4 Types of Member Data That Will Help You Maximize Retention

August 3, 2022
Man and woman looking at analytics data on computer screen
As for all membership organizations, member retention is critically important for associations. While both membership retention and acquisition are essential success metrics, they mean different things; namely, acquisition of new members is more costly and time-consuming. That’s why retaining members is so important. Even the most effective member acquisition strategy can only do so much good for your organization if you’re constantly fighting to retain or replace them over the long run.

As you work to engage members and strengthen your relationships with them over time, you’ll generate a lot of valuable analytics. Some of these come from predictable places, such as your renewals records, but there are places to find data that might be more unexpected. This data provides useful clues about how your member community functions and what they’re finding valuable about your association. 

Are you actively using a range of information to inform your retention strategies? If not, you should!

These types of analytics can all be used to help you better engage and retain your members, ensuring they get as much value as possible from their relationship with your association and you maintain a solid member community. Here are 4 data points to focus on to increase retention:

  • Analyze member and renewals data
  • Study eLearning engagement data
  • Examine member engagement data
  • Investigate event engagement data

Ready to learn some fresh tips for increasing your membership retention? Let’s dive right in!

1. Analyze Member and Renewals Data

Demographic information and analytics on members’ histories with your association are the first places you should look. 

Start by reviewing the current state of your retention strategies. What’s your retention rate? Who are you consistently retaining from one renewal period to the next, and who are you losing? Knowing the basic facts and figures is crucial for gauging your nonprofit's situation and developing a membership involvement strategy. Here’s how you can do this:

Use your association management system to pull a list of churned members over the past year or several years, and look for trends. You likely already segment and study your member base for the purposes of communication and strategy development. Make it a point to look for retention insights in this data, too. This data includes:

  • Duration of membership
  • Renewal histories - including any lapses
  • Age
  • Profession/title

Look for correlations between this information and who’s churning out of your association membership. Perhaps younger members are churning at higher rates, or members are dropping their memberships after a certain length of time. 

These insights give you immediate places to study your offerings and communication strategies, for instance, by examining whether you’re offering as much value to young professionals and how you can better communicate with them. Once you know this data, you have a better idea of how to format your retention strategy based on which members are churning out.

2. Study eLearning Engagement Data

eLearning is becoming the new standard for association education and programming. In fact, continuing education and certifications are some of the main reasons that professionals join associations. They should be seen as valuable, accessible, and worth the time to engage with. 

Besides attracting members to your nonprofit, eLearning offerings can also be optimized to increase overall member satisfaction. Are your members making use of your current offerings? 

To find out, look for correlations between recent retention/churn and eLearning engagement. Some metrics to look out for include course completion, badges earned, certifications completed, and frequency of engagement with eLearning. From here, you might encounter a few different situations that have various retention implications. For example:

  • High eLearning engagement among a small segment of young professionals, but high churn among young professionals overall. Could you better promote your eLearning offerings to this audience?
  • Infrequent eLearning engagement among a particular profession or title. Do you offer eLearning content or options that are relevant for these professionals?
  • Differing rates of eLearning engagement based on time spent as a member. Are members running out of eLearning options? Or does it take a while for new members to even realize they have access to eLearning?

In each of these scenarios, digging into the data gives you a quick sense of where problems might be occurring in your strategies. As you identify these issues, delve deeper into the data and ask for more member feedback to develop solutions.

Most nonprofits already know that eLearning platforms are a good way to engage with and provide value to their constituencies, but some of your platform’s most helpful offerings might be hiding unused beneath the surface. Be sure you understand your eLearning data so that you’re in a better position to publicize your software’s offerings to your members. Its worth is immense!

3. Examine Member Engagement Data

Two data sources that all member-driven nonprofits should have access to are your website and member portal. These sources are a gold mine full of retention insights and potential trends. Here’s what you should keep in mind while examining your sites. Look for engagement with your various membership tools like:

  • Forums
  • Job boards
  • Calendars
  • Self-service member profiles
  • In-person and virtual event registrations
  • Surveys

Using the data generated by these features underscores the value of using integrated tools. With engagement data flowing directly to your AMS or CRM, it’s much easier to sort and segment this information so that you can derive insights quickly. If you need guidance on a good AMS to use, check out Fonteva’s ranking of the best systems on the market.

