Top tips for retaining and growing membership dues revenue

Here are six effective ways to demonstrate greater member value and keep members around longer.

What association isn’t focused on increasing membership and improving member retention?  

For most associations, membership dues represent the single largest source of revenue. So, it’s probably not too surprising that the 2021 Association Trends Study shows that those who work at associations see increasing membership and improving member retention as their top two most important activities in the coming year. 

So, what can your association do to retain, and even grow, membership dues revenue? Here are six ways to deliver greater member value and keep members around longer:

1. Be member-centric.

To retain and grow your member base, members must be the priority. Start by asking yourself: Two people chatting and connecting

  • Are you being member-centric or association-centric?
  • Are you doing all you can to support and provide value to members from the moment they join to the moment they renew?
  • Are you asking for and incorporating member feedback into your member benefits, programs, and communications?
     

With the answers to these questions in mind, review your messaging to make sure it’s member-centric. For example: 

  • Review your website copy. Is it all about your members? Or is it about your association?
  • Evaluate and revise your communications copy. Make sure it’s more member-focused than association-focused.
  • Incorporate pictures of your members. Your members are your association. So, be sure to include their faces in your website, emails, and other communications.
     

2. Offer a clear value statement.

For people to make a purchase, they must believe they’re getting value for their dollars. In all communications, make it clear to members and prospective members what value your association offers. Some tips:

  • Explain in clear, simple terms how your association makes a difference for your industry or profession.
  • Spell out specific results members will see by becoming a member.
  • State your association’s value in a way that can be read and understood in a matter of seconds.
     

woman standing at a lectern3. Use content to convey value. 

Your members look to your association as a trusted source of information in your industry. Capitalize on your members’ desire to stay informed by: 

  • Providing your members with the latest news, research, and reports for your industry or profession
  • Letting members know how your organization is helping to raise awareness of their profession/industry 
  • Let members know about the standards you help to set for their profession/industry and the importance of a code of ethics
  • Taking time to increase the quality of your professional learning opportunities, giving members a wider variety of ways to attain the education they need to fulfill requirements and further their careers
  • Providing members with an online community where they can access content, discuss topics, and share advice and learning experiences with each other
     

TIP: Nimble AMS by Community Brands has built-in online community functionality called Nimble Communities. Nimble Communities allows you to easily set up and host a branded online member community where you can provide members with access to relevant content while giving them an online place to connect and collaborate with your association and each other. 

4. Think strategically about membership pricing.

It can be tempting to offer membership discounts to drive more new memberships and improve member retention. But proceed cautiously with discounts.

Here’s why: When you work hard to provide member value, offering discounts can make the membership seem “cheap”. If you’re offering great value, people will be willing to pay for the membership.

However, if conditions in your industry or the economy overall make you think that offering a discount will make a difference in your ability to retain and grow dues revenue, consider a few strategic approaches, such as:
 

  • Providing a discounted membership specifically for students and new graduates
  • Offering a limited time discount for new memberships and/or renewals, such as “pay for one year and get an extra three months free”
  • Offering a few levels of membership that include different benefits so that members can choose the combination of benefits that they value most 

5. Make it easy to join and renew.

Once you’ve made the value of membership clear, make sure you don’t lose the new or renewing member to a clunky process. The easier you make it for members to join and renew, the more likely they will be to do so.

Here are some payment options you can offer to make joining and renewing virtually effortless:

  • Auto-renewal Sometimes member simply forget to renew. One of the best ways to address this issue is to offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card. Members can just set it and forget it. 
  • Installment payments Allow members to pay for their memberships in budget-friendly monthly or quarterly installments.  
  • Scheduled payment option Get a payment commitment from members now and schedule the payment for a convenient agreed-upon date in the future.
  • Stored payment options – Allow members to add, edit, save, and remove payment methods. Members will thank you when they don’t have to pull out their wallets and re-enter payment details every time they want to make a payment on your site.
  • Express payment option Allow anyone to pay any invoice online without needing to log in. With this option, you can generate a unique payment URL for any order with a balance due: membership, donations, event registration, etc. Then, a bill paying page is created for easy payment by the member, their assistant, accounting department, or anyone making the payment on their behalf. 
  • Account updating Automatically update the expiration date for stored payment methods. This way, members won’t be rejected at check-out just because their credit card date expired.
     

Man standing in front of a laptop with an Einstein robot symbolizing artificial intelligence 6. Predict (and avoid) the lapse.

While providing value and making joining/renewing easier are effective ways to improve member retention, sometimes there are still members who are headed out the door. Using modern predictive analytics tools, you can understand why members are lapsing and, even better, which members are in danger of lapsing so that you can take measures to avoid the lapse.

For example, Marine Corps Association & Foundation (MCA&F) was seeing about 1,000 lapsed members each month. Using Nimble AMS Predictions – which uses the artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Salesforce Einstein – the organization implemented a solution that automatically identifies members at high risk of lapsing and presents staff with suggested actions to take to prevent non-renewal.  

Once the association rolled out the AI process and trained staff, it was then easy for MCA&F staff to see warning signals for members at risk of lapsing. Now, when an at-risk member is discovered, staffers are automatically presented with actionable steps to take with the member. As a result of this approach, MCA&F found that 25 percent of their members at high risk of non-renewal were saved. 

Take the next step toward growing and retaining your membership.

Growing and retaining membership dues is all about demonstrating member value and making it easy and painless for members to join and renew. The approaches in this article will help you get there. And Nimble AMS will give you the technology foundation you need to put these approaches to work.

Learn more about how Nimble AMS can help you provide an online experience that delights your members and keeps them around for years to come: Explore Nimble AMS. 

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