Improving Member Retention: 5 Tried and True Techniques

March 6, 2019
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Your members are central to your organization’s success. Whether they’re contributing donations, skills, or time, their continued participation is necessary to ensure your organization’s future. Beneficial to both your members and your organization, these lasting partnerships are worth your organization’s time and effort to build and maintain.

Acquiring new members to grow your support base is an important milestone for your organization, but it isn’t enough on its own. You need to create a membership system that engages individual members and encourages them to maintain their support.

Luckily, membership retention doesn’t have to be difficult. With the help of your member database and management system as well as a thoughtful system for reaching out to your supporters, you’re sure to grow your retention rate. Let’s take a look at the ways in which your organization can:

  1. Inform your approach using the member data stored in your CRM.
  2. Create and define your organization’s membership benefits.
  3. Personalize your communications with members.
  4. Make membership renewal easy.
  5. Remember to show appreciation for your members.

Better member retention begins with improved member management. Begin by ensuring that you’re taking advantage of the member data in your CRM to understand all that you can about your current members.

The first step in crafting a personalized outreach that will encourage your members to maintain their support is to evaluate what you already know about them. Your membership management software can help you put the data stored in your CRM into action by facilitating communication and interaction with members.

The most effective membership management software solutions are those that make it easy for your organization to gather and access important information on your members in order to structure your communications with them. Look for software that creates and augments individual member profiles based on the information your members input when they begin or upgrade their memberships and when they participate in your events. You’ll want to have their:

  • Full name. Knowing your members’ preferred names, along with their correct titles, are essential when you’re preparing to reach out to them or thank them for their membership.
  • Membership information. You’ll probably choose to tier your membership benefits and related communications according to membership level. Knowing your supporters’ membership levels at a glance can also help you decide when it’s time to encourage them to upgrade.
  • Contact information. Different members will have different preferences when it comes to how they want to be contacted. The more comprehensive your contact information, the more likely you’ll be to identify their favorite contact methods.
  • Relationship with your organization. How long have your supporters been members of your organization? What events have they attended? Information like this can help you structure future communications with different members.

Choosing membership management software that allows you to add custom fields so that you can organize and search your members by the categories that matter most to your organization’s specific needs.

Already have most information of this kind stored in your CRM, but still interested in the additional features, from event management to member self-service portals, that membership management software offers? Look for a membership management software solution that integrates with your existing CRM so that all of your member data remains easily accessible.

Better yet, if you’re using a major CRM such as Salesforce, look for a native membership management software solution that saves your team the work of integration and learning a new system. Fonteva’s membership software guide can provide you with more information on important features to look for when choosing membership management software.

You can also use your membership management software to offer additional online opportunities, from member groups to educational materials. Whether you’re recruiting new members or increasing your offerings to your current members, these opportunities are one way to demonstrate your interest in your members’ continued involvement. Ensure that your current members understand all of the benefits that their participation brings them.

Whether you’re trying to attract new members, renew lapsed members’ interest, or reward your most committed members for their support, it’s essential that your organization is able to explain and offer membership program benefits. Members will be more excited about renewing or maintaining their memberships when they know exactly what they’re getting when they do so.

While all new organizations planning to offer a nonprofit membership program have to determine the role of members within the organization and the benefits to offer them, it’s worth going through this process again even if your organization has had a membership program for years. Before you reach out to your members, ask your team whether:

  • Your organization has a clear purpose for your members. Your members deserve thanks for providing your organization with consistent support, but do they have other roles within your organization that could be emphasized in your communications? If you believe that they represent your organization to the public or influence your organization’s work, mention this when you reach out to your members.
  • Your current membership benefits are effective. Whether this means early or exclusive access to specific events or products, discounts, or online organizations, ensure that your members are taking advantage of their current benefits. This way, you’ll better understand how to expand or change what you’re already giving them.
  • Your members are taking advantage of online resources. If you’re using membership management software that provides members with additional online resources such as groups or webinars, check to see whether your members are interacting with them. If they are, expanding your membership benefits by offering more online resources is a strong strategy!

Whether you maximize your members’ engagement with your organization online, in person, or through both channels, it’s important for all of your current members to know when you add new membership benefits and how they can take advantage of them. Don’t forget to communicate new benefits, events, and other developments with your members! For the most effective communications, reach out to different groups of members using personalized strategies.

Regardless of the nature or purpose of the organizations to which they belong, members everywhere have at least one shared interest: they want to be treated and valued as individuals. Each of your members brings unique interests and perspectives to your organization, and each will interact with your products or programming in different ways. Your organization will retain more members when your communications address their specific reasons for involving themselves in your organization.

