Maximize Membership Retention: 10 Proven Strategies

Looking over a board of membership tasks

The Secret to Membership Retention: 10 Proven Strategies

Member retention is a vital aspect of any membership-based organization's survival. Why? Because your organization needs members to join and stay with you if you're going to build a community that others want to be a part of. Your members provide financial stability for your organization's future, but more importantly, they provide a network of advocates for your organization's mission and goals.

That's why we've put together this Guide to Membership Retention. Our experts at Join It have seen time and time again that what drives an organization's long-term success is its ability to not only recruit but onboard, engage, and retain its members.

In this guide, we will cover ten essential strategies proven to help you keep your members engaged and committed to your cause. Let's dive in!

What Is Member Retention?

Member retention refers to an organization's ability to hold on to members long-term after they have been onboarded. Most organizations develop member retention strategies to strengthen member relationships and continue providing a positive member experience over time. The goal of member retention is to increase member engagement and loyalty, ensuring the organization's longevity.

Member Retention Challenges for Member-Based Organizations

It's important to note that it can cost up to five times as much to reach and onboard a new member as it can to retain a member your organization already has. For this reason, it's more cost-effective to prioritize retaining your current members through excellent member experiences than to expend the effort and cost of acquiring new members. Member retention is critical for any organization, but membership-based organizations face a special set of unique challenges when it comes to retaining members over time. Let's explore some of these challenges:

  • Keeping members engaged: Many member-based organizations focus on new member acquisition. With a constant influx of new members, it can be challenging to dedicate the time and resources necessary to keep your existing members engaged once the excitement of onboarding has passed.
  • Staying ahead of competitors: Your organization isn't the only one looking for new members. Membership-based organizations often face tough competition from similar organizations that are competing for the same pool of members.
  • Meeting changing member needs: The world around us changes every day, and with it, so do your needs, interests, and wants. Your retention strategy needs to adapt to your member's needs. Take the COVID-19 pandemic, for example. Many organizations pivoted their services and events to ensure member safety through virtual and socially-distanced events.
  • Personalizing the member experience: Some membership-based organizations don't have the right systems in place to personalize member experiences. When membership experiences fail to form a personal connection, members are less invested in staying with the organization long-term. Additionally, when there is a lack of regular communication within the organization, members will likely feel disconnected and be more likely to leave.

By understanding these challenges, you can start to address the issues that apply to your organization and develop an effective membership retention strategy.

10 Proven Membership Retention Strategies

Now that you understand some of the unique issues that membership organizations face in retaining members let's see how we can solve these issues head-on.

1. Optimize New Member Onboarding

Your new member onboarding experience is a crucial tool for cultivating long-term membership. The onboarding process sets the tone for each member's experience with your organization. Making sure this is a welcoming, enjoyable, and informative experience will help ensure your new members will become actively involved in your organization's mission and goals.

Here are a few steps your organization can take to make sure members feel welcome and supported from Day 1:

  • Plan out your onboarding process: Put yourself in your new member's shoes. What information should be included in your onboarding program? Many organizations take this opportunity to introduce new members to their mission and values, as well as to give an overview of any membership benefits.
  • Break the ice: Whether you are hosting your onboarding in-person or virtually, with a group of new members or in a 1:1 setting, make sure you introduce your new member to your existing members. One effective way to introduce a member is through a personalized Welcome Email.
  • Provide networking opportunities: You can increase your member's longevity by introducing them to your members that are already engaged and committed to your mission. Mentorship programs, volunteering, and networking events are great ways for these members to meet.

Don't forget to reach out to your recently onboarded members after they've settled in to ask for feedback on their onboarding experience. Their feedback on what worked and what didn't work can help you improve your onboarding experience for future new members.

2. Provide Valuable Content and Resources

Offering current members special resources and information can help members understand what specific benefit they receive from being part of your organization. It's a sense of exclusivity that many members enjoy.

Members are more inclined to renew if they see that they're getting something valuable from being part of your organization. Additionally, having access to special tools and additional content can help members feel connected to the organization, making them more likely to remain part of it.

Some of the content, materials, and benefits your organization can provide to members include:

  • Exclusive articles, white papers, research, and publications.
  • Videos such as tutorials and webinars.
  • Discounts on products, services, and events such as conferences.
  • Online communities and forums where members can exchange their resources and knowledge.

The more current members see value in keeping their membership, the more your retention strategy will help your organization stay strong and grow.

3. Foster a Sense of Community

Giving your members a strong sense of community gives them more motivation and purpose. That can keep them happier and encourage them to continue being part of your organization.

