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Churn, Baby, Churn: Three things proactive associations will have done to rescue member retention


A valid concern.

Associations and other nonprofits that do not provide direct support or essential services related to COVID, work-from-home, or the economic downturn might be feeling a tad vulnerable by now. Perhaps they fear that their members, when faced with tough choices and competing priorities, will let their memberships lapse or will cancel outright. 


The moment(s) of truth.

36% of membership organizations have “rolling memberships” in which members renew on their anniversary date and renewals are spread out over the entire year. The rolling model creates an ongoing race for renewals but, since the effects of the pandemic haven’t quite reached a full year yet, orgs still have a chance to reactivate a percentage of their members. Trends in attrition will have been revealed slowly over the last several months and will continue into Q2 2021. 


Organizations with annual memberships (64%) that coincide with the calendar year are about to find out the fate of their membership revenue - all at once.   


Moving forward.

Will organizations lose drastic numbers of members due to spending cutbacks, priority shifts, or lack of in-person programming/events? Not if the benefits of membership are so compelling that members wouldn’t dream of leaving. And not if the organization has positioned itself as a “must-have” to its members - not an “extra” or “nice to have”.


Membership groups that haven’t gotten out in front of their renewal issue - because they’ve either been holding their breaths or they’ve been too busy figuring out how to recover/pivot from event revenue losses - may still be able to keep their membership numbers steady by taking a look at what proactive associations will have done over the last several months:


Identified the unique aspects of membership that are increasingly relevant to members today (and tomorrow). It’s not enough to ask members to remain members because you need their support. For example, if you’re a trade association whose leading value propositions are networking and connecting, you will have needed to create or shift to an online version of those activities that produce the same or similar benefits. In many ways this means that the networking will need to be more structured and deliberate than the traditional in-person models of the past. 

Increased their non-fundraising email communication. Creating deeper connections with stories, information, and person-to-person outreach through email helps to fill the void left by an absence of activities and events. Social media posting, while also important, cannot play the same role in developing a consistent dialogue. Algorithms and other social media “noise” prevent the cadence and intimacy that a well-crafted email sequence can provide. If you’ve used email primarily for announcements and solicitations in the past, it is time to reconsider. 

Revisited their mission/vision/values statements. Several things have happened concurrently in our society that call for a fresh look at the words used to articulate the mission and draw members and supporters into a shared vision for the future. Though the main tenets of an organization may stay the same, the ways in which its ethos is expressed and shared should not. 

What are you offering that your members can't find anywhere else?



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