The MemberWise Network represents over 6,000 professionals employed by leading membership organisations and associations in the UK, European Union (EU) and beyond.
In this article I provide an overview of the estimated scale, reach and value of our sector and feature our popular list of the 100 largest UK membership bodies (The Influence 100).
Organisations represent a wide range of trades and professions, special interests and hobbies, governmental/regulation, political parties, charitable membership organisations, trade unions, commercial and consumer focused bodies, coalitions/federations, activist groups and cooperative groups.
Key questions we regularly get asked:
– How big is the UK/EU Membership and Association Sector?
– How many people or organisations belong to it or in it?
– Which membership organisations are the biggest?
– What is the real value of these organisations to society and the economy?
– How many membership organisations does the average person belong to?
– Can a financial figure be attributed to the work/outputs the membership sector?
In response I am writing this article to quantify our sector. My expectation is the content will evolve and I welcome your input!
How many membership organisations and associations are there in the UK?
I estimate there are over 8,000 membership organisations and associations based in the United Kingdom (with memberships of over 1,000 individuals/organisations). The figure for smaller organisations (including local sports clubs and societies) is likely to be far higher at approximately 50,000.
Over 80% of membership organisations based in the UK are located in Central or Greater London and it is assumed that many (particularly those representing professions/trades and/or responsible for lobbying activity) are based there due to a traditional requirement to be close to central government.
The UK has an estimated population of 66.5 million citizens and it is estimated that at least 53.2m belong to some kind of membership organisation/association either:
– Retail (e.g. loyalty card)
– National (e.g. The National Trust
– Local (e.g. local church/library)
My calculations indicate that some 14 million British citizens belong to over 450 professional membership organisations (of which 145 are Chartered Bodies) and there are 160 trade unions representing an estimated 8 million individuals (5.6 million are members of unions affiliated to the Trade Union Congress).
How many membership organisations and associations are there in the European Union?
I estimate there to be over 50,000 membership organisations and associations based (with over 1,000 members) in the European Union. Over 1,500 are based in Brussels alone. The figure for smaller organisations is likely to be far higher at approximately 250,000.
How many membership organisations do people belong to these days?
Back in 1996 the average Briton belong to six membership organisations and according to a YouGov poll in 2006 this number increased to an average of 17. The poll also indicated that the fastest expanding membership organisations are online communities (with growth from 2.8 million to 72 million in just one year) and that the average adult belonged to 8.
The YouGov poll also indicated that the average adult belonged to two community organisations (e.g. local public library and a faith group) and three retail organisations (e.g. Nectar, Tesco Clubcard, the AA and Boots Advantage Card). The biggest of these entities being the AA and the Boots Advantage Card scheme which have memberships of approximately 14.4 million members.
Have all of these organisations seen growth during the past decade?
Based on the diversity of the organisations that feature on our list most have seen increases, however some have seen decline.
On average our list shows a 10% increase (averaging 1.25% growth per annum), however there are some that have seen significant decline.
For example in 1979 UK trade union membership topped 13.2 million members, however this number has declined to 6.23 million members over the past 4 decades. The knock-on effect of this drop has seen membership of the Trade Unions Congress (3rd largest membership organisation on our list) decline by over 50% (from 12.2 million members to 5.7 million members).
Membership of the main political parties (most featuring in our list) have seen a 25% decline since 1964.
Who are the biggest membership organisations in the UK?
This is the big question everyone asks the MemberWise Network, so in response we have developed a list of the largest UK membership bodies (The Influence 100) below. Our list features the names of these organisations and the number of members (correct as per the latest list update – outlined beneath the table below).
Our current criteria for entry on to the list is that membership bodies should have a UK Headquarters and membership is optional in return for a membership fee.
– A headquarters based in the United Kingdom
– Membership is optional and charged for directly via an annual membership fee
Call to action: Can you see a membership organisation or association that is missing? Contact [email protected] to submit an update suggestion.
The Largest 100 UK Membership Bodies (Influence 100) List
|Rank||Membership Organisation||Members (2019)|
|1||National Union of Students (NUS) / 700 Student Unions||7 Million|
|2||The National Trust||5.75 Million|
|3||Trades Union Congress (TUC) / 50 Affiliated Unions||5.6 Million|
|5||English Heritage||1.34 Million|
|7||Rotary International Britain & Ireland||1.2 Million|
|8||Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)||1.1 Million|
|9||Caravan and Motorhome Club||1 Million|
|11||The Camping and Caravanning Club||720,000|
|13||The Wildlife Trusts (46 in total)||572,000|
|Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF)||572,000|
|15||The Labour Party||540,000|
|17||The Scout Association||492,000|
|18||National Education Union||462,000|
|19||Royal College of Nursing (RCN)||435,000|
|20||Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW)||430,000|
|21||University of the Third Age||424,000|
|22||Supporters Direct (via 163 clubs)||419,000|
|23||Royal Horticultural Society (RHS)||400,000|
|26||The National Trust for Scotland||310,000|
|27||National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers||286,000|
|28||United Grand Lodge of England||250,000|
|29||Royal British Legion (RBL)||237,000|
|31||Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)||208,000|
|32||The Women’s Institute (WI)||208,000|
|33||Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust||200,000|
|Historic Environment Scotland||200,000|
|35||Communication Workers Union (CWU)||196,000|
|36||The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)s||192,000|
|37||Confederation for British Industry (CBI)||188,000|
|38||Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)||185,000|
|39||The Law Society of England and Wales (TLS)||180,000|
|40||The Woodland Trust (moved from 500k as not all paying members)||179,000|
|42||Youth Hostels Association (England and Wales)||169,000|
|43||Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET)||168,000|
|44||British Medical Association (BMA)||160,000|
|Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC)||160,000|
|46||Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)||151,000|
|47||Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)||150,000|
|Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)||150,000|
|British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC)||150,000|
|49||The Wine Society||141,000|
|55||Chartered Management Institute (CMI)||130,000|
|56||Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)||129,000|
|57||The Tate Museum||128,000|
|58||Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)||125,000|
|Scottish Nationalist Party||125,000|
|The Conservative Party||125,000|
|Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)||125,000|
|62||The Art Fund||122,000|
|63||University and College Union (UCU)||120,000|
|64||Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)||117,000|
|66||Kew Gardens and Wakehurst||111,000|
|67||Royal Yachting Association (RYA)||110,000|
|68||British Horse Society (BHS)||106,000|
|70||The Liberal Democrats||120,000|
|71||Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)||92,000|