Member Org Tech | Article for Tangent

Growing pains: why bigger memberships demand smarter tech

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In 2015, a change in government policy saw a surge of over 5,000 new members of the British Medical Association, approximately 80% of whom were junior doctors.

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By 2017, that figure had fallen back almost to 2015 levels.

The example is an extreme one: few organisations will ever enjoy a 9% leap in funding in only one year; but there is a lesson here for all member orgs.

What went wrong?

Member bases are uniquely affected by cultural shifts, and the factors that motivated one member to join may be very different from the next.

To retain biggest, broadest possible base of subscribers, member orgs should seek to understand and cater for diversity in their member base.

Organisations leading the way in this effort are doing so with the right balance of strategy and tech.


Digital content has proven a powerful force in the member org space.

The rise in veganism, for instance, may partly be down to the sharing of food pictures on social media.

“20 or 30 years ago, people would have described vegans as extreme and unnecessary… It was suddenly being associated with the celebrities, with the successful people, with the beautiful people.”

The Vegan Society has swollen ranks to 10k members of the back of this shift, and its Instagram feed now borrows tricks of the trade.

A more interesting case study comes from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Since 2006, a rise in the number of millennial business owners – an age category “increasingly less likely to be affiliated generally” – saw the FSB suffer a 23% fall in members.

The organisation appears to be pulling off a remarkable turnaround.

In 2017, First Voice, the FSB magazine, went digital, with paid media slots, gated content for new members, a live newsfeed for up-to-date content.

In that time, the organisation has enjoyed recent growth in retention rates, from 82% to 86.7% over three years, and more new members under 40 recruited than ever before.


Content ought not to be viewed as a one-way exercise; indeed, every digital touchpoint is an opportunity to improve understanding and refine your approach.

The Guardian newspaper – a private business with characteristics of a member org – A/B tested 30 different member recruitment messages, and scored 1300% growth in one year.

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