Getting new members is great for growing your organization. But those new members don’t mean anything if members aren’t sticking around.  

In this guide to membership renewal, we will cover everything you need to know about why a high renewal rate is important and what you can do to keep your memberships going for years.  

To be more specific, in this article, you’ll learn: 

What is member retention? 

Member retention is a measurement of returning members you have in your organization. Retention rates, then, is the % of returning members VS the number of members who left your organization. The calculation for retention rate it: 

Number of returning members / the number of members you had at the beginning of the time period X100 = X% 

member retention kit cta download graphic

Membership renewals: Why they matter 

Membership renewals matter for both you and your members for different reasons.  

They’re good for your organization 

For you, renewed members takes up less time and resources because they’re already onboarded while paying the same dues fee. This makes it way more cost-effective to retain the support of existing members than recruiting, onboarding and engaging new members all the time. Plus: members that stay are happy members and are more likely to talk about your association – growing your word-of-mouth exposure.  

Renewals build better member-to-member relationships 

Many people join membership organizations to connect with industry peers and take advantage of networking opportunities. A high membership renewal rate means your organization keeps members connected for longer, fostering deeper connections between members themselves.  

Maintaining member streams 

We already mentioned this a bit above, but it’s such a big point, we’re highlighting it again. A consistently high renewal rate means your organization can keep a steady funding stream. You can spend less time wondering how you’re going to source revenue and more time thinking about ways to diversify—and spend!—your budget.  

Renewal benefits for your members 

For your members, you can make renewals beneficial by offering benefits exclusively for long-term or returning members! These benefits can include: 

  • First-choice of booth location for trade shows 
  • First access to networking opportunities or events 
  • Discounts on ticket sales 
  • Sponsorship opportunities or complimentary ads space on your website, job board or event 
  • Member spotlight features 

What you can learn from your membership renewal rates 

While there are a few external influencers to renewal rates (budgeting, recessions, changes to your members’ circumstances), it all really comes down to one thing: Happy members will renew and unhappy members will leave.  

If a majority if your members are leaving, it could be a sign that: 

  • Your member benefits aren’t meeting their expectations 
  • Your organization communication and community building isn’t working 
  • There’s no deeper relationship between you and your members 
  • An underlying issue exists within the experience or environment of your organization 

If you’re struggling with low renewal rates, we talk about some strategies below to help you improve your numbers and member relationships.  

Renewal rate goal: 90% 

Over 90% is a standard goal for your renewal rate. That being said, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the financial abilities of many people and organizations and it may take some time for rates to get back to what they were pre-pandemic. Look at your rates from before COVID and during COVID to get a good idea of what your renewal goals are. It’s best to be realistic with your goals and give your organization the time it needs to recover. 

10 membership renewal strategies if your member retention is low 

What can you actually do to increase your retention rates? Well, there’s actually a few things! Here are our top retention strategies to encourage your members to remain engaged with your association. 

1. Make member benefits your main priority – and message  

It’s no secret that people join organizations for the benefits. You need to make sure you’re really providing and communicating benefits of being in your organization with your members.  

Always lead with benefits. Renewal season is a great time to highlight your benefits – and review them internally to see if there are any that your members aren’t using. It’s also a great time to tease any new benefits or upcoming announcements.  

Consider a quick letter, email, phone call or postcard to members that recaps their past year with you. Call out events and opportunities like:  

  • Conferences 
  • Mentorship programs 
  • Networking opportunities 
  • Social events 
  • Discounts on related goods and services 
  • Learning sessions 
  • Leadership or volunteer positions 

2. Keep benefits in line with member needs 

Industries change over time and so should your membership benefits. Take note of your industry’s current climate, and ask yourself: 

  • What has changed in the past year? 
  • Are we offering members the resources and tools they need to be successful in the industry? 
  • How can we communicate what updates we’ve seen in the industry to our members? 

Then, once you’ve evaluated what’s changed, measured your current offerings, and decided how to communicate any news, you can make the decisions you need to stay current. 

