Sweet Adelines Member Perception Study

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Sweet Adelines: Member Perception Study

Sweet Adelines: Member Perception Study Findings

Sweet Adelines recently conducted a perception study of all members worldwide to get your feedback on where we are as an organization and what we can do to provide you the best possible experience in Sweet Adelines. We had excellent participation – 35 percent of our members responded to the survey, and the norm for surveys of member organizations like ours is much closer to 25 percent.

Our research partner also conducted one-on-one interviews with individual members around the world. They represented a variety of members from multiple countries, a range of membership lengths, ages and ethnicities and included representation from the LGBQT+ community, as well as different leadership positions. This exceptional level of participation ensures your voices HAVE been heard and will play an important part in shaping Sweet Adelines’ future.

This publication provides a detailed report of the key findings from the perception study – it’s our hope you find the information helpful. The Sweet Adelines board and staff are thankful for your feedback – it will help guide the direction and future success of Sweet Adelines.


A Note on Our Research Process

The member perception study we conducted involved two parts:

1. a digital survey to all members worldwide

2. one-on-one interviews with key thought leaders throughout the organization.



20 individuals were interviewed. Their responses are confidential, and the group represented a variety of members, intended to reflect the diverse worldwide membership.

A group of members reflecting our diverse worldwide membership was also interviewed. Their responses were kept confidential to encourage them to be candid.

• Chorus Members (various sizes)

• Quartet Members

• At-Large Members

• Judges

• Arrangers

• Directors

• IBOD Members

• Past Presidents

• Multiple Countries Overseas

• Multiple Regions in U.S.

• DEI Council

• Numerous Committees

3. A third part of this project will involve focus groups, which will test our future plans and the messaging intended to communicate them. These groups will be conducted in 2023.

The survey was conducted by RVA, a leading market research firm based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their work was developed in collaboration with Propeller Consulting, Justice Waidner Smith, DEI Consultant, the Sweet Adelines International Board and staff leadership.

More than 5,000 valid surveys were received by the cut-off period. This represents an extremely good response rate by industry standards – more than 35%. The sampling error at 95% confidence is +/- 1.3%.


What’s Going Right & Challenges We Face


Put simply, things are going very well. Sweet Adelines began 77 years ago and the organization currently has more than 16,000 members around the world. Over the years, Sweet Adelines certainly has faced numerous challenges and overcome them.

SA Reflects its Mission


Elevating women singers worldwide through education, performance, and competition in barbershop harmony and a cappella music.

“Elevating women education, performance, barbershop harmony

1% 4% 22% 38% 35% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 1- Very poorly 2 3 4 5- Very Well

An excellent indication of the organization’s health from the survey is Sweet Adelines’ net promoter score, or NPS for short, which is a simple method of calculating member loyalty. We recorded a score of 49, which is considered very good. 50 to 79 is excellent and 80 is world-class. Given everything the world has thrown at us, this is a strong NPS score and higher than our score of 48 when we last measured it in 2017.


Likelihood of recommending SA to a friend Net Promoter Score

NPS = Promoters - Detractors

2% 1% 2% 2% 4% 4% 8% 14% 11% 53% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 1- Very unlikely 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10-Very likely 15% 64%

Another positive finding from the survey shows that a high percentage of respondents – an amazing 96% - plan on staying members of the organization. Given everything we have all faced in not being able to sing and compete together for several years, this is outstanding news.

Intend to Renew Membership


Among those members who are dissatisfied and chose (1), for instance, 47% said they would still renew membership. Among those members quite satisfied (8-10), 99% said they would renew their membership.

96% 47% 70% 75% 77% 86% 92% 98% 99% 99% 99% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Overall BY LIKELIHOOD OF RECOMMENDING 1 - very unlikely 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 - very likely

Without question, Sweet Adelines has much to be proud of. Philanthropy has recently been given new resources and energy. Tomorrow’s leaders have yet to be recruited. And tomorrow’s members have much to be excited about.

And just like any organization, Sweet Adelines has its challenges to address as well. The key challenges that were identified in the survey are:

• About 4% of respondents do not intend to renew membership for various reasons. Further, like many other membership organizations, Sweet Adelines membership has been declining over the last few decades.

• We need to clearly define our membership. Part of that process will be helped by our recent definition of what “women-centric” means moving forward (see the “Defining Women-Centric” on page 18.)

• Work remains to be done with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), yet we know some members feel overwhelmed by the ongoing dialogue about DEI (even if they are supportive of the effort overall). We must ensure that our progress going forward is integrated carefully with all of the needs of the organization and its members.