4. Investigate Event Engagement Data

Another important analytic to look into is event engagement. Nonprofits and associations use events to showcase programming, spread their brand through the community, incentivize community members to donate, and more. 

Most importantly, associations deliver a significant amount of value to members through events, and they in turn reap the benefits. Conferences, networking events, virtual career fairs, seminars, training sessions, and more should all play important roles in your annual calendar. So, it’s important to ask yourself: are your members engaging with your events, and how does this relate to retention?

There are multiple ways to track and quantify event engagement, such as registration, attendance, activity involvement, and donations. Be sure to examine your data in your event management software. These analytics can be used to help you learn more about what kind of events your members respond positively to, which members attend which events, and how your retention changed after the event. 

Once you’ve looked at that, figure out how event engagement relates to churn. What does event engagement look like for your highest churn-risk segments? For your more stable segments, which events do they attend the most frequently?

An easy and effective way to find out this information is by conducting pre- and post-event surveys. Giving the members a say in which events they’d like to see will ensure a greater turnout in the future and lock in member satisfaction. Plus, it will make them feel like their voice is valuable to your organization and that their feedback is making a real difference.

Utilizing a short questionnaire afterwards can help you kickstart the planning process for future events and determine more threats against retention. 

As a general tip, try to include more virtual event options. Even if this includes hybridizing an event, providing your members with more attendance options will increase the likelihood that they’ll show up.

Next Steps for Improving Retention

Based on what you learn from your analytics, there may be a few routes you can take to start intentionally improving retention:

  • Collect more targeted data through surveys. As previously mentioned, surveys are a treasure trove of information to improve member retention rates. Be sure to make them specific so that you can create actionable improvements to your membership strategy.
  • Maintain strong data hygiene and implement software integrations whenever possible. First and foremost, your nonprofit should consider upgrading to an AMS if you haven’t already. Using an AMS is great, but using a clean AMS is even better. A messy database is a headache and will complicate the process of studying your data for insights. Skip the aggravation and clean your system for the good of your organization’s efficiency - your team and members alike will thank you for it! If you need some tips for data hygiene, check out NPOInfo’s guide to improving nonprofit data hygiene.
  • Invest in new member offerings, eLearning opportunities, virtual events, etc. Even before the pandemic, technology and virtual programming were evolving at an exponential pace. Now more than ever, it’s incredibly important to incorporate virtual offerings so that you can reach a greater breadth of constituents. Furthermore, is an event your members requested too expensive or unwieldy for your nonprofit to host? Consider trying a virtual option. Technology has become so widespread that your nonprofit’s potential has no bounds. Your member retention can reach new heights along with your influence in the community!
  • Actively foster more connections and community with members. A surefire way to lose membership is to limit contact between you and your members. Be sure that the communication channel is a two-way street; allow your members to contact you so that you can get their feedback. If you reach out within 90 days, you’re more likely to build a relationship with them and they’re more likely to remember you. Once you’ve identified the low-retention segments of your membership base, revisit your communication strategies with them and consider an overhaul.

Data is the most relevant and powerful tool you have at your disposal to identify weaknesses in your membership retention strategy. As long as you listen to your members’ needs and learn how to harness the power of your AMS, you’ll have many new points on your map to successful member retention. Plus, these analytics aren’t hard to find - most of these should be right in your AMS, if you know where to look!

About the Author

Erin Lemons, Senior Director of Marketing at Fonteva, joins Togetherwork Association Solutions with over 15 years serving as a marketing director, event producer, and project manager creating robust marketing campaigns and initiatives that focus on the growing and ever-changing technology needs of the association industry. She leads the marketing teams and strategy at Fonteva and Protech.

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