No matter how stellar your membership benefits may be, your association will inevitably have members who don’t renew. Exiting members may walk away for a variety of reasons — but how will you know their rationale unless you ask?
That’s where member exit surveys can help. A quick questionnaire can capture exiting members’ sentiments and valuable feedback. From their answers, you can better understand if and how you could’ve retained them — and potentially, how you can retain more members down the line.
But if you haven’t put together your own member exit survey before, compiling the right questions to get the right insights might feel overwhelming. Here, we’ve compiled a list of key questions to include in your survey plus answers to foundational questions about these crucial questionnaires.
In this piece, we cover:
- What is a member exit survey?
- Why would you want to survey members who are leaving?
- How to conduct an exit survey
- 8 member exit survey questions to ask
What is a member exit survey?
When a member cancels their membership, they likely have valuable feedback and insights. A member exit survey gives them the chance to voice that feedback — positive or negative — and for your organization to understand why they’re leaving.
While receiving negative feedback can be uncomfortable, member exit surveys help organizations understand where their offerings are falling short. From there, organization can take action to better serve their members.
Member exit surveys are just one of the many surveys you should definitely be doing. Surveys after events, when members first join, and event yearly check-ins are also super important and helpful.
Why would you want to survey members who are leaving?
As we alluded to above, surveying members who cancel their membership can provide a goldmine of insights. If they’re willing to give you a little of their time, it’s worth the effort to ask a few key questions of these exiting members.
Ultimately, your goal is to serve your members. And talking to exiting members can help you better understand where to invest your efforts.
Additional reasons to survey leaving members include:
Not only can you learn why members are leaving, but also what benefits resonated with them, and what efforts might’ve convinced them to stay.
Boost retention with positive changes
If one or more exiting members give the same reason for leaving, it’s time to take action. For example: Three outgoing members mentioned they didn’t find your organization’s networking events helpful. Exit surveys can help you detect these kinds of patterns and make changes accordingly.
Give outgoing members a voice
Even though these members ended their relationship with your organization, they deserve to be heard. And addressing their concerns head on could keep the relationship in good standing and potentially encourage them to re-activate their membership in the future.
How to conduct an exit survey
Now that you understand the importance of member exit surveys, how do you go about conducting them? Fortunately, there are a few ways to connect with your outgoing members, glean insights from their experience and to get your ex-members to actually participate.
Give them a call.
Sometimes, an old-fashioned phone call is the perfect way to conduct a member exit survey. You can provide additional context when asking your questions so outgoing members can give you the most thorough answers possible.
Talk to members in person.
When conducting a survey face-to-face, you can also clock body language and non-verbal cues when outgoing members are answering. This gives additional color to the answers they provide that could offer additional insights.
Send your survey via email.
Email is the easiest and most convenient way to dispatch your exit surveys. With email, outgoing members can answer your questions at their leisure, and you don’t have to schedule time to chat with them.
Regardless of what medium you choose for your member exit surveys, you may want to consider how to encourage more outgoing members to respond to your survey. One way to do so is to offer members an incentive, like a giftcard to a local restaurant, coffee shop, or a Visa giftcard they can spend anywhere.
How to write an exit survey: Critical tips to get a high response rate
When composing your member exit survey, keep in mind that outgoing members are busy. When they take time out of their day to answer a questionnaire, they’re providing their opinions as a favor to your organization. So, craft your survey to be clear, concise, and easy to answer.
To get the insights you need and a higher response rate, follow a few tried-and-true tactics:
Acknowledge their departure.
Start off your survey correspondence by recognizing that they’re leaving and you’re sorry to see them go.
Explain your goal.
Make it clear that their survey answers will have an impact on your organization. Their feedback can help you make positive changes, and you need their help to do so.
Invite them back.
Toward the end of your correspondence, let them know that your organization will welcome them back any time with open arms.
Vary your questions.
Don’t include a list of questions that require write-in answers — seeing that they’ll have to do a lot of writing could deter them from completing your survey. Instead, include a variety of yes-or-no questions, multiple choice, and a couple of key questions where they can write down their thoughts.
Keep it short.
Again, your outgoing members are busy. Focus your survey only on questions applicable to your organization or on topics you specifically want to address. If it takes more than 5-10 minutes to complete your survey, outgoing members might be discouraged from participating.
Member exit survey questions you need to ask
Now that you have the basics on constructing your member exit survey, we’ve put together several key questions to include in your questionnaire. We also provide you with a rundown of why each question is important.
1. Why did you decide not to renew your membership?
Was their decision based on one single thing, or are there a number of reasons? Or perhaps you already made a guess, and that wasn’t it at all.
2. When did you decide not to renew your membership?
With this question, you can get crucial insights into any gaps in your engagement or membership offerings. Is there a specific issue members are encountering at one point in their journey?
3. What would have made your membership more beneficial?
Our next question is a great way to dig into specifics. Is there a gap in your membership offerings? What would’ve resonated better with this particular member?
Compare this answer across multiple surveys to uncover patterns or trends.
4. What did you gain from your membership?
While your membership may have some gaps that ultimately led to them leaving, the member initially signed up to access your offerings. What led them to become a member and how did they benefit? Ask them for specifics. What benefits did they enjoy most and which offered the greatest impact? Again, look for trends in these answers so you can promote your benefits accordingly.
5. Did you feel comfortable approaching members of the leadership team? Why or why not?
This question can offer your organization insights into whether members see your leaders as approachable. If the member you’re interviewing is leaving out of the blue, then they likely didn’t feel comfortable chatting with your organization’s leaders.
If this is the case, re-examine the ways members can offer feedback. Take a look at your “Contact Us” page to make sure there’s a low barrier of entry for members. Also consider implementing an anonymous method for members to submit feedback.
6. How would you describe the overall culture of the organization?
Culture can be just as important as the benefits you offer your members. So, how do your members perceive your organization’s culture? Do they find your events to be overly stiff and formal? Do they find your staff approachable and helpful?
These answers can shed some light into whether your members’ perception of your culture lines up with your goals.
7. Would you recommend us to friends and colleagues?
While it may feel counterintuitive to ask an ex-member this question, it can gauge whether they see the objective value in your membership. While your offerings may not have been a perfect fit for their needs, they may see your membership’s value for people in their network.
If they respond positively, then follow up by asking for their contact information. If the member is leaving on good terms, then they might still want to send connections your way.
8. What would encourage you to re-join?
While this member is choosing to disengage right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t rejoin in the future. So, it’s helpful to know what would convince them to sign up for membership again down the line.
Make sure you keep a list of contacts who have canceled their membership. Include their answer to this question so you know immediately how best to engage them in future campaigns.
Moving Forward With Your Own Member Exit Surveys
It’s crucial to understand why your members don’t renew their membership. And member exit surveys can help you suss out those reasons, and, in turn, boost your member retention rates based on the insights you discover. The NEXT step? Actually listen to what you learned and make changes as needed.