• Some international members don’t feel as much a part of the organization as those in the United States and perhaps North America. There are competing organizations and 11% of survey respondents have dual membership with Sweet Adelines and at least one other group.

• Regional leaders and chorus directors are stressed and have dealt with more than they bargained for in the past few years. The people we’ve asked to lead a music organization are seeing members struggling with so much more than the art.



Problem Solving Areas

• How to define women-centric (and how to inspire consistent support throughout the organization)

• Making international members feel more welcome

• Being a brand that members are proud to brag about by name

• Continuing DEI work in balance and integration with other efforts.

• Accommodating disabilities

• Recruiting for the next generation

• Recreating or re-energizing Young Women in Harmony

We value your feedback on these issues, and we see each of these challenges as an opportunity for growth!


Growth Opportunities

• Membership Growth Everywhere

• Increasing Member Engagement

• Exploring A Capella

• Increasing Retail Store Activity (54% usage)

• Improving Usability of Website

• Evolving Educational Experiences

• Growing Philanthropy

• Improving Net Promoter Score


Major Themes


Membership Trends

The digital survey showed new members over the past four years represent just over 2-3% of our current membership. Membership additions will probably have to average about 4-5% of current membership per year to stabilize our membership. However, to go beyond stabilization and into an upward growth trend new members will need to represent 7%+ of current membership per year. NOTE: This computation is based on data from the survey. A deeper analysis of membership trends needs to be done to better guide a growth or stabilization strategy.

In particular, the survey showed there are some membership sub-groups that might need more attention:

• For members in the 5- to 12-year membership period, there’s a greater risk factor of them leaving due to other “life” responsibilities and issues. We need to pay more attention to this group and find new ways to retain them.

• Other groups that have less satisfaction and need attention are member at large/ chapter at large.

• Lower satisfaction is evident for non-North American members.

• There is also lower satisfaction with Black members and those who feel the organization should be open to all people of historically marginalized genders.


Member Engagement

Increased engagement of our members clearly correlates to high levels of satisfaction. Most members are in singing groups, and 44% have experienced leadership or education opportunities.

More Than Music


How would you rate your personal enjoyment of SA in the following areas?

Continuing heritage/ harmony of a cappella

How would you personal enjoyment following areas?

Music education

70% 50% 49% 48% 48% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Friendships and interaction
and performances
Competition opportunities

International Connection

Members indicated they appreciate being part of a long-standing, international organization and feel it adds credibility as they recruit new singers.

• However, at least some of the international members feel a distracting difference in culture and the logistics of being part of a mostly U.S.-centric organization.

• A more challenging issue is how to ensure equitable access to education for our international members.

Support for Local/Regional Leadership

There is a recurring theme about the need to expand ways Sweet Adelines provides training and other support for regional leadership team members and chorus directors.

• RMT members especially seem to feel pressure from both their local choruses and from International and face the potential for burnout. They need guidance and support as they work to push various elements down to the local chorus level.

• Directors find themselves needing to provide leadership beyond music (what is usually needed to manage rehearsals, training and competitions). No doubt COVID has made these pressures feel more significant.

Youth Outreach

The survey indicated a need for outreach to youth to find ways to involve them in the organization.

• Given this feedback, we see a real opportunity to revitalize our outreach and programmatic efforts to better meet the needs of younger singers.


DEI/Accepting or Supportive of Diversity

Many members are very appreciative of the work being done by Sweet Adelines around DEI. Some believe there is far more work to be done, and some believe there is too much focus on this effort.

Sweet Adelines International is committed to continuing our ongoing DEI journey. The survey results and interviews together suggest that most members support our DEI efforts. Some members expressed a desire for improved DEI communications and clarity about how DEI efforts relate to the overall goals of the organization. To address these concerns while continuing the commitment to all of our Guiding Principles, we will work to ensure that DEI communications, training, and other efforts are presented in a way that clearly demonstrates alignment with that commitment.

Understanding Multiple Gender Definitions

Understanding Multiple Gender Definitions

Do you understand multifaceted definitions of gender such as “Agender”, “Cisgender”, “Gender fluid”, etc.?

Per cent O f All Respondents

Percent Of All Respondents By Age

Age 15-25 (Gen Z)

Age 26-41 (Millennial)

Age 42-57 (Gen X)

Age 58-64 (Late Boomers)

Age 65-76 (Early Boomers)

Age 77+ (Silent)

Do you understand faceted definitions such as “Agender”, “Gender fluid”,

52% 84% 87% 76% 63% 44% 25% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Educational Offerings Accessed Most – Members appreciate the education currently offered by Sweet Adelines and have accessed it in many ways, from the Online Education Center on the Sweet Adelines website to education programs offered at the International Convention.

