If you were to ask an association professional, “What keeps you up at night,” membership retention would probably be somewhere on that list (and pretty high up too, if we had to guess). Everything you do goes back to membership retention.
The events you hold, they’re designed to engage members...so they’ll renew.
The content you provide, it’s meant to be valuable...so your members will renew.
It all goes back to retention!
That said, how can you actually get your members to stay with your organization - year after year? Well, there’s no hard and fast answer, but there are a few best practices. Here are four:
1. Start with an onboarding strategy
Membership retention all begins when a new member joins your organization. Sure, you’re not going to be sending out renewal reminder emails or anything just yet, but the way you onboard your new members directly impacts their impression of and satisfaction with your organization. Needless to say, it needs to be good.
A few tips for onboarding your new members: In addition to sending a personalized welcome email, be sure to send a valuable/informative new member welcome packet (no, these aren’t outdated), and follow both of those pieces up with a phone call. It’s also not a bad idea to welcome that member on social media and pair them with a more seasoned member mentor. Again, the sooner you can get them engaged, the better.
2. Emphasize (and re-emphasize) your association’s value
Value is at the heart of membership retention. It’s the single biggest reason people renew - or they don’t. That said, because your members are busy, sometimes it’s easy for them to forget the value your organization provides (particularly if they’re not engaged on a regular basis).
Your job? To REMIND them of that value. Consider including a “Here’s what we’ve done for you lately” section in your association’s marketing pieces - on your website, in your e-newsletter, etc. If you mail out invoices when renewal season rolls around (or even if you send them electronically), be sure to include that message WITH your invoices. Even if it’s just five or six bullet points, let your members know what you’ve done on their behalf in the past few months. Chances are, if they’re on the brink of not renewing, this may persuade them otherwise (as it highlights a few of the many things they’ll lose if they don’t renew their membership).
3. Create and utilize member testimonials
Member testimonials are POWERFUL, and if you don’t currently have any, we highly recommend going after some. Reach out to the people or organizations who’ve been members of your association for years - they’re the ones that are going to have the most compelling stories to tell.
Then, once you have those testimonials, USE THEM! Don’t just put them on your organization’s website - place the most compelling one on your association’s homepage, where all members and potential members will see it. (Note: This works best when the testimonial is in video form.)
Another idea: Include those testimonials (on a flyer or one-page handout) with your dues renewal invoices. If someone is considering letting their membership lapse, seeing how much value other people are getting out of your association may convince them otherwise.
4. Pay close attention to analytics
You have so much data at your fingertips, and that data can be a huge asset when it comes to membership retention. See, when we think about membership retention, we often think about what we’re doing wrong - why people aren’t renewing. But it’s also important to focus on what we’re doing right.
Start with your organization’s website. Are people coming to your organization’s website? Is there a page that’s generating more renewals than any of your other website pages? If so, think about why that might be. What’s the content like on that page? Is there something unique about the call-to-action (the text or button that encourages people to renew)? If so, consider duplicating that on your other website pages.
But don’t just focus on your association’s website. Focus on other key data points as well. For example, email. Are people opening your organization’s emails? What emails are they opening the most? Do the subject lines of those emails have anything in common? Use that information to improve your renewal reminder emails. Even the smallest changes (like a subject line change, for example) can have a BIG impact on membership behavior (in this case, retention).
Now like we said, there are PLENTY of best practices for boosting membership retention - these are just a few. For a full breakdown of retention tactics that WORK, check out our free guide below!