4 Strategies to Maximize Your Org’s Membership Program

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4 Strategies to Maximize Your Org’s Membership Program

For organizations that rely on memberships to thrive, such as associations, sororities and fraternities, and museums and cultural organizations, year-over-year member retention should be part of your long-term strategic plan. Not only are membership dues a significant and reliable revenue source, but members tend to be the most engaged individuals in your association membership or your organization’s donor community and make it possible to fulfill your mission.

Retaining members effectively requires that you provide as much value as possible through memberships. In this guide, we’ll walk through the following four strategies to make the most of your organization’s membership program and boost retention rates:

  1. Review Your Membership Structure and Benefits
  2. Clearly Communicate With Members About Renewals
  3. Plan Members-Only Events
  4. Leverage Membership Management Software

As you implement these strategies, check in with your members regularly to see what is going well and where you could still provide a better experience for them to ensure their continued support of your organization. Let’s dive in!

1. Review Your Membership Structure and Benefits

As an association leader, you know members will renew their memberships at your organization only if they feel like they’re still getting value from them. This value should be commensurate with the amount they’re paying for their membership each year.

To assess the quality of your organization’s membership benefits and program structure, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do all members pay the same fee at our organization, or do we have a tiered membership structure where members pay more to receive more benefits?
  • What fee(s) do we currently charge members?
  • What perks do members get when they join our program or sign up at each tier of membership?
  • Have we gained members or had members upgrade their memberships this year? If so, what reasons do they cite for doing so?
  • Have we lost members or had members drop down membership tiers this year? If so, what reasons do they cite?

You should be able to find the numerical answers to most of these questions in your organization’s database. To supplement this information with member input, develop a few short surveys to send out to members who have joined in the past year, those who have upgraded, and lapsed members. 

These firsthand perspectives can be extremely useful when deciding how to update your program. For instance, if lapsed members said that they quit the program because they thought the fee was too high, you could add a lower-level tier that includes only some of the benefits at a reduced price. This can encourage some of those lapsed members to come back and allow members who were considering not renewing because of the cost to stay in the program.

2. Clearly Communicate With Members About Renewals

Once you’ve decided how to restructure your membership benefits, it’s time to reach out to your members to ensure they understand the changes and encourage them to renew. Leverage all of your organization’s marketing channels to do this, including:

  • Your website. Update the Memberships page with your new benefits and pricing information, and direct visitors to that page to learn more about the changes.
  • Social media. Design eye-catching graphics with concise captions for platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to promote your membership program and encourage followers to renew on your website.
  • Direct mail. Since the main advantage of direct mail is its personal nature, use a template to get started and customize it with each member’s name and unique details about their engagement with your organization.
  • Email marketing. Add a section to your next few monthly newsletters about memberships in addition to creating a dedicated renewal campaign for current members.

A multi-channel marketing strategy like this creates more touchpoints where members can see your renewal notices so they’re nearly impossible to miss. Track engagement data from each channel so you can get an idea of members’ preferences and communicate with them even more effectively going forward.

3. Plan Members-Only Events

While some of your organization’s events may be open to non-members, it’s important to also create member-to-member networking opportunities and host events just for members. According to NPOInfo, events are a top member cultivation strategy because they allow members to feel more connected to each other and to your organization. Plus, they’re another benefit that can make your memberships more valuable.

Members-only events could take the form of:

  • Appreciation luncheons, dinners, or happy hours
  • Networking socials that allow members to meet other members who share their interests
  • Workshops or presentations to enhance the educational experience members get from being members

Consider your members’ demographics and preferences when deciding what type of event to host. For example, associations composed mostly of young professionals might plan networking events to help members form connections in their field, while organizations that attract many members with children or grandchildren may choose to host workshops that cater to the whole family.

4. Leverage Membership Management Software

Between analyzing data on your membership structure, sending out multiple types of communications, and organizing events, membership retention requires your organization to manage a lot of moving parts. This is where management software comes in.

When choosing a membership management platform for your organization, look for features such as:

  • A comprehensive member database to collect membership renewal data, determine which members may be at risk of lapsing, and manage payments and fulfillment of benefits.
  • Communications tools that allow you to create templated emails, segment recipient lists, and track open and click-through rates.
  • Event planning solutions so you can schedule events, send out invitations, collect registrations, and check attendees in with ease.
  • Point-of-sale systems which automatically apply member benefits to any purchases made through your organization to ensure members get the most out of their memberships.

There are countless types of management software to choose from. Look for a solution that is tailored to your organization’s size and structure so you can more effectively meet your members’ needs and achieve your retention goals.

Keep in mind that every membership organization is different, so you’ll need to adapt the strategies above to align with your goals and appeal to your specific member base. However, with a clear plan and the right tools on your side, you’ll be able to retain more members year over year and bring in the consistent dues revenue you need to thrive.

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AMR is an accredited association management company (AMC) providing a wide range of services including strategic leadership support, financial management, event planning, member relations, marketing, communications, program management, information technology services and general administration. Looking for help with your association? Get In Touch With Us Today!

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