Member lapses are normal, and to an extent, inevitable. But many of them CAN be prevented — with the right strategy in place.

Need help minimizing lapsed members at your organization? Try out these tactics:

1. Ask for feedback often

You likely survey your members periodically throughout the year — most often, following your organization’s events (whether in-person or virtual). But a few event-based surveys throughout the year isn’t going to get you the kind of feedback you need to make changes and please dissatisfied members; members who, as of now, have no plans to renew. 

The key to continuously improving your members’ experience with your organization is to ask for feedback often. It’s important to have a plan in place for when you’re going to ask for feedback, and then, of course, it’s just as important to stick to that plan. 

Below are a few pivotal moments you may want to consider: 

  • Six months after a new member joins
  • Immediately following events
  • A few months prior to member expiration (so that you can make changes and tailor your communications accordingly)
  • When a member lapses (Yes, the whole point here is to avoid member lapses, but if you can identify why some of your members aren’t renewing, you can then make changes to help prevent others from doing the same.)

2. Focus on your strengths

You’ve likely heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: You can’t be everything to everyone. When you try to do everything, you often wind up doing a sub-par job. But when you hone in on one or two things, and you do those things exceptionally well, that’s when you give members a real reason to stay. 

To lessen the likelihood your members will intentionally lapse, identify what your association or chamber excels at, and then 1) make sure you’re offering enough of whatever that strength is (enough CE opportunities, for example), and 2) make sure you’re communicating that strength (and its corresponding opportunities) to your members (which we’ll discuss a little more in point #5). 

People typically remain loyal to companies and organizations for one or two primary reasons. Maybe the products are high quality (Patagonia) or the customer service is out of this world (Nordstrom). Either way, if you can identify what YOUR organization’s strengths are, you’ll be in good shape.

3. Stay competitive

While it’s important to know what your strengths are — and stay grounded in those strengths — it’s also important to know when to make changes. New companies, organizations, and technologies are constantly popping up, giving your organization more and more competition. Additionally, generations are continuing to shift. More and more Baby Boomers are reaching retirement, and more and more Millennials are beginning to fill those gaps (with Gen Z-ers not far behind). 

What that means is, what once appealed to your members and what was once enough to renew year after year may not be enough for this next generation of members. Is it time to rethink your annual meeting? To step up your social media game? To take your quarterly or annual publication from print to digital? Maybe, maybe not — but it’s at least worth some consideration. Know when to make changes so that your association or chamber can remain competitive.

4. Understand your members’ journeys

Sometimes members lapse because their wants and needs change. Maybe they’ve advanced professionally and they need more management content as opposed to content surrounding industry best practices. Or, on the flip side, maybe they’re a young professional, and they need more entry-level-based training. 

Your members’ wants and needs WILL vary (and change), but if you can map out various member journeys (a young professional, a new manager, a senior-level executive, etc.), you can then tailor your offerings (and communications) to better serve those members. (Remember, the more you’re able to meet their needs, the less likely they are to let their membership lapse.)

5. Communicate value (early and often)

We touched on this briefly in point #2, but we want to circle back. Too often, associations and chambers wait until a member is approaching their membership expiration date to communicate the value they’ve been providing all year. Don’t make that mistake! Make an effort to communicate that value early and often, throughout the membership term. 

Consider putting it in your organization’s newsletter — a “here’s what we’ve done for you lately” section. Or, consider sending a stand-alone email encouraging your members to take advantage of ALL that your organization provides (and then listing a handful of your most valuable offerings). 

The more you can demonstrate that value, the better off you’ll be — because your members will be well aware of what they’ll lose if they choose not to renew. 

We could go on and on with membership retention tips, and in fact, in our Membership Retention Kit, we do! Download it for free below!

Note: This post was originally published on 9/6/17, but updated on 2/18/21 for added value.