You can also… 

3. Run a member satisfaction survey 

Don’t just guess what your members want. Ask them! 

Send out a member needs assessment survey using your email newsletter, online community space or website. Ask members questions about their level of satisfaction with your organization and any changes they’d like to see. 

Most important with this strategy is to actually review the results and make changes. Many organizations ask for feedback and input, but then are afraid to put that feedback into action. This action will speak way louder than the survey itself to show members you really care about them.  

4. Build a membership retention plan 

A seemingly obvious (but often overlooked) key to keeping member retention rates up is creating a membership retention plan. Retention isn’t something you can think about in the few days before renewal time. It really is about building long term member engagement and lasting relationships. 

Your membership retention plan should: 

  • Be a 12-month process that spans from registration to renewal 
  • Include a month-by-month breakdown of what actions you need to take to make a member feel supporter 
  • Cover everything from welcoming to engaging to mentoring your members, and beyond 

For example, in month one, you might want to send a welcome packet. By month five, you may want to connect them with a peer mentor within your organization. Around month 11, you’ll be asking them more directly about renewing their membership.  

Whatever your plan is each month, take time to map out your engagement strategy in advance—it’ll save you in the long run. 

5. Refresh and automate your membership renewal letters 

Membership renewal letters should be short and sweet. Most importantly, they should be personalized. Review yours to make sure it includes key messages, including: 

  • Highlights of your organization’s accomplishments from the past year 
  • Membership expiration date 
  • Quick steps for how to renew 

An automated renewal reminder system in your AMS can help you implement renewal letters without making more work for your team. (More on this below!) 

Looking for more tips on how to make your membership renewal letter shine? Check out our guide 3 Membership Renewal Letter Samples to Boost Your Renewal Rates. 

6. Give members something to anticipate 

Encourage your members to renew by highlighting something they can look forward to once they do. This could include: 

  • An upcoming members-only conference or seminar 
  • New training or educational opportunities 
  • Your latest t-shirt designs or swag  
  • Available leadership and learning opportunities 

You can use language like, “Don’t miss out, renew your membership today!” to remind members that your upcoming benefits will lapse without their action. 

7. Offer auto-renewals 

Use your membership management system to allow members to automatically renew their membership each year

With auto-renewals, you: 

  • Cut administrative costs tied to renewal follow-up and processing 
  • Remove the burden of renewal from your members 
  • Ensure your relationship is continued with minimal interruptions 

An auto-renewal takes tasks off of your members to-do lists too which can show how you respect their time, too. 

8. Give renewing members discounts and rewards 

Membership discounts could help incentivize early renewals. With your association management software, configure an early bird discount directly into your renewal form.  

You get certainty, and they get a discount. It’s a win-win! 

9. Communicate renewals to your members in multiple ways 

Have you ever opened an email, meant to respond, but then completely forgotten about it? Yeah, us too. It can be easy to overlook a to-do item like renewing your membership. 

To ensure members see and respond to your membership renewal requests, send them reminders through different channels – and start early.  These could include: 

  • Email reminders 
  • Phone calls 
  • Social media updates 
  • Personalized, handwritten notes 
  • Direct mailers 
  • Flyers on your bulletin board 

10. Thank members for renewing their membership 

We’ve identified that renewal strategies are ongoing. This means that you can’t forget about renewals after the renewal is secured: you need to start preparing for the NEXT renewal.  

A super simple way to continue that relationship building is to say “Thank you” when they do renew. It shows members that they’re valued within your organization. It establishes a stronger connection moving into the new year and increases the likelihood of them renewing in the future. 

Infographic highlighting the top 10 membership renewal and retention strategies

Ongoing efforts make all the difference for membership renewals

Need help kickstarting your renewal program? MemberClicks’ association management software streamlines the membership renewal process. Make this critical task simple for your team by letting the software do the heavy lifting for you. 

Use it to: 

  • Automate dues renewals 
  • Segment your membership into key renewal groups 
  • Leverage marketing tools to auto-send renewal reminders to specific groups 

Ready for higher member retention rates? Sign up for a free MemberClicks demo today!