Among the ways your organization can foster a sense of community are to:

  • Create online forums: Having forums or discussion boards makes it easy and convenient for members to connect, exchange information, and ask plenty of questions.
  • Offer social media groups: Creating private groups allow users to connect privately with others in your organization, helping them speak more freely.
  • Host events: Workshops, conferences, and networking events are all great opportunities for members of your organization to come together.
  • Provide volunteer opportunities: Community service, mentoring, and leadership roles are all possible within an organization to give members a way to help by using their talents.

Being a part of something greater than themselves is a valuable and important concept for many people. It's an excellent way to keep your members engaged.

4. Collect and Act on Member Feedback

Feedback from your current members is critical. Not only do you want to hear what that feedback is, but you also want to act on it if possible. When enough members ask for something specifically designed for them, making changes helps build trust.

Showing members that you value their concerns and needs shows that you take them seriously and appreciate what they bring to your organization. When they trust that you'll listen to them, they'll be more loyal members for a more extended period.

You can seek out member feedback in several ways, including:

  • Surveys: By creating and distributing surveys through the mail, email, or a website, you can get feedback on several subjects. Find out if members are generally satisfied, and ask them about specific programs and what they think needs improvement.
  • Focus groups: A focus group with few participants can foster an in-depth discussion on nearly any subject. That helps provide insight into the concerns and needs of members.
  • Open-ended opportunities for feedback: Letting members provide feedback through in-person meetings, over the phone, or by email helps gather specific, qualitative information. Let members tell you precisely what they want and need.

Once you're given feedback, examine it and make the necessary changes. When you make a change, let your members know. You'll also want a system for tracking feedback to see what's working and what might still need improvement.

5. Offer Multiple Membership Tiers

When members join your organization, you want to give them options. One great way to do that is by offering multiple membership tiers.

Having more than one tier can help engaged members choose a tier that meets their needs and fits their budget. Here's an example of the tiers a membership-based organization might offer:

  • Basic membership: includes access to the essential benefits of your organization, like online communities and member resources.
  • Standard membership: includes additional membership benefits like access to exclusive events or special membership discounts for products and services.
  • Premium membership: includes all membership benefits of basic and standard membership plus personalized services or one-on-one consultation.

The benefits included with each tier will vary based on your organization's goals and offerings. You may also want to consider student membership, senior membership, and lifetime memberships.

Additionally, you might consider different payment options to cater to your members' preferences. At a minimum, offering monthly or annual payment options helps members fit your organization into their budget.

Finally, it's a good idea to default to recurring billing to make it easier for members to keep their membership active without having to remember to manually renew it.

6. Personalize the Member Experience

Personalizing the experience for your organization's members helps them stay engaged and provides a more positive experience. Some of the ways you can create this personalized experience include:

  • Personalized recommendations: When you collect data about a member's preferences, interests, and behaviors, you can recommend content, services, and more relevant products.
  • Tailored communication: Understanding a member's preferred communication channels leads to more effective communication with that member.
  • Custom user interface: Customizing a member's interface to match their preferences and needs shows them they're essential to your organization.
  • Personalized services: Personalized services such as training sessions or workout regimens can help your members feel like you're seeing them as individuals and understanding their needs.

Members tend to stay where they're valued and feel wanted or appreciated. Small personalization choices can make them feel seen, which is a great retention strategy.

7. Offer Incentives

Incentives are very motivating, and they work by rewarding members for their engagement with your organization. To provide good incentives, you need to know your members' preferences, so you can customize incentives based on what's important to them.

You also want to consider short-term and long-term incentives to increase the member lifecycle and provide more personal contact to increase engagement. Some valuable ideas for incentives include:

  • Money in the form of discounts or other financial rewards for any member who's been part of your organization for a particular time.
  • Access to services, content, or events is based on how long someone has been part of the organization.
  • You can easily do recognition for long-term members through social media or the organization's website.
  • Members can only access experiences through being part of a particular tier or being part of the organization for a set period.
  • Product incentives like getting a free product after a certain length of membership or for a tier upgrade.

Incentives don't necessarily have to be big to be valuable to your members. They can be based on membership level, how long someone has been a member, or other criteria. The most important thing about any incentive your organization offers is that it should be something your member base wants.

8. Diversify Your Membership Base

When you diversify your membership base, you make it easier for people from all walks of life and all different communities to feel like they belong. When members are able to fully be themselves and feel like they are welcome, they are more likely to stay with your organization for a long time.

