Membership Retention Best Practices for Associations

Jannan Poppen

09/26/2022

One of the best methods to create a thriving membership is to focus on membership retention best practices. We’ve outlined why member retention is important, but what do best practices look like when it comes to member retention? Luckily the answer is simple, although it does require a holistic view of your membership lifecycle. By optimizing your membership lifecycle from the lens of member retention, you can maximize retention while identifying areas of potential improvement.

What does it mean to optimize your membership lifecycle?

First of all, let’s define your membership lifecycle. A membership lifecycle includes the entire experience of a member in your association from the moment they join until they leave and everything in between. Optimizing the lifecycle simply means making sure that members are moving smoothly from one phase to another throughout the entirety of their membership.  For the purpose of optimizing membership lifecycle for member retention, let’s look at four phases of the membership lifecycle and what you can do during each phase to optimize it.
 

Member retention

Phase 1: Just Joined

In this phase, it’s important to take a deep dive look into your onboarding process. The onboarding process is your opportunity to introduce brand new members to the community and the association as a whole. What information do they need to know? What would make their integration seamless? Onboarding may be as simple as an automated welcome email delivering the key points they need to know, or it could include a phone call and a mailed swag bag. Each and every onboarding process will be unique to your association. However it looks, it should make your new members feel welcomed, provide necessary information, and capitalize on the excitement of joining.

During this phase you also want to consider what information you need from members and have a way to collect it. At the very least, you’ll want to know why they are joining and what they hope to gain from the experience.

Phase 2: New Member

New members are defined as three to six months after joining. In this phase, you’ll start to learn more about your new members by obtaining member data. You’ll begin to see where and how they engage. It’s essential to track that data because the more you know about your members, the more you can personalize their experience. Personalization is key to creating long-term engaged members, and therefore is key to retention. If a new member is not engaging, this is your opportunity to find out why and correct the course.

The other key component of optimizing the new member phase is to get your members in the habit of engaging, whether it is by opening emails, liking social media posts, or participating in events. Are you asking members to engage? Are you providing regular and consistent opportunities for engagement? For example, if you only offer one yearly large event, what about the new members who join the association right after the event and have to wait almost an entire year to participate? They will need opportunities to feel connected to your association in order to move them to the next phase.

Phase 3: Long-term Member

Long-term members typically segment into two distinct categories: engaged or disengaged. The goal of course is to encourage engagement among your members, but disengaged members still provide helpful information and opportunity to optimize the lifecycle. At what point in the membership are most members disengaging? What does the disengagement look like? A member may decide to retain and maintain their membership but not participate in events, for example. This provides another opportunity to determine what members need or expect as part of their membership.

Flexibility is also crucial in making sure long-term members stay engaged. Despite your best efforts to provide engagement opportunities, sometimes life gets in the way. Members may be experiencing a particularly busy season, perhaps the birth of a child or a career promotion, that prevents them from engaging. In these cases, flexible membership options can go a long way in retaining a long-term member.

Long-term members should receive regular communication as well as regular opportunities to provide feedback. In particular, engagement surveys provide necessary information about what is going well and what members view as valuable. Tracking member engagement data allows you to identify engagement trends and amp up the areas where you are seeing success.

Phase 4: Post-Membership

The membership lifecycle doesn’t end when a member retires or quits. Retirees in particular can serve as the best ambassadors, so maintaining communication or even providing incentives for referrals can be particularly effective. Even though at this point, we are no longer talking about retention,it’s important to be aware that this phase exists and is still a part of the overall membership lifecycle.

Member retention should be at the core of your overall membership strategy. Optimizing the membership lifecycle is one of the most effective ways to enhance member retention, thereby saving money and creating more engaged and loyal memberships.