With the realities of the “new” economy intruding into everyone’s business and personal lives, and the recent political theater further adding to the uncertainty about the future, it’s more important than ever for non-profit organizations to focus on member retention, on devising and living up to that key value proposition that keeps members coming back year after year.
Based on nearly 100 executive interviews over the last 10 years, we’ve compiled five core activities that seem to keep association members renewing their memberships time and again. Not all five are necessary, or even reasonable together, but by selecting elements that are true to their organization, non-profits can make all that member recruiting work pay off beyond the initial year.
5) Remind them what they’ve received this year. Renewal notices that list the benefits which that particular member have partaken of during the year is a quick, but effective, way to show the value each has received when it comes time to write the dues check. For those with no transactions on record during the year, defaults could include participation by their voice in aggregate on industry-centric political or regulatory issues, or mention receipt of key information through their magazine or newsletter articles that helped them advance their knowledge or career.
4) Communicate the message in the media and format they prefer. Hopefully in your member database there’s a field for “preferred communication method” that can be selected. If members have chosen to receive ALL communication from you electronically, make sure they receive at least one renewal notice electronically. As a matter of strategy, you should hit them from several different angles using several media, but make sure the preferred method is first and most prevalent.
3) Make sure they are actively engaged as soon after enrollment as possible. Studies over the years have backed this assertion that the likelihood of a member renewing beyond the first year directly correlates to their speed and level of active engagement. Invite them to be on a committee, put them on an editorial review board, ask them to attend a seminar for free as an introduction to the organization, have a staffer phone them and ask what they feel are the most important reasons to join – something to show you know they exist, and that they are welcome at the organization.
2) Repeatedly restate and reinforce the strong, unique, value proposition your organization represents to them. Show each member how the benefits you offer directly affect their personal or professional life in a positive way. Make it easy for them to walk that renewal notice up the hall to the CFO’s office and show how the value received is worth the dues money you’re asking. Be specific, attach a dollar amount to each benefit if possible – just like when you were in school and were asked to “show your work,” you have to do the math for them, and it has to make sense.
1) Have recent, solid, professionally-performed research on your particular members, to really know what benefits will resonate with them, and show how those were delivered over the past year. Telling members about benefits they don’t use or care about can actually work against you, making it appear that you are wasting funds on things that don’t matter to the members. This knowledge is critical to creating and implementing that unique value proposition as well as formulating a benefits package that will attract and keep good, loyal members.
There are many different tactical schemes for boosting retention, at least temporarily, including rate discounts, waivers, hardship grants, and a host of other discounts or special deals, but the most powerful of all is delivering the desired value in a timely, engaging, and directed fashion, year after year. Find out what they want, and give it to them in spades – you members will be as loyal as can be.
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