Getting new members is great for growing your organization. But those new members don't mean anything if members aren’t sticking around. That's one of the many reasons that membership retention rates and renewal rates matter so much. 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 member relationships going for years. Calculating growth, retention and renewals When you're looking at how your membership numbers are performing, there are a few things you should and can look at. There's your overall growth rate, renewal rate and retention rate. Let's look at each of theses. Growth rate Your growth rates is how you've grown over time. This is a pretty high level metric. You calculate this by looking at the number of returning members divided by (/) the number of members you had at the beginning of the time period times (x) 100. Or current members / starting members x 100 = X% So let's say you have 300 members at the end of the year. You started the year with 290 people. You would do: 300 / 290 x 100 = 103.4%. So, you grew by 3.4%! Woohoo! If you ended the year with 162 members and started the year with 199 members, you would do: 162 / 199 x 100 = 81.4%. But this number just looks at growth. And that number CAN be deceiving. This is why we need to look at retention and renewal rates as well. Retention rates and renewal rates Retention and renewal can sound like the same thing but there is a key difference. Retention rate is the number of members you have that stay year over year. Renewals is about the number of members that actively re-sign-up for your organization when the time comes. Think if your organization as a party. Everyone that shows up are your members. A few hours in, you may have had some people wander out or wander in. This is retention. Now, imagine you stand up at your party and announce that you will be pausing to clean up and will be restarting the party in 30 minutes. The people who return are all renewals. These both matter for one key reason: Your retention numbers could look the same if a chunk of members leave, but you also get a big group to sign up in the same time period. There is still a chance of an underlying issue for why people left. So, you need to look at renewal rates just as much as you do retention rates. Calculating retention and renewal rates For renewal rates, you can look at members at specific periods and when their renewal date is coming up. Retention rates you can look at during years end, quarter over quarter or whatever time period works for you. When calculating these two, you do the same type of calculation as above for growth rate, BUT -- one key difference -- is you pull out BRAND NEW members from that number. So, let's say you started last January with 200 members and end the following January with 300 members. You may think that you retained 200 members, added another 100 and had a great year of growth. Looking at your NEW member numbers, however, you see that in that time period, you actually signed up 175 new members. This means that more than half of your members are fresh and that you actually lost 75 members throughout the year. Your retention rate, then would be calculated as beginning members, and old members who renewed. So, 125 / 200 x 100%. This means your retention rate was actually just over 60%. And maybe you have some work to do. 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 impacted 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. You should analyze your own historical rates to get an idea of what your renewal goals should be. 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. 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!