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Laser Focus on Retention: The Easiest Way to Grow Membership

Discover six easy ways you can ensure member value and guarantee membership growth by prioritizing member retention strategies.

Effectively recruiting and retaining members is a process that all member-centric organizations manage and continually strive to optimize. If you can streamline and ensure that every part works together smoothly, then you will maximize the return from your efforts. The result should make the pathway to membership a natural, easy process.

As CEO of the Union Innovation Hub, I’ve helped many union executives strategize their membership growth for future success. In this article, we’ll look at one of the easiest ways to guarantee growth, through member retention strategies.


Growth is Easier When You Prioritize Retention

Cycle iconYour goal to grow your organization is impacted by a combination of new member gains and the retention of existing members. Building membership by attracting new members can be difficult, as each gain is a new person that must be convinced of the value of membership.

However, member retention on the other hand is much more manageable. You know who your members are, and likely know a lot about them, and at one point in time those members determined that membership with you was worthwhile.


Ensuring Your Members Feel Value

All member-based organizations should have programs in place to prioritize member retention and address key risk areas and points of member loss. Let's examine some ways to showcase the value of continued membership with your organization.

1. Examine Your Onboarding Strategy 

Many new members are lost in the first year or two of membership. It is important to have a range of strategies and tactics that engages new members to both fulfill and exceed their expectations. 

A well-structured onboarding program will ensure your new members renew, and continue to remain members, year after year. The onboarding journey can combine a digital journey with individual connection.

welcome mat -PostT


2. Offer a Variety of Engagement Options

The key to effectively retaining members is the ability to create and maintain the perception that they are better off as a member than a non-member. Therefore, when someone has become a member, there must be a very noticeable difference in the perceived benefits they receive and the level of contact they have with you. 

Most importantly, the more engaged a member is, the more likely they are to remain a member. However, different members have different preferences when it comes to engaging with you. Some wish to engage directly with the organization, but they often they wish to engage with each other. Members may join for what is in it for them- individual utility of joining. But they often remain members because of who is in the union with them- relationship and sense of belonging.  

Therefore, it is important to offer a range of engagement opportunities that cater for all member segments and needs, plus help members feel part of the organization. Participation in campaigns that further the industry or occupation can be a great way to help develop the sense of collective and belonging.

Collage of members engaging with an organization in various ways - volunteering, using a mobile app, attending an event, and visiting a website.


3. Make Renewals EASY

For many members, the decision to renew or not to renew has been made well before renewal time based on their experience with the union throughout the year. But how you set up your renewal process can still have a significant impact on your retention rate. There will always be a significant proportion of members who fall into one of the following groups: 

  • Moved 
  • Busy
  • Undecided
  • Actively dissatisfied 

You need to have strategies in place that will increase your chances of having people from these groups renew.

And if they do not renew? If they are still a valid prospect, they should go back into your Engagement Management System (EMS) with a special tag to show they have previously been a member.

Ideally, members do not need to decide to renew each year because they pay their fees regularly via periodic payment such as credit card, bank debit or through payroll deductions. Members are treated as ongoing unless a payment is missed.

This approach avoids a larger bill and a decision point on whether to continue membership.


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4. Get Ahead of Unfinancial or Arrears Members

The single largest period of losses year-on-year typically occurs around an annual billing cycle. A large portion of members who directly pay annual invoices fail to pay on time, becoming unfinancial or in arrears. In addition, many members on periodic payments fail to pay each period - credit cards may have been reissued. Finally, some members resign.

A key part of the retention goal is to ensure urgent and systematic contact members who fail to renew or miss a payment or formally resign.

Your plan, with the assistance of your EMS should include:

  • Alerts of who missed a payment or failed to renew
  • Urgent and automated communications with the member
  • The contact should assume the member wishes to continue and enables the member to fix the payment issue
  • Provision of self-serve ways the member can update their detail
  • If periodic payments, automatic retries
  • Options for waivers or payment plans
  • A dynamic list of members to contact that automatically updates if a member has since paid




5. Create an At-Risk Member Profile

Caution iconAs you expand data collection and analysis processes, you’ll begin to develop a better understanding of the profile of an at-risk member. A key part of addressing retention is ensuring organizations are proactive in turning at-risk members into engaged members as soon as practical.

This process is contingent on detailed engagement tracking, engagement scoring, and measuring the retention impact of a range of services and membership characteristics. It is crucial for the retention program that membership organizations develop the ability to recognize an at-risk member early, and perceptively address this risk.

A good start is to measure your average retention rate and then identify a group that has a weaker retention rate.


6. Re-Market to Past Members

Bullhorn on a laptopPast members do not need to know about the history of the organizations or what you do. All a resigned member needs to know is what has changed since they were members. It is a simple message that you just need to target correctly.

\Marketing to former members is so successful that it should be planned. Consider adding in a process six to eight months after the member has resigned where they receive a “We Want You Back” campaign.

Note that these campaigns will only be successful if the members’ benefits were discontinued at the point (or shortly after) their membership lapsed.


Ensure Long-Term Growth for Your Member-Centric Organization

It’s a lot easier to keep a member than to recruit a new member. Without solid retention, all new members are filling the proverbial leaking bucket.

When members feel valued, and you prioritize providing them with engaging options, your membership organization will increase the likelihood that those members will retain their membership year after year. Additionally, by providing easy payment options, simplifying the subscription process, and addressing at-risk members, you will directly impact efforts to improve member retention.

Ultimately, prioritizing your members' needs and anticipating their wants helps ensure the long-term success and growth of your membership organization.


The Union Innovation Hub helps unions achieve growth, efficiency and impact by fast tracking progress and reducing the cost of digital and other innovation. With over 30 unions clients in Australia and New Zealand, we've guided digital transformation strategies from inception to evolution by utilizing the power of the iMIS engagement management system. 

Contact us today to see how the Union Innovation Hub can modernize the way your staff, organizers and members work together.


This article was originally published by the Union Innovation Hub in the RISE! Whitepaper “Empowering Australian workers through the Collective Spirit & Collaborative Energy of Unions”, authored by Belinda Moore and Chris Walton. The content has been adapted. 

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