A diverse membership base will also help make your organization more engaging by bringing together various ideas and perspectives. People can make their voices heard and learn about the values and feelings of others. This often contributes to members seeing how they're not that different from other groups of people they might not have otherwise formed a connection.

There are some essential tips for diversifying the membership base of your organization, including:

  • Reflection: Take a look at the demographics you have right now, and consider anywhere that diversity could be increased. Representation in a wide variety of demographic categories can help your organization blossom.
  • Initiative: Creating recruitment tactics and efforts that serve various populations helps you bring in more currently underrepresented demographics. Excellent customer service and a willingness to understand varying needs can help.
  • Support: Open discussions around diversity are vital to create an inclusive culture and address any educational measures your organization should take to support a widely diverse group of individuals.
  • Deliberate choices: If you prioritize inclusion and diversity in your organization, make a point to do so deliberately. Ensure you encourage inclusive membership retention strategies and foster diversity in your hiring and promotion decisions.
  • Welcoming attitude: Using inclusive language in your communication channels matters. If you aren't inclusive, it could mean that members leave because they don't feel comfortable. You want everyone who reads anything from you to feel comfortable being themselves.
  • Visibility: Attending neighborhood gatherings and networking opportunities can help your organization get noticed. Promote what you offer, and meet potential members from different backgrounds.

Diversifying your membership base doesn't have to be difficult, but it does have to be deliberate. Create a diversity and inclusion plan, set measurable goals, and regularly monitor your progress on these goals.

9. Use Technology

The use of technology is one of the best ways to increase member retention and provide excellent customer service to everyone who's part of your organization. Technology often allows members to interact conveniently and offers an engaging and effective experience.

How can you use technology most efficiently from the onboarding process through long-term member retention? Here are some examples of putting technology to good use:

  • Automation: When you automate the member renewal process, payments, and communication, you can save a lot of time. That also lowers the chance of mistakes, which improves member satisfaction and helps increase membership retention numbers.
  • Communication: Through social media, SMS, and email, your organization can have prompt and convenient communication about volunteer opportunities, events, rewards, and other news.
  • Engagement: By using online polls, forums, and social media, members have more chances to interact with additional members and foster a community-driven experience that can keep them coming back.
  • Accessibility: When you make it easier for your members to access a member portal, mobile app, or digital membership cards, you can give members the tools they need to keep interacting with your organization and its other members.
  • Data analysis: Using technology helps you analyze data on the behavior of your members, so you can spot significant trends and make adjustments based on those trends. That can help customers feel heard and keep retention higher.

Technology is a handy tool, but you want to be sure you're using it carefully. If it's not user-friendly and doesn't make sense for your members, they will just get frustrated. That could have the opposite effect of what you're hoping for.

10. Track Membership Retention Rates

When you track retention rates, you can get a better idea of the health of your organization as a whole. You can also make choices backed by data and find areas where you can improve. Some of the data you should be tracking includes the following:

  • Member retention rate: This is the percentage of your members who stay for a set period.
  • Churn rate: This is the percentage of members who leave over a specific period.
  • Average membership length: This is how long a member stays with your organization.
  • Renewal rate: You need to know the percentage of members renewing their memberships.
  • Member engagement: This data includes survey and forum participation, event attendance, and similar statistics. It can help you see where people aren't engaging, so you can make adjustments.

To use retention data with a focus on improving your members' experience, make sure you:

  • Understand areas where retention is low and churn rates are high, so you can improve these areas and reduce dissatisfaction.
  • Identify best practices and replicate them across other areas, improving the organization's offerings.
  • Enhance services and benefits by tracking what members value most and improving perceived membership value.
  • Improve activities and events by tracking engagement and attendance and improving value and relevance for future experiences.

Getting the correct data about retention rates, and knowing how to use that information effectively, can make it easier to determine what kinds of changes you should make. Then you can plan a retention strategy that works for your organization and its members.

Implementing an Effective Membership Retention Strategy with Join It

Membership retention is a vital part of success for any organization. While it's important to continue recruiting new members, long-term growth and stability will rely on keeping your existing members happy and engaged.

There are many membership retention growth strategies you can use that range from sending personalized communications to encouraging diversity and inclusivity in your organization.

With membership management software like Join It, your organization can simplify and streamline these retention strategies and implement them more easily.

Here are just a few reasons why Join It is the clear choice:

Get the software you need to get started today by signing up for a free trial and starting the journey to a better customer retention experience. Or, to learn more about Join It's features, head on over to our features page.