12% 12% 7% 3% 2% 1% 62% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
Education programs
International Convention International Education Symposium SA certification programs International
Seminar Young Women in
Program None Specific Educational Accessed Education Specific Educational Offerings Accessed Most Education
Online Education Center on the SA website
at the


Education Programs Members Want – The survey also provided members a chance to indicate what types of education they felt are most important and want to see more of -Vocal Production and Performance education were clearly the highest rated topics.

Your feedback in both areas is very helpful and will help guide our future planning as we continue addressing what type of education we offer members and how you prefer to receive it.




80% 70% 12% 10% 5% 4% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Vocal production Performance Leadership
of these Arranging Judging
Areas Felt to Be Most Important
Educational Areas Felt to Be Most Important

Sweet Adelines Name and Brand

When we asked about the Sweet Adelines name, the survey results showed the following:

• The name reflects who we are and I like it - 48%

• The name reflects who we are, but I do NOT like it - 10%

• The name doesn’t reflect who we are, but I’m ok with it - 26%

• The name doesn’t reflect who we are and I do NOT like it - 16%

Vulnerable Name and Brand


• Just under half of respondents believe the name reflects who we are AND like it (48%).

• By contrast, another 26% are ok with it but don’t believe it reflects who we are. We can combine those two numbers to say 74% are “ok” with the current name.

• We could also combine other responses to say 42% believe the name does not reflect who we are.

• Finally 26% do not like it.

48% 10% 26% 16% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% It reflects who we are and I like it It reflects who we are, but I do NOT like it It doesn’t reflect who we are, but I’m ok with it It doesn’t reflect who we are and I do NOT like it

Sweet Adelines Name and Brand Cont.

Because each local chorus has its own name, this feedback probably doesn’t indicate respondents’ comfort in identifying primarily as Sweet Adelines. Rather, it indicates their comfort in being associated with this organization in addition to their local chorus. Further, in the one-on-one interviews, few participants indicated strong support and affinity for the Sweet Adelines name.

From a marketing perspective, we want this organization to have a name and brand image that members not only accept and like but brag about by name. This affects recruitment and a general sense of belonging. This issue is one that we believe does need further consideration for the future and we will continue to examine it.


Defining “Women-Centric” for Membership

On this important issue, about two-thirds of members selected various options in the survey that include transgender women, and another third selected options that include all nonbinary people. Roughly one third of the members prefer to define this as “women assigned female at birth/identify as women.”

Definition of Membership


About two thirds of survey respondents also supported options that include transgender women and one third supported options that include all nonbinary.

Women: transgender women, nonbinary female at birth (current)

Women: assigned female at birth/ identify as women

Women: transgender women, and all nonbinary

All genders

Women: transgender women and men, all nonbinary ALL VOTES:

Women: transgender women, nonbinary female at birth (current)

Women: assigned female at birth/ identify as women

Women: transgender women, and all nonbinary

All genders

Transgender women and men, all nonbinary

As noted earlier, of survey respondents supported transgender third supported include all

33% 29% 18% 14% 6% 46% 35% 34% 21% 19% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50%

Defining “Women-Centric” for Membership Cont.

Your feedback was extremely helpful on this important topic – so much so that at the September, 2022 Board meeting held at the International Convention and Competition in Phoenix our board discussed the issue at length and unanimously agreed to amend the Corporate Bylaws with the following membership eligibility definition:

Article III – Membership, Section 2 – Membership Eligibility: “Chapter membership is open to women (including transgender women) and non-binary people assigned female at birth in accordance with the standard procedure for ‘Chapter Membership Admittance’ as described in the Sweet Adelines International Policy Book.”

To help our members understand what this update means, we have created an initial set of ‘Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)’ that has been posted on our website here. We will continue to update the FAQs as we receive questions or requests for clarification from our members.

Our ultimate goal in this clarification of membership eligibility is to create an environment where eligible people know they are welcome and are able to experience their membership as their full authentic selves. We will continue to educate our members about gender identity as part of our DEI educational offerings, including the Chorus Toolkit.

It is important to note that there is no new requirement for disclosure of gender identity - this remains at the discretion of the individual. The survey results and interviews relayed that our members value Sweet Adelines as an organization that recognizes, celebrates and empowers women and have a strong desire that the organization continue to provide that experience while continuing to work toward for more inclusive practices.


