Are you curious about how other small membership organizations are managing their renewal process? Well we were, so in May we launched an online Membership Renewal Survey to gain some insight into the renewal process for small membership organizations.
Here is an overview of some of our survey findings – but you can also check out the highlights via the infographic (click to enlarge).
We’ve also launched a Membership Renewal Guide
For more information on membership renewals, you can also check out our new guide – How to Manage Membership Renewal – now available in our Membership Knowledge Hub.
As we reviewed the survey responses, we found that some of the findings – such as the most effective communications methods – simply confirmed our hunches, while others offered fresh insight, such as:
- Close to 64% of respondents renew all members on the same date annually versus using "rolling" renewal dates (on each members’ anniversary)
- Almost 64% use automated renewal reminders
- 82% offer some form of renewal "self-service," usually through their website
- Only 18% offered incentives to encourage prompt renewal
Who participated in our Membership Renewal Survey?
We promoted our online survey through this blog, Twitter and our Facebook page, so we could capture information about our audience – small non-profits and membership organizations. While we recognize that our survey process wasn’t scientific, and our sample size was quite small, we think the findings offer a snapshot of the current membership renewal practices of small organizations.
Since many of our Blog readers and Wild Apricot clients are largely small-staff and/or volunteer-led groups, we asked about their organization size and who was managing the renewal process. Here's what we found out: Respondents’ organization size:
Renewals were managed by:
- 45.5% of respondents were from organizations with < 250 members
- 33.3% were from organizations with 250 - 500 members
- 18.2% were from organizations with 500 - 2000 members
- 3% were from organizations with > 2000 members
- Staff only – 50%
- Volunteers – 37.5%
- Both – 12.5%
- 63.6% of respondents process renewals on a static or annual basis (all members renew on same date)
- 36.4% follow a rolling renewal cycle (each member renews on their anniversary date)
Most Effective Renewal Methods:
The most effective methods of renewal communication were ranked as:
- Email - 60%
- Mail – 30%
- Phone – 10%
Timing and Number of Renewal Reminders:
We asked: “When do you send the first renewal reminder?”
- 1 month prior to expiration – 48.3%
- 2 months prior to expiration – 34.5%
- 3 months prior – 13.8%
- 4 months prior – 3.4%
We asked “How many renewal notices do you send before a membership is suspended (considered lapsed)?"
- Three notices – 42.9%
- Two notices – 32.1%
- Four notices – 17.9%
- One notice – 7.1%
Renewal Processes: Automation?
When we asked if renewal reminders were automated, we found that:
- 63.6% used automated renewal processes
- 36.4% did not use automated renewals
We were not surprised to learn that the majority of respondents were offering online self-service renewal processes:
- 81.8% offered online self-service renewals
- 18.2% did not offer members self-service options
- 90.9% accept personal cheques
- 69.7% offer online credit card payment
- 45.5% accept either cash or PayPal
- 24.2% take in-person credit
We asked about the length of the grace period (time allowed before the membership is identified as inactive or lapsed). For those who responded within the parameters of our survey, the results were tied for a one and two month grace period.
However, a number of respondents noted "other" practices, from 3 months to 7 months and offering no grace period at all.
- 42.3% - 2 months
- 42.3% - 1 month
- 15.4% - 2 weeks
Incentives, Discounts & Late Penalties:
We wondered how many small organizations were offering discounts or incentives to prompt renewals. It was interesting to note that less than 20% of the respondents were currently offering these, but apparently many were considering such tactics.
- 18.8% of respondents offered some form of incentive or discount
- 62.4% did not offer any incentives or discounts
- 18.8% were considering offering incentives.
We also asked if organizations were applying penalties or fees for late renewals - but it seems this is not the case for the majority of small organizations:
- 90.9% said "NO" they were not penalizing late renewals
- 6.1% did charge penalties
- 3% were considering this tactic
Biggest Renewal Challenges
Almost every respondent offered feedback on their “biggest challenge with renewals.” Here are some of the comments we received:
- Showing value for their membership
- Getting members to respond promptly. With the economic downturn, their finances have been an issue.
- People are unemployed or their organizations are no longer paying. So, individuals are not renewing as highly.
- Following up via phone, but that is the most effective for those for whom emails didn't work.
- Determining the correct timing of renewal notices
- Keeping individuals motivated about membership has been a challenge. Board participation is also a bit of a challenge.
Stay tuned for more membership renewal insight
Stay tuned to the Wild Apricot blog for future posts on topics raised in this Membership Renewal Survey. And be sure to check out our new guide – How to Manage Membership Renewal now available through our Membership Knowledge Hub.