4 Ways to Ensure Association Membership Renewal in 2020

June 10, 2020
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Many people join associations to meet other professionals in their field and take advantage of valuable networking opportunities. For these people, the cost of the membership is greatly justified by the value that the association brings, whether it’s through continued learning courses or large conferences with important speakers. 

However, with COVID-19 pushing people to stay home and all in-person engagements on indefinite pause, many associations are unsure of how to continue bringing that same value to their members and fear increased membership attrition rates. 

While you likely had to cancel or postpone upcoming events or activities, your association can still effectively engage its members and provide meaningful experiences—just in a different way. Consider how you can leverage your online tools and association management platform to replicate the value derived from the in-person engagements you’ve provided before. 

By focusing on digital engagements and online opportunities, your association can still provide value to your members. Read on to learn the different tactics and strategies you can implement to ensure association membership renewal:

  1. Maintain consistent communication
  2. Provide a dedicated online space for members to interact
  3. Increase virtual engagement opportunities
  4. Set KPIs to pinpoint members at risk of not renewing

No one could have predicted what 2020 would bring and how the impacts would affect all areas of society. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re left with nothing. With the right tools and software supporting your efforts, it’s possible to show the value of your membership. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

1. Maintain consistent communication

While this is a confusing and hectic time for everyone, including your members, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to hear from you. If your association has longevity, you should already have a dedicated email strategy. This likely involves a recurring newsletter announcing upcoming events and classes as well as more targeted communications like payment confirmations or membership renewal reminders.

In times of turmoil, it’s more crucial than ever to flesh out your communication strategy and ensure that you’re still providing your members with meaningful content. This includes important updates, valuable information, and digital engagement opportunities. 

Investing in dedicated communications tools is one of the best ways to keep your association organized and stay on track. This way, you know what emails are being sent out, who opens the email, and more, depending on the solution you have. To maximize your communications strategy, make sure you have the following capabilities:

  • Email content automation. As soon as members join your association, your constituent relationship management (CRM) system should collect that data. Make sure any email content you send is automatically personalized with data from the CRM. At a minimum, your tools should work together to ensure that each email sent out is automatically personalized with the member’s name.
  • Advanced scheduling. Sometimes you have announcements to send out, but they’d be more beneficial at a later date. With advanced scheduling, you should be able to write any emails you want beforehand, and then pick the best time to send it out for your members to read it. This is great for sending out event registration reminders or announcements regarding membership renewal deadlines.
  • Member segmentation. Oftentimes, you’re going to have communications that don’t necessarily need to be sent out to your entire member base. This can happen with emails regarding a specific learning session or with members who have a higher status than others. This is why it’s crucial that you can segment your members and create targeted content that is only sent to those segments. According to a DoubleKnot article, segmentation is one of the top marketing strategies to more precisely reach your constituents. 

Maintaining consistent communication is crucial to ensuring your members don’t start lapsing, especially during times of turmoil like now. Make sure you’re fully leveraging all the tools you have to best reach your members with the right content.

2. Provide a dedicated online space for members to interact

One of the top reasons why people consistently renew their association memberships is due to the networking and engagement opportunities with other professionals in their field. Whatever industry your association caters to, conferences and other in-person events are the most popular ways for members to interact with each other.

However, with stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines, these opportunities for engagement are not currently feasible. 

Using your association management software system, consider ways you can curate these experiences online rather than in-person. This way, you can continue to build your association community and show members that there is still value there.

Consider the following methods:

  • Embed a member portal within your association’s website. Without in-person engagements, your website is now the hub of all things related to your association. Ensure that each member can access a member portal by simply using a login key and password. Within the member portal, members should be able to access things like a member directory and even an online discussion board.
  • Provide a member directory. Consider providing a navigable member directory consisting of profiles on each member. Each profile can include any details that the member allows, from photos to bios with contact information to official accreditations. This is a great way for members to get familiar with others in the association and put faces to names.
  • Host an online discussion board. A great way to incentivize your members to start engaging with each other is to provide a place for them to freely discuss. With an online discussion board or forum, members can pose questions, answer others, and communicate with each other regarding relevant topics to the association.

