Can you imagine being a member of an organization and not quite sure on what it stands for? Would you feel like you belonged or would you feel motivated to assist that organization in reaching its goals? If you are like me, then of course not, you would question why you even joined. Membership retention and engagement is indeed one of the greatest challenges most membership based organizations face.
One of the common challenges faced by associations is the lack of urgency by members to renew in a timely manner or by the renewal deadline. The majority of members who choose not to renew their membership during renewal period have stated that their expectations were not met and they didn’t see the value in the membership. In addition, renewals based on calendar year tend to reach members at a busy time of the year (holiday season) making it easy to forget, or at an inopportune time when they are facing financial constraints due to year end department or organizational budgets and/or personal holiday expenses.
Membership Retention is an essential part of Membership Management, and like Membership Recruitment, it is also part of the sales process. Both recruitment and retention go hand- in- hand. I believe that if you recruit the right member from the start, nurture and meet their expectation, retaining them is simple. Keeping in mind that retention is an ongoing process, we need to focus on retention during the recruitment stage and throughout the membership life cycle. Everyone needs to be involved in this process, starting from the organization leaders straight down to members. This includes Board and committee members, who should be directly involved in recruitment and retention efforts.
This is where membership orientation comes in to play. New Member Orientation is important in starting members off on the right foot. Most potential members have a vague idea of the organization’s goals, history and/or tradition, the benefits and responsibilities of its members. The orientation should be very informative for a new member, providing members with background on the history of the organization, it’s mission and vision for itself, as well as what they can expect from the association as it relates to their membership. Lay out some basics like their benefits, who the leaders are, who to contact with questions and most importantly, opportunities for them to become involved. This orientation could also be used to get existing members re-engaged and help them renew their enthusiasm.
When considering how to implement a member orientation program, consider the delivery method. Think outside of the normal PDF attachment. Host a monthly webinar with current members joining in to help familiarize members with the organization. Go even farther outside of the box and think about a quiz like game that members can play to get up to speed on things. Make not only the information unforgettable, but the experience in which they received it as well.
In order to assist with boosting membership retention, here are few others helpful ideas:
Committee – creating a Recruitment & Retention Committee that will be charged solely with getting members renewed while also improving the retention of current/lapsed members and focusing on retention issues specific to the various levels of memberships.
Mentor program– The Recruitment & Retention committee can assign each new member a mentor who will initiate a personal welcome call and check in regularly with new members especially during the first year of membership. The mentor will be responsible to integrate new members within the organization by introducing them to other members and encouraging them to participate in events during their first year.
New Member Survey – conduct a quarterly survey to get feedback from members and incorporate some of their suggestions from the survey.
Create more touch points – Automate a series of emails checking in with members regularly – giving them a personal touch.
Buddy / Referral Program – Have mentor discuss the buddy program and encourage each new member to bring in at least one new member in return for either a reduced membership rate or a year free of membership dues.
Incentive programs – offer financial rewards for maintaining membership, discounted membership dues for referral/buddy program and additional perks for extended membership.
New Member Event – Host a new member event at your Annual Conference, giving them a reason to attend and a way for them to meet other new members.
Forum – creating an online community for all members to discuss and share information on the home page of the website. This is another way for members to connect and network with other members such as board /committee members and mentors.
Anniversary letter – All members want to be recognized and feel that they belong to the organization. Sending out personalized anniversary letters remind members of their value to the organization. Go a step farther and recognize them in the Association E-Newsletter.
Overall, members are more likely to maintain their membership when they are most engaged and are receiving the value they expected. Most of these ideas are helping set that expectation, the hard work comes in ensuring that you deliver on those expectations. Keeping members on the front of your mind will help keep your association on the front of theirs when renewal time comes around. Have you tried any of these ideas? What worked, what has not? Let us know!