Society Membership Trends

During a recent discussion of levels of Society participation, I was asked about long-term trends in overall membership numbers.

As it happens, I had previously extracted some of the relevant figures from other sources — some of which showed up in a post about kingdom-level breakdowns — but hadn’t gotten around to publishing the older numbers here, because the data is incomplete and would benefit from additional review and cleanup.

That said, even if the specific numbers are taken with a grain of salt, the overall pattern shown here is likely of interest to others, so I might as well share this as a work-in-progress.

Please do bear in mind these significant caveats:

  • Data from 1992-2001 are backed out of a membership graph I found online and definitely imprecise.
  • Data from 2002 and later are averages across that year’s monthly totals from sca.org, in an effort to smooth out the jitter that happens from one month to the next; in some years, data is only available for a subset of months so those are what was averaged.
  • I have no confidence that international memberships are counted in a consistent fashion across all of these years.

Two obvious discontinuities stand out, the first being between 2002–2004.

  • One element contributing to this bump is the introduction of a non-member surcharge of $3 at each event starting in about 2003, which incentivized folks who attended several events per year to purchase a membership.
  • Another possible cause of that discontinuity may be a result of a change in how family memberships were counted — I believe that at one point, you could buy a family membership which would cover all family members but be reported as a single membership, whereas afterwards you needed to purchase separate memberships for family members which came at a significant discount but were each counted separately — although that impression is based on a vague memory and the details or timing could be off.

The other major disruption shows up in the wake of Covid, which led to a suspension of all in-person events for more than a year.

  • No membership data was reported during 2021 when there was a “freeze” that halted membership expiration.
  • Preliminary numbers for 2023 show signs of a recovery from the bottom of the Covid drop-off but still 20% down from the pre-plague levels.

The numbers used to build the above chart are available in a CSV file, but as noted above they should not be treated as authoritative — refer to the figures on the sca.org website for greater specificity.

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