For large organizations especially, the process of tailoring communications for different members can seem daunting. How can you reach out to donors more personally in a manner that’s still efficient for your organization? Organizations of all sizes can benefit from taking the all-important first step of segmenting the data already contained in their membership CRM.

After you segment your data, you can create custom lists of members with shared characteristics and send out communications tailored to the interests of each list. Once you’ve created the perfect messages or reminders for each list of members, you can automate the sending process using your membership management software. To get started with segmenting, consider the following categories:

  • Membership level. Because your organization likely offers different membership benefits at different levels, segmenting your members by level is a great way to alert different groups of new members to your most recent developments.  
  • Past engagement with your organization. Is there a particular type of event that a group of your members regularly attends? If some of them have demonstrated consistent engagement with one type of your organization’s offerings, communicate upcoming events or offerings in this category to this group of members.
  • Location and other demographic information. If your organization regularly interacts with the community in which you’re based, you may have special opportunities to offer members living in your community. Additional demographic information, such as the ages of your members, can also help your organization determine the programming or products your members would likely be interested in.

If during the segmentation process you realize that you need more information on your members or that your organization could be doing a better job of attracting the right members, it may be a good time to consider conducting prospect research. Prospect research data can help you learn more about current and potential members and can make reaching out more effective. A prospect research company like DonorSearch can help you learn more about your options should your organization choose to conduct prospect research.

One important component of personalized communication is incorporating member feedback. You’ll boost member engagement and increase retention when you show that you’re responsive to their comments: what they liked, what they didn’t, and what they want more of. This will help you provide them with offerings that inspire them to renew their membership, so make sure that the renewal process is easy when the time comes for them to do so.

Your most dedicated members appreciate the benefits and programming that your organization offers. They want to remain involved, but they’re also busy people who don’t want membership renewal to become a lengthy or confusing process. Help your supporters renew their memberships by using your membership management software to make renewal a quick and easy process.

With the help of the right membership management system, you can automate aspects of the renewal process to make it easier for both your team and your members. Select software with the ability to recognize a membership about to expire, then create a renewal message for your system to send to members. As you craft your message, don’t forget to:

  • Personalize it. The first step is using their preferred first name, but you should go beyond that to make reference to their specific form of involvement in your organization, whether that’s their membership level or a type of event they have frequented.
  • Give them time. While it’s good to indicate the importance of renewing sooner rather than later, give your members enough time to renew so that they don’t feel rushed or that their future membership is at risk.
  • Thank them. Whenever you communicate with your members, it’s essential that you thank them for their continued involvement with your organization. Acknowledging their importance will encourage them to stay involved.

Want to encourage members to step up to a new membership level? Make this option easily accessible via your online platform as well, offering it as an option to eligible members when they complete their renewal. To encourage them to upgrade, you may wish to send out a communication indicating the benefits and opportunities reserved for higher-level members ahead of the renewal period.

Members want to complete their renewal quickly and have confirmation of their decision as soon as possible. To make the process as easy as possible for them, look for membership management software that offers a member self-service portal through which they can complete renewals, receive updates on their membership status, and access any online resources your organization provides to your members.

Whether they’re renewing their memberships, upgrading their membership levels, or participating in your organization’s events, make sure that you’re thanking your members each time you interact with them.

Like you, your members know that their involvement with your organization is mutually beneficial. You can motivate them to stay involved by acknowledging the importance of their continued contributions. Every interaction with your members presents an opportunity to thank them.

For an easy way to provide your members with immediate thanks, include this message whenever your membership management software sends an automated communication to your members. This is an easy and effective way to remind your members of their importance to your organization.

Actions that are less routine, such as making an additional contribution, helping with an event, or upgrading their membership level, may require a hand-signed thank-you. Regardless of the method you choose, ensure that the note is personalized with the member’s preferred name and makes reference to the particular ways in which they have supported your organization.

Want to thank your members after a particularly large event or after they’ve made significant contributions to your organization? Consider hosting a thank-you event as a perk to offer your members for a job well done. In-person thank-you events can take place at the beginning of your organization’s year or season to welcome your members back. Alternatively, you can host one following a major achievement for your organization.

Your organization depends on the continued support of your members, just as they depend on you for programming or services that improve their professional or personal lives. When you thank them, you’re showing them that they’re an important part of your organization’s work and make your continuation possible.

Your organization will retain members when you make involvement and renewal easy and remember to thank them for their support. With a personalized outreach strategy and the help of membership management software tools, your membership is sure to grow.

About the Author

Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.

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