Each client association has its own specific goals for member retention, but we like to keep ours in the 85-90% range. Below are some of the processes I use to make sure we hit these goals annually and in an efficient manner.
Keep track, and don’t reinvent the wheel.
For each of our clients, I make a yearly table to keep track of when a reminder was sent, how many open invoices there were when the reminder was sent, and how many members renewed after that reminder (our clients’ AMS – or association management systems – make pulling reports like this quick and easy). This allows me to have a good picture year after year of what types of reminders get the most attention, as well as what timing seems to be best for each organization. I use this information to plan for the current year. If a specific method or text prompted a higher response rate, I’ll make sure to include something similar this year.
Plan for multiple mediums
We really try to be green here and utilize digital communications for the first month or so of a renewal campaign. This allows the open renewals to dwindle down a bit before we actually need to send a paper invoice. That said, I cannot tell you how often I hear “I was surprised to get this invoice in the mail – I had no idea my membership expired!” Sometimes seven email reminders just go under the radar. My point is that our membership bases are diverse and not everyone receives information the same way. For this reason, I ensure that our campaigns include a mix of email, social media, print, and even phone calls.
This year, we are also utilizing the Higher Logic platform on which some of our client websites are based. Higher Logic integrates with the member database and instantly notifies members at log-in when their membership expires and gives them a simple way to click and pay. Once the renewal is paid, this notification disappears.
Make a schedule, but be flexible
As I discussed, I keep track of renewal campaigns annually so I can see when reminders were sent. I use this data to plan for the current year, shifting dates around based on holidays or other important messages going out for each client. That said, these dates are not set in stone. If renewal payments just do not seem to be coming in based on email reminders, I might move up the date that I send out paper invoices. I continuously adjust the plan based on how each client is performing.
Involve the Board (or a membership committee)
This step is vital. As association staff, we can only remind a member of their benefits so much. Board members can share experiences of exactly how the membership or a connection they made through the organization has improved their businesses or their careers. Last year, the past chair of one of our associations had a lengthy email exchange with a member who was on the fence about renewing — they had not had the time to commit to really be “plugged in” with the organization and therefore had not seen the value. The past chair shared a story of how he had seen his business quintuple in size over the past ten years, attributing it to relationships he had developed through the organization.
I cannot stress enough how much of an impact this can have, so I try to make it as easy as possible for volunteers by never giving them more than ten names to call, providing both phone and email contact information, and giving them a summary of the communications I’ve had with the members so far.
Make sure that everyone on the client team is aware that the renewals are ready. The “front line” office staff can help a member renew over the phone without being passed to a membership coordinator. The meeting planners can remind vendor members about their renewal while discussing their exhibit space for the coming year. Our marketing staff make sure to include reminders in newsletters and social media. I share the master “renewal calendar” so that the whole office is aware of the plan for each client.
Membership renewals are a big deal for associations – after all, members are the “lifeblood” of associations. They are why we do what we do! It’s important to keep track, have a plan, and involve multiple parties to reach members and remind them why their association is so great!