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12 Proven Steps to Membership Growth

The acquisition stage is only the first step of the member journey. Ramp up growth with these member engagement and renewal strategies.

How effective are you at increasing the size of your membership? The future success of any membership organization is directly tied to its membership growth...or decline. 

As CEO of the Union Innovation Hub, I’ve helped many union executives strategize their membership growth. Helping them recognize that the acquisition stage is only the first step of the member journey and strategizing member engagement and renewal processes is necessary to provide a delightful experience. Why? Because delighted members are committed members. Cultivating a strong relationship with your members is critical to your success. 

Below are 12 proven steps to ensure membership growth for any member-centric organization.


1) Be Data-Driven 

At-risk members need to be identified and actions taken to retain them. Groups with higher-than-average churn should also be addressed. 

So, what’s your churn rate?

If you have 10,000 members and 1,500 leave, you have a churn rate of 15%.

Churn rate: 1500/10000 = 15%


If your churn rate is 15%, your average membership tenure is 6.66 years.

Tenure: 1/.15 = 6.66 years


If your membership fees are $650/year and tenure is 6.66 years, every new member is worth $4,333.

Lifetime value: $650 x 6.66 = $4,333


Understanding the impacts of member churn is critical to the lifeblood of your organization.

Work desk with devices and a target


2) Automate Your Welcome Processes 

For most unions, if you can keep members for the first couple of years, then the member is likely to remain for several years. How about your organization? 

Onboarding your members is a process. It is about making sure that each member gets a personalized welcome that introduces them to all the ways that membership is essential. This goes for any association, union, or membership organization, you must showcase the value of membership from the get-go.

You’ll require different onboarding journeys for each key segment.

The aim is to ensure the new member engages with or utilizes 2-3 services or activities.

Envelope sliding


3) Make it Easy to Become a Member 

If a member can’t join online with a short, simple form...then you are throwing away potential members. 

Some of the information you need can be collected after the member joins. So, keep it simple and focus on getting the payment details. 

And don’t forget to measure the abandonment rate – which is the number of potential members who start joining and fail to complete the form. 

Your remarketing strategy should include targeting these potential members through email, Google ads, and Facebook ads.


4) Personalize the Members’ Home Page 

When a member visits your website, it should welcome them by name and provide content valuable to them.

Providing personalized content requires you to have clear segments. Planning for content and services relevant to each segment is also required.

The Member Portal should allow your members to easily change their details and review their financial transactions with you. For unions, your portal should let the member flag a work problem that they need advice on, find their delegate, and next pay raise.

You should be tracking your members’ engagement with you, so you are better equipped to understand each member’s interests.

Website with a lightbulb and cogs in the background


5) Build a Potential Member List 

Building a large list of potential members is relatively easy. The bigger the funnel of potential members the more chances of new members. Think about your potential members who might engage with you via: 

  • Social Media 
  • Targeting LinkedIn networking 
  • Content marketing 
  • Advertising
  • Volunteering
  • Campaign activity
  • Mapping the workplace
  • Running petitions 

And don’t forget the easiest list of them all, your past members are the lowest-hanging fruit! 

As you plan your list building, make sure to budget for digital advertising to engage.


6) Tailor the Recruitment Journey 

Once you have a list, you need ways to convert it to members. One way is through email workflow journeys, which are a series of automated emails tailored to the individual.

Recruitment journeys allow members to find out more about your organization and to see the many reasons why they should join – all tailored to their interests.

Person working on laptop with cogs in the background


7) Treat Your Members Like Consumers (Because That’s What They Are!) 

Membership has to meet a need and your potential member needs to see membership as a benefit. Unfortunately, even if they see the value, that doesn’t always mean that they’ll join. 

They need a reason to make the decision now. 

So, entice them with an offer they can’t refuse! “If you join now, get 50% off your membership for the first 3 months.” This kind of offer helps people decide. It also provides an incentive that your staff and delegates can use to recruit potential members to join. 

Another approach: Try offering alternative membership packages, enabling them to try out the membership at a lower cost and risk. 

You might be concerned that these promotions could negatively affect your current members, but rest assured there is no evidence that these initiatives impact revenue from existing members.


8) Help Your Members Identify with You 

Don’t assume your members know you are a non-profit with volunteers running things behind the scenes. You need to tell them. It makes a significant difference! You need to create a connection to your cause or case or campaign by helping them identify with you. 

And that goes for letting them know they can resign their membership at any time. Here’s why: 

Most websites you buy from offer a money-back guarantee. Why? Because virtually no one actually uses the guarantee, but it reduces the risk of the purchase. 

We are membership organizations, it doesn’t matter if you are a trade union or association or a club. The closer our name and brand is to the identity of the potential member...the better the chances of them connecting.


9) Broaden Your Value Proposition 

For unions, workers join for a wide range of reasons: 

  1. Work insurance – in case they have work issues or risk 
  2. Collective – to contribute to the bargaining or campaign effort 
  3. Voice – to help shape their industry, vocation or workplace for the better 
  4. Identify –to fit in socially and feel valued. 

And, unions can augment the reasons to join with additional services that provide individual utility and benefit. 

No two unions are exactly the same, as no two associations are the same. So, take a look inward at your own organization and consider how you can broaden your value proposition.

  1. Why do your members join? 
  2. What value do you provide? 
  3. How can you help them in their day-to-day? 
  4. How can you help them advance in their career?

5 Stars


10) Be Relevant to Your Members’ Needs 

We exist to help our members get ahead. The more members and the more active the members, the better the wins. 

Case in point: We have a greater chance of organizing union workers if we run on contemporary, action-worthy issues supported by workplace leaders. 

Define your brand based on how you can better serve your members’ needs.


11) Act Quickly to Save Unfinancial Members 

When a member stops payments or cancels their membership, it is imperative to act quickly. You will see over 70% of drop-off payments saved and over 20% of your cancelling members decide to stay.

Calendar Alert


12) Invest Now in Your Future 

Modern systems, digital skills and creating a culture of “having a go” is the only way to stay relevant and be poised for change. 

Modern systems: A modern CRM, such as the iMIS Engagement Management System (EMS) with integrated CMS capability, allows for dynamic, personalized engagement through your websites. And when this modern system tightly integrates with marketing automation software, such as Higher Logic Communications (emails and automated member journeys), you create an essential means for outreach, engagement and learning. 

Skills: In addition to your database analyst, your digital marketer, online organizers and campaigners are all essential to the lifeblood of your union or non-profit. They turn your captured member data into opportunities! 

Culture: Arguably getting the culture right is the most important element to growth. A focus on understanding what your members need and want, not treating them all the same, AND not asking them to fit US. Your culture needs to have a “go try new things” approach. 

Invest: More of the same will not achieve a better result. It’s time to think about investing in your infrastructure and skills.

Measure: Data-driven decision-making is critical. Dashboards that slice and dice your member data can give you powerful insights to anticipate trends, you can pivot to stay ahead of your members’ needs.

Computer with a lightbulb and member profiles on it


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 union 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 as part of their Hub Accelerator Series, Growth Through Innovations. The content has been adapted with permission.

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