Definition of Membership


The Challenges, Moving Forward:

• Current vs. Future Members: Avoiding any policy change that would require a current member to leave. Although we didn’t identify a specific chorus where this might be the case, the feedback was clear that if a current member is welcomed by their chorus and also feels welcome, they should be allowed to stay, regardless of the rule change.

• Male/Masculine Appearance: A number of interviewees said they would welcome anyone who is comfortable being part of a women’s organization but struggle to put someone on the risers who looks male or masculine.

• Male Voice: Interviewees were split on this. Some weren’t sure how to include a male voice in otherwise female music arrangements, while others said it’s fine but that person would probably have to sing bass.

• Feminine Terms: There seems to be very strong support for the phrase and meaning of a “sisterhood” within Sweet Adelines. Several interviewees also expressed concern over removing lyrics or entire songs that reference feminine words.

• Local Decision Making: A small number of interviewees indicated they didn’t mind how other areas operated but wanted to choose for themselves how they define women-centric and who they allow to join.

Pandemic Protocols

Your feedback shows we all navigated the pandemic and survived, even when many other membership organizations severely struggled. We did this even as we also faced significant challenges with the health issues that significantly reduced our ability to get together and sing, economic impacts and heightened awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Members were predictably split on pandemic protocols, just as our world is. You indicated that you would like to decide locally what procedures work for your chorus.

As with anything, communication will be extremely important as we navigate this ongoing issue, and we will continue to talk with you as we make decisions and potential course changes related to this health issue in the future.


Cost of Participation

Overall, members indicated they feel they’re receiving great value for their Sweet Adelines membership compared to the costs of being a member. They also are good with the various other related costs for competition, international education events and other expenses. Although it’s not clear, the feedback seems to indicate that members understand and accept each individual cost associated with participation, while recognizing that, overall, this is an expensive hobby.

Because 28% of those not intending to renew membership cited high cost of participation as one of their reasons, we intend to explore this issue to assure that local choruses know to be as clear as possible up front about costs.

For context, the 28% who cited high costs equates to about 60 individuals out of 214 respondents who intend to not renew. If we assume those numbers correlate to all 16,000+ members, that would mean about 600 members intend to not renew and presumably about 168 people around the world find cost to be high. However, by contrast, 69% of all 5,358 survey respondents rated high or very high perceived value vs. cost. Applied to all members, that would mean about 10,350 members are satisfied with cost of participation.


Value of Membership for Dues Dollars


69% of respondents feel the value of participation compared to cost is either high or very high.

69% of respondents feel the participation compared to high or very high.

2% 6% 22% 34% 35% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% 1- Very low 2 3 4 5- Very High

Future Direction


We want to again thank all of you who participated in this important perception study – your feedback has been invaluable. Based on your feedback, here is an overview (not in ranked order) of what we see as the major takeaways from the study and what we’ll be looking at most closely through 2023.

Areas for Problem Solving

• Making international members feel more welcome

• Being a brand members brag about by name

• Continuing DEI work in balance and integration with other efforts.

• Recruiting for the next generation

• Revitalize outreach to better meet the needs of young singers.

Opportunities for Growth

• Membership growth everywhere

• Increasing member engagement

• Exploring A Capella further

• Increasing Retail Store activity

• Improving Usability of Website

• Evolving our educational experiences

• Growing philanthropy efforts

• Improving Net Promoter score


The board is already using your feedback to initiate conversations and make decisions – it was invaluable regarding the “Women-Centric” definition for membership.

In addition to framing these very important issues to discuss, the data from the survey will be extremely helpful in shaping our strategy sessions for the development of Sweet Adelines’ next strategic plan.

In terms of other upcoming actions related to the survey, our “next steps” in the near future will include:

• Now that we have this valuable data, we will discuss which pieces of feedback affect the organization’s future direction and we’ll prioritize those elements.

• This year we also will conduct the focus groups to dig deeper into the issues raised in the survey. These groups will help us develop ways to structure how we put plans into action to address the issues you have identified.

• Once those focus groups are done, we will use this data to help us develop our next strategic plan this year. We will be sharing this work with you in many ways throughout 2023, from communicating the overall vision for the organization to developing follow-up pieces on specific issues.


Our goal throughout this entire process has been to identify the issues you feel are important and ensure we are providing the very best Sweet Adelines experience for all our members. We now have a valuable “roadmap” to use as we make plans to move the organization forward into the future. We’re excited to finally be back on the risers, we have much to look forward to!

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