Member Engagement & Retention

Member Engagement & Retention

Of course, increasing member engagement is a key objective for many membership organisations. Often, however, measurement of engagement focuses only the transactional interactions; attendance at events, volunteering, opening emails. As a result, solutions to increase member engagement are often incorrectly rooted in these transactional levers: writing an email that engages Gen-Z members does not ‘solve’ member engagement.

Over the years many experts, both industry and academic, have written and refined definitions of consumer engagement and employee engagement (for example, Vivek et al. 2005, Economist Intelligence Unit 2007, Dwivedi 2015; Forrester Consulting 2008, Witemeyer 2013) but it seems that no-one has distilled this work and applied it to the membership sector. Until now.

Research by Design has combined its extensive research experience of the membership sector with an in-depth review of the literature to create a member engagement definition that provides clarity and scope for measurement.

Research by Design’s member engagement definition has four key components that integrate behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social characteristics:

Engagement toolkit diagram

Behavioural engagement is characterised by the activity and effort invested by a member in the organisation. The word ‘vigour’ is often used to describe this aspect of engagement. It is the transactional element of engagement that can be measured primarily via quantitative data.

Cognitive engagement is characterised by a member’s attention to and interest in the organisation and its activities. The word ‘absorption’ is key to this aspect of engagement. It also relates to the perceived opportunities to gain insight and knowledge and further their career and the profession as a whole.

Emotional engagement is characterised by positive feelings on the part of the member towards the organisation as well as a sense of pride and identity relating to what it does. The word ‘dedication’ is often used to describe it.

Social engagement is characterised by the connections and interactions a member has both with other members and with the organisation itself.

Research by Design has developed a range of questions that measure each characteristic. Our engagement metrics are embedded into our member surveys and we can provide benchmarking engagement norms to clients.



“RBD act as partners in a project, and listen closely to the needs our organisation has from the research. Throughout the process they understood the analytical nature of our membership and met these enhanced requirements. Care and attention to detail has really been a focus in this iteration of our member survey. RBD’s deep understanding of our needs has meant that we have had an efficient and successful research project, professionally managed and a pleasure to work on throughout.”

Membership Recruitment and Development Specialist, RSC

Member of Member Wise
Member of Memcom