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8 Proven Ways to Increase Member Retention Right Now

Tatiana Morand  15 May 2019  0 comments

Member Retention

Recently, I spoke with a handful of membership organizations who’ve found success increasing their member and donor retention rates.

Here are seven of the top ways they’re doing it:

1. Create a “Win-Back” Offer

The idea here is to send unengaged, or lapsed members something enticing to re-engage them. 

Here are some ideas:

  • A discount on one month of membership
  • Limited-time free access to your resources
  • A free invite to an event

If you choose to go the discount route, research by Marketing Land found that win-back offers that included dollar-off discounts worked 200% better than offers with percent discounts

Even a simple appreciation letter thanking someone for their membership can work wonders. This is the strategy of Patty Foley, membership chair of Friends of Lucy Robbins Welles Library. She simply sends a yearly appreciation letter to her members, which she attributes to raising their retention rate over 90%.

All that’s in the letter is an explanation of how a members’ contributions have made an impact on the organization with a request to renew their membership.


2. Reduce Buyer’s Remorse with a Robust New Member Tour

Have you ever purchased something only to feel dissatisfied with it immediately afterwards? That’s called Buyer’s Remorse.

Sometimes this happens to new members when they sign up, but don’t get the attention they expect.

Lowell Aplebaum, Senior Director of Membership for The Society of Neuroscience offers a solution: “A robust, vibrant welcome stream is one of the strongest investments an organization can make in keeping its members.”

That’s because it helps educate the member about the services and resources they can access and point them in the right direction for the questions they have (but may be too shy to ask). The result is that they feel much more confident about the decision they made to become a member.

Over the years I’ve seen many great new member welcome emails. Here are five elements they typically include:

  1. A personalized message from a real person at your organization
  2. A brief introduction on the background of your organization
  3. A list of member benefits they can now access
  4. Links to helpful resources on your website
  5. A clear description of what will happen next, like an invitation to an event, or a heads up to look out for the next newsletter

In fact, we’ve put together a complete guide on how to write your new member welcome email because of how important it is when it comes to member retention.


3. These Two Strategies Make Current Members Happier

There are many tried and tested strategies that work to retain (and attract) members no matter what your organization offers.

The two most popular ones I’ve come across (also confirmed by research conducted by the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report) are:

  1. Encourage a thriving, engaged community of like-minded individuals. In this case, putting on more networking events, mentorship programs, and creating an online member directory can all help to boost member retention.
  2. Create specialized resources, and educational content. The more you publish industry reports, educational webinars, or offer member discounts, the better.


4. Do This to Find Out Why Members Left

Have you ever left a job and been asked for an exit interview?

The reason exit interviews so important is because employers can learn valuable information that can be used to improve staff retention.

This same principle applies to membership organizations. When a member leaves, ask them if they’d like to share why they have chosen to leave.

Some of the most common reasons I’ve come across include:

  • They actually just left the industry
  • They don’t feel engaged enough
  • They can’t justify the cost of dues
  • They simply forgot to renew (which is a great opportunity to remind them!)

If you notice any trends in the member feedback you collect, it’s a good idea to change things around so more members don’t leave. Plus, you might be able to attract old members back.


5. Create a Limited Membership Level

Sometimes members leave because they don’t feel they’re getting their worth from the dues they pay.

One easy thing you can do to keep these members active is to create a new membership level within your membership model

This new membership level offers limited access to your organization for a lesser price.

The lesser cost of this membership level is easier to justify, while still giving access to some of the core resources of your organization.

For example, one organization I know offers access to only the member directory for a small monthly fee. Another created a “Friend” level which only allows access to monthly meetings.

If you choose to follow this strategy, a word of caution: don’t make your limited membership too attractive, otherwise you may end up getting a lot of members downgrading their dues. 


6. Membership Management Software

If you’re still collecting member information on paper, taking cash and checks for dues, and communicating with your members via snail mail, there’s a good chance you’re actually pushing people away.

The reason is that technology is constantly changing our behavior and nowadays people have a much shorter attention span and expect instantaneous results. Unfortunately, if your organization isn’t keeping up with technology, it’s falling behind, and any other organization using the latest tech will naturally attract more people (especially the younger generations).

Fortunately, there are simple software solutions designed to modernize any membership organization quickly and easily. This type of software is called Membership Management Software.

With Membership Management Software your organization can:

  • Offer online registration for membership and events.
  • Allow members to access and update their profiles.
  • Instantly process payments and invoices online.
  • Improve member communication through automated emails, newsletters, reminders, and invoices.
  • Build a professional-looking website complete with member directories, event calendars, downloadable resources, a blog, and more.
  • Create a full contact database that's easy to search, filter, and update.
  • Access financial reports, analytics, and membership summaries in seconds.
  • and more.

If you think your organization could benefit from using this type of software, we offer a free, 30-day trial of our own Membership Management Software called Wild Apricot.

Wild Apricot is the #1 rated Membership Management Software used by over 25,000 associations, clubs, and nonprofits around the world.

WA trial banner

7. Make Sure Old Members Aren't Scaring Them Away

Take the case of a youth hockey coach who quits part-way through his first season of volunteer service, because he’s getting too much abuse from certain over-competitive parents of the young players in the organization. 

Or the community soup kitchen that just can’t seem to keep volunteers. They peel veggies for a few weeks and then drift away – not because of the work or the constituents served or anything to do with the way the organization itself is run, but because of one sharp-tongued kitchen helper who makes new people feel inadequate and unwelcome.

Or the charitable organization that must rely on the same small core of members to run all of its fundraising events, because new members tend to volunteer once and not step up again.

  • Were those newbies isolated at the event, stuck handing out programs at the gate, while the old-timers appropriated to themselves all the “fun” jobs?
  • Were they were thrown in too deep, too soon – set to man an information booth and field public questions for which, as new members, they didn’t yet have the answers?
  • Did anyone else even talk to them?

We know that one of the most powerful reasons why people join and volunteer with any organization is for the social aspects. A sense of shared purpose. A sense of connection, in this increasingly wired but humanly disconnected world...

We also know, unfortunately, that there’s an unattractive side to human nature that has a way of showing up whenever people are brought together in groups: the tendency to guard territory and power. And it’s a fair bet that in any organization, you’ve got at least one “old hand” whose need to control is, well, out of control.

If an established member feels threatened by a competent new member and reacts with hostility or unfriendliness, it may be damaging your membership rolls or your cause more than you know.

To stop this from happening, make sure you have a strong member onboarding program that helps new members to learn the ropes and gives them a guide to your world. Giving longstanding members a chance to mentor new members can also help them continue to feel included rather than worrying that they'll be displaced.


8. Bribe Them With Free Food

Who doesn’t love a great big free meal?

If I hear about a free meal, I’m there. You are too. Don’t lie to yourself.

Think of how many members you’ll retain simply by throwing a free meal at them every so often.

Eggs? Sure! Pancakes. You know it. A great big crispy grilled cheese?

Pretty sure this is the best strategy there is.


If You'd Like More Ways to Increase Member Retention...

If you’d like more sure-fire strategies on how to keep your members longer, listen to this free webinar with nonprofit legal expert Erin McClarty to learn how being more intentional about your infrastructure, partnerships and contracts can help you keep growing members steadily. 

Or, if you’d just like some more quick tips, check out our article called 12 Practical Ways To Engage and Retain Members in Today’s World.

All the best with retaining your membership!

Tatiana Morand

Posted by Tatiana Morand

Published Wednesday, 15 May 2019 at 10:14 AM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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