Non-Members are more likely to have a "superior" or "excellent" experience, more likely to increase confidence in themselves, and more likely to highly value the activity they participated in than Members.
The above is a finding from a study I’m in the midst of analyzing data for. I previewed this tidbit with a colleague earlier this afternoon and it led to an interesting conversation. For this colleague the finding was interesting and relevant, but did not raise any concerns. As we continued chatting I made a casual remark about how this finding could be a red flag in other organizations. Surprised (and perhaps a bit wary) my colleague asked why… It led to a great conversation about how environments and context matter when analyzing data (it’s why I favor a highly collaborative and participatory approach!). Specifically, we spoke about how my client organization’s membership model was critical to determining the implications of this finding. This organization uses a fairly unique approach which is based on engagement and self-identified membership (no fees, no paperwork, just say “I’m in!” and give your email); the goal is to make membership an easy-to-access byproduct of participation and to create a broad network. If the organization used a different approach, members would likely have different expectations of them and (perhaps) hold them to a higher standard. Below is a polished up synthesis of our Slack conversation. I’m curious to hear what you think - leave your thoughts in the comments!!
For this organization, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Membership for them isn’t something motivated by a belief or desire to advance a mission. It’s not something you purchase (though you may pay a fee for a program). Membership is tied to experiences. So, it can be assumed that those who self-identify as affiliates of the organization and who are filling out an experience survey in direct response to a given program might be slightly more judgmental of their experience than those who do not identify as a member.
Now, for an organization where membership is tied to annual fees it would be a different story. Those members tend to be a bit more personally invested in the organization. Under this system individuals or organizations have entered into a more explicit partnership with the organization. In exchange for a financial contribution the organization commits to a certain set of perks, benefits, and (potentially) dedicated use of the funds. Within this model if members are having poorer experiences than non-members, they're telling you that they are not receiving value commensurate with that they are giving to the Museum. The contract is not being met. Hence the red flag.
This membership model is one where I’m still not sure how I would interpret this finding. I suppose it depends if membership is free or if it is fee-based… it always comes down to money, doesn’t it?
What do you think? What other kind of membership models have you heard of? How they might change the way this finding is interpreted?