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Reader Questions: How to retain association members?

Recently I was asking around to other Wild Women Fundraisers, and asking them, “What do you want to learn about, NOW?” And one person responded,

why members don't renew

Why members don’t renew from Socious research

“I would like to learn more about evaluating ROI for our association members. Retention is what I am focused on now.  Here’s what we do:

Our Membership includes:

  • 2 free webinars each month 
  • Access to the Resource Directory  (over 1200 items available currently)
  • VIP programs (discounts on items targeted at our members)
  • Conference registration discount ($200 off registration per person)
  • And…personal consultations with me and/or my board at any time

We do bi-annual email blasts targeted at membership benefits.  We have full color postcards we use for marketing at an annual convention. And I am working on a new brochure. I also do followup calls with different membership groups every week.”

So what will convince people that it’s a good idea to belong to your association?


Here’s my answer:

It’s hard to pay attention to all of your members. And it’s hard to figure out what they want.

Have you tried asking everyone what they want? You could ask via

  • Paper surveys
  • Email surveys (with rewards?)
  • In person connections
  • Phonecalls

What questions should you ask your members?

  • What do you want more of in your association experience?
  • Do you feel that we communicate with you sufficiently?
  • What would add value to your association experience?
  • What good has come out of your association membership so far?
  • What were you expecting from your association membership that you haven’t gotten yet?

This will help you speak to exactly what your membership cares about most, and keep your members engaged by working with them to solve their particular problems.

  • What are their pains?
  • What are their costs?
  • What are their agendas?
  • What are their goals?

In terms of helping people justify the cost of membership, you already offer some of these, but have you tried some of these others?:


  • Useful Webinars
  • Lively Workshops
  • Discounts & prizes
  • Consistent weekly or monthly e-newsletters with lots of resources
  • Association discounts with service providers, like printers, event halls, etc
  • Conference calls that are lively discussion groups that meet regularly where people can network and learn from each other?


  • Making your association members the heroes in your publications?
  • Giving awards to members?

If members need to renew and lapse, have you tried:

  1. Mailing then calling
  2. Emailing
  3. Calling again?
  4. Dropping by, if possible?

And if they still don’t want to keep being a member, can you do an exit survey, via phone, or email?

Ask questions like:

  • What do you wish you had gotten from this membership experience?
  • Who gave you a positive interaction?
  • Did you have any negative interactions?
  • What could we do better?

I guess what I want to ask is, do you really think that what you’re missing is a brochure? Or, maybe, is it a consistent weekly or bi-weekly communication strategy that makes your members the heroes of your communications?

For more resources on member retention strategies, check out:

Do you have any more ideas for what this reader could do to retain more members at her association?

Please leave a comment below.

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