Listening to our members and growing the membership

Jonathan Batson, Chair of PMW

A year ago, when I wrote my last article for Inside OR, we were in the final stages of the website project. This was successfully implemented at the beginning of this year and is showing positive results across all our key measures. We will continue to enhance the user experience of the website, but one major benefit is that we now have a firm foundation on which to do this, based on the modern technology we have used. 

As a result, the Publicity, Membership and Website committee (PMW) has now turned its focus to increasing the membership levels – by improving both retention and recruitment. To provide a focus for this work, a membership project has been set up under the leadership of Geraldine Davis, The OR Society’s Head of Marketing & Communications, with oversight provided by PMW.


The objectives of the membership project are to:

  • Engage with our members and gain a better understanding of what they think of our current offer and how we can further enhance the experience of being a member
  • Engage with members of the wider OR community to understand how we can attract them to join us
  • Exploit a sustainable difference from competitors.

In order to deliver against these objectives, there have been a number of stages to the project, involving a variety of stakeholders.

The first objective was gaining insight, and the most important step was to listen to our current members to gain their valuable feedback. We did this via a member survey and also through interviewing delegates at a variety of recent events and training courses. We also carried out a survey aimed at non-members within the OR community, such as some people within the analytics network, training course delegates, members of HORAF and COPIOR and those whose email addresses we already have.

Both surveys had a good response rate with a representative balance between academics, private and public sector as well as those from the not-for-profit group. It also had a range of experience levels from students, through early career to established and retired people. At the core of both surveys were questions to understand more around value perceptions.

OR Venn Diagram.jpg

We asked members:

What do you value most about your membership with The OR Society?

The top five for members were:

  1. Events & conferences
  2. Journals & publications
  3. News & updates
  4. Networking
  5. Training courses

We asked non-members:

What would you value most about being part of a professional membership society?

Top five for non-members:

  1. Events & conferences
  2. Training courses
  3. Networking
  4. Journals & publications
  5. Accreditations

As can be seen, there is clear overlap between what is valued between members and non-members. Beyond the product list, the true value of OR Society membership to members can be summarised as:

  • Knowledge
  • Personal development
  • Being part of a relevant, professional community

Following the surveys and interviews, we also carried out a number of comprehensive strategic workshops involving key stakeholders. These were designed to carry out a detailed investigation of our organisation and offering and also to focus on the community needs, pains and gains. A key output from these sessions included clarity re our positioning with respect to other related disciplines, which can be summarised in the Venn diagram opposite.

Any membership campaign needs to be targeted and we have identified we will focus initially on three particular segments i) early career, ii) mid career and iii) senior roles. Personae have been developed for these three groups which will help the Marketing & Communications team provide more relevant content to these identified audiences.    

Having completed this analysis, we now know in sharper detail what matters to our members and when we are of greatest value to them. We also know how best to tell our story to members of the wider OR community who are not members and how we can offer value to them.     

Early in the New Year, you will see a marketing campaign featured across multiple channels such as the website, social media and events to raise awareness of the great work that The OR Society does and the benefits being a member – so watch this space!