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The Secret to Membership Retention

No one wants to pay for a voluntary membership when they are broke. When things are tight, the number one rule is to eliminate the “nice-to-haves” and prioritize the “need-to-haves” in life. This is why the people who are experiencing financial challenges and yet continue to pay for their membership hold the secret to your organization’s membership retention.

Why do they stay?

There is only one reason why someone who is experiencing financial difficulty would continue to pay their membership: it has become a “need-to-have”.

They no longer see their membership as something merely important or useful; it has become a necessity. Initially, they may have joined your organization thinking that the membership would add value to their life or career….something to give them a boost.

Nevertheless, the membership retention magic occurs when members realize that the membership is not just an added benefit, but that without it they would be at a disadvantage.

So, as membership organizations, how do we increase member retention?

We need to create this disadvantage.

When our members believe that they would be at a disadvantage if they were not a member of our organization, it changes everything.

Those membership renewal reminder emails are no longer annoying junk email, but they are a welcome reminder so that members can be sure to renew on time and not miss out. Likewise, the campaigns to recruit more members are no longer unpleasant attempts to ask other people to do something that they don’t want to do, but rather they are an opportunity to spread the good news about being a part of something that fills gaps, meets needs, and improves lives.

Membership retention questions to ask:

  • How would our current members be at a disadvantage without our membership?
  • What is the disadvantage that our non-members experience by not being a part of our organization?
  • What are we doing as an organization to communicate to our current members the advantage that they have over non-members?
  • What are we doing as an organization to communicate to our target audience how they might be at a disadvantage by not being a part of this organization?

Sometimes we don’t see our advantage or disadvantage until you someone shows us.

Typically organizational leaders and master volunteer leaders have a strong conviction that membership to their organization puts their members at a major advantage, and they believe wholeheartedly that non-members really are missing out; but communicating this message is often a struggle. Organizational cheerleaders are so passionate about the mission that either they assume other people will inherently see the value or they don’t prioritize communicating this message because to them it is so obvious.

We cannot assume that our current members understand the advantage of being a member. We must tell them!

It is like preaching to a church full of people who believe. They must be reminded and encouraged.

If you think about it, anything that you do well in life is enhanced when someone recognizes it, commends it, promotes it, and puts it into words. It is important to communicate not only with non-members about what your organization has to offer, but to repeatedly talk to your existing members about the advantage of being a member.

Lack of communication leaves room for misunderstanding….even in memberships.

So, in review, identify those golden nuggets that make your membership upgrade from a “nice-to-have” to a “need-to-have” and then communicate that message to members and non-members alike. You will create a sense of disadvantage for both parties, no one will want to miss out, and voila! You not only retain your existing members, but you recruit new members while you’re at it!

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