Even though your members can’t interact in person, there are still plenty of ways your association can provide a dedicated online space for engagement. Members can still take advantage of your association’s network, increasing their engagement and chances of them renewing.

3. Increase virtual engagement opportunities

As we’ve already discussed, in-person meetings and large events are out of the question for the foreseeable future. While this may have disappointed your association as well as your members, it doesn’t mean you have to wait months to offer these types of engagements. 

Consider virtual alternatives instead. With the right software solution and online tools, it’s entirely possible to create a virtual event that is just as engaging as an in-person one. 

Virtual events have been on the rise for a while and have become quite popular for organizations and businesses alike. If you’ve ever attended an online seminar or had a meeting over video chat, you’re already familiar with the basic tools of a virtual event.

What types of experiences can your association host digitally? Consider the following examples:

  • Virtual conference
  • Webinars
  • Online learning opportunities
  • & more!

All of these events can easily be converted to the online space using video tools and a virtual event platform. To get a better idea of the types of virtual events that your members would like to see and engage with, take a look at past events and other data within your CRM.

According to this article, your data gives you a big clue to possible engagement efforts. For instance, if many of your members enjoyed a conference you held last year, consider offering a virtual one this year! Or, if many of your members are seeking the same certification or credits, try offering an official online course dedicated to that.

Make sure you have tools that can integrate (or are native to each other) to ensure that no data gets lost. This is especially crucial if you need to quickly pivot your in-person event to a virtual one. This way, all registration and past event data is automatically available within your virtual event tools and ready for use. To learn more about how software can drastically level-up your virtual offerings, check out this Fonteva article on virtual events.

4. Set KPIs to pinpoint members at risk of not renewing

As you can tell, your association management software is key to many of these engagements and efforts. Your tools and CRM system are how you collect and monitor important data on your members and various association efforts. By tracking and using this data, you can also pinpoint patterns and create insights to determine those members who are at risk of not renewing.

How can you use data to determine this fact? With key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are strategic metrics that your association can set to track overall progress towards quantifiable goals. For instance, if your goal is to improve your social media presence, consider tracking the amount of traffic your social media accounts get based on likes, follows, and comments.

In this case, your goal is to decrease your member attrition rate. To determine the types of KPIs you should set and track, first brainstorm the metrics that indicate members losing interest. Consider the following:

  • Decrease in email-open rates. Determine which of your members aren’t getting value from your association communications by tracking email-open rates. If a member continues to ignore your emails and not respond to call-to-actions, it’s a good sign that they might not be interested in renewing their membership. 
  • Low virtual event registrations. Those who often sign up for the various events your association hosts are way more likely to want to continue your engagements. Those who haven’t engaged with any of these opportunities are more likely to not find any use for your association. The same goes for your virtual events as well. 
  • Decline in online course sign-ups. It’s likely that your association also offers continuing education opportunities through a learning Management System (LMS). Consider keeping track of whether course sign-ups decrease or increase during this time. Your donors who aren’t signing up might be losing interest.

Set these KPIs and make sure to track them over time. This way, you get a good idea as to how your members are currently feeling. Members that are at risk to not renew will likely be lapsing in one of these engagements.

From there, make a list of members at-risk for attrition and start prioritizing those relationships even more. Consider contacting them by phone (if they aren’t opening emails) to ask if there’s anything they’d like changed or if there’s anything in particular that they want offered. This way, you can start the dialogue and show them that your association is working hard to bring them value.

This guide isn’t just helpful for times of crisis like during a global pandemic. You’ll likely be facing this struggle each year as membership renewal dates approach. By following our tips and best practices, you’re sure to increase member retention and better understand how to meet their needs. Good luck!

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