations can develop sustainable solutions to current financial challenges.
How much more do members spend annually compared to visitors?
Let’s start with the basics. How much do members spend annually compared to general admission visitors?
Over a ten year duration, IMPACTS examined 18 cultural organizations that have paid admission as well as a membership fee. (None of these entities had free admission or a free membership program.) This group of organizations includes museums, zoos, aquariums, and botanic gardens, among others. Let’s consider the average annual spends of members and visitors to the monitored organizations.
Annual membership/admission spend.
On average, a general admission visitor to these cultural organizations paid $18.94. Because the average person typically visits a specific cultural organization once every 29 months, the average visitor actually attends less than once per year. In comparison, members on average, spent $92.71 on their memberships.
Annual food spend.
Members also spent more on food than visitors. While a visitor spent $5.03 per year on average, a member spent $7.24. Members may come back more often than general admission visitors, adding to their annual food spend. Moreover, some organizations offer food discounts to members, which may increase their willingness to purchase food onsite.
Annual retail spend
On average, members spent $13.12 on retail per year, while visitors spent $8.14. Factors contributing to this difference may include members coming back more often, and/or members being more generally engaged with the organization.
Let’s not forget philanthropic giving! Members are more likely to make additional donations to the organization (on top of their memberships) than general visitors. The average additional gift value for a member was $22.18, but only $1.80 for a non-member. Remember: This is the averaged total. Not all members gift additional funds on top of their memberships, and some gift much more than this amount.
Members tend to be more satisfied with their visits than non-members, and this added value – combined with pre-existing buy-in – may be a reason why these folks are more likely to gift additional funds.
TOTAL ANNUAL AVERAGE
When we add up these numbers, we get a meaningful finding for the museum business model. In total, the average member to the 18 assessed organizations was worth $135.25 annually, while the average visitor was worth only $33.91. In oner year, the average member is worth 4x more than an average visitor. This alone is a meaningful finding worthy of additional gratitude for members – and for your organization’s membership department! But the opportunity doesn’t end there…
Retention rates matter
Interestingly, a member is worth more than the sum of these parts because retention rates play a role in value over time.
Let’s start with general admission visitors: The average return visitor to the 18 organizations came back once every 29 months – or, just under 2.5 years. The annual retention rate for these visitors was 41%. Indeed, many visitors to cultural organizations do not return, and when they do, they often come back with less frequency than we’d hope.
Members have higher retention rates than visitors – but there’s even more nuance between new and renewed members. For these organizations, the one-year retention rate for members was 49%. And this first year seems to separate the more-engaged from the less-engaged members: he retention rate for members between two and ten years averaged 58%!
In a case study with a client organization, IMPACTS found that the average net revenue of a renewed member was 66% more than a new member!
In addition to members being worth more over time, it costs less to keep a member than it does to attract a new one. After all, a retained member is likely to be already sold on your mission! Indeed, getting as many members as possible is a good goal, but keeping as many members as possible may be an even more efficient priority.
A member has 4.5x greater long-term value than a visitor
Retention rates play a meaningful role in the value of a member vs. a visitor over time. Here is the total revenue value analysis for a member vs. a visitor for the 18 assessed organizations over ten years. The average ten-year visitor value was $160. This is significant. But the average ten-year value of a member was nearly $727. In total, member revenues were 4.5x more than people who paid general admission.
Not only do membership teams cultivate and engage potential supporters – they play a meaningful role in cultivating support and bringing in revenue.
Becoming a member is the top way that people support an organization’s mission. It may be easy to get caught up in the grind of attracting visitors and securing major donors, but cultural organizations risk their ability to thrive when they undervalue the role of membership.
The ten year value of the average member is 4.5x greater than the average visitor.
Does your organization value members accordingly?
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