Retention: How Can Membership Software Help?
Can your membership management software provide the data you need and the features required to know the who, what, why about membership retention and trends?
In this article, I underscore the value of using your membership management system to take a closer look at the value of retention data, the impact of segmentation and an example of aligning features back to goals using modern membership systems.
Membership Software Retention
Needless to say, I can only postulate that high on the list of topics up at many association nonprofit conferences across the country they will be focused on how to improve member retention—how tos, new approaches, benefits, what works.
Joe Rominiecki, former senior editor at Associations Now, made the rounds and summed up the conclusions here.
Suffice it to say, an association’s success lives and dies by member retention rates. And, in many associations the membership system lives the data and features you need to help make sense of membership retention. Let's start with the importance of data.
The Value of Retention Revealed Within Associations
So, what is the story that your data reveals about your association’s member retention? You must be able to use your data to know:
Who, specifically, is staying on as a long-term member?
Who just dips a toe into the water and leaves?
Who has stayed on and then suddenly leaves?
Further, can you utilize data to go deeper and ask these other questions of your membership retention trends:
Why do retained members stay for three years? Five years?
Why does the group that simply samples membership not stay on?
What causes members with some longevity to leave suddenly? and,
Are there job trends, sub-industry trends, age trends, geographical trends, or other segmented trends which you can point to as related causes?
Can your membership system handle slicing your data more thinly to get a clearer picture of retention numbers and trends? A membership software should house the answers to these questions.
The New Normal: Segmenting Retention Rates and Trends
If not, perhaps you need better segmenting capabilities. Rominiecki’s Association Now article cites experts who make the case that in order to understand how to boost your member retention rate, you first need to ask more of your membership retention data than simply how many members the association retains and loses annually. So, you need to go further than just answering the questions above.
That makes good sense, right? If, for example, you manage a healthcare association and currently have 200 insurers, 50 MDs, and 15 dentists, your ability to identify retention rates and retention trends within each member subset matters to the long-term health of your association. That signals the need and ability to segment and track both retention rates and trends point to more than just member retention—it also provides data you need to bring in new members and even renew past memberships.
Membership Retention Goals in Associations
This article sparked my thoughts about a recent meeting with an association seeking a new online membership software system. And, as outlined above, retention was an important aspect of their success. Here is a summary of their retention strategy expressed to me during our software selection engagement:
GOAL: Expand awareness of member services and carry out membership retention activities to achieve a year-end retention rate of 80%.
To achieve this goal, they concluded that they needed to successfully perform the following:
1. Contact members two months before membership lapses to prompt renewal and, in some cases, help the member renew. (CRM Features).
2. Send electronic emails along with handwritten welcome notes to each new member. (Email Marketing Features)
3. Call or e-mail new members on a monthly basis and invite them to sit with a Membership Committee member or Board member at the next luncheon. (CRM and Email Marketing Features).
4. Contact lapsed members one month after membership is lapsed. Final follow-up to encourage renewal. (Activity Tracking in CRM)
5. Attend all luncheons. Work with Member Involvement Chair to have Board and Membership Committee members sit at all tables and engage members and guests.(Event Calendar, Activity Management, & Committee Management).
6. Focus on retention of second year introductory members. Reduce drop-off rate after second year of membership by calling these people first. (Dashboards with Data Views)
7. Every six months, invite a new member to join the Membership Committee. (CRM Activity Tracking including To Do's, Follow up Management)
This was the plan of attack, and they wanted to obtain a membership management system which managed the data well, and also contained the features which would help them execute it. While a membership system won't be the only component, it certainly was viewed as a way to help with strengthening their ability to implement their objectives.
Retention Goals Tied To Membership Software Features
After our discussions, we outlined some basic features which were deemed must haves in order to support the membership retention goal. Here are few:
Customer (Membership) Management:
In all of the tasks above, the membership system needed to be able to support the ability to track history activities, notes, demographic information on the members. And, your follow up to get things done.
Membership Specific Dashboard:
The ability to review your members retention rate and view suggestions for improvement, and take a quick look at incoming members for the week, month, and year. Check in on your current campaign’s success, build and knock out that “to-do” list, and access recent reports and accounts within the membership system. And, the ability to have unique dashboards for each department was key too!
With a membership system, you should be able to get an at-a-glance view of an individual constituent’s participation level, as well as their engagement level – which is based on past interactions. Member engagement could be measured in “cold,” “warm,” “hot,” and “on fire!”
Email Design & Distribution:
Build and deploy emails using templates and get rich analytics on their performance throughout your retention campaigns.
Letters & Mailings:
A membership system could help the above retention campaign by helping with the design and printing of direct mail pieces like letters, gift acknowledgements and other solicitations all from the membership application.
One exciting feature of membership systems today is the powerful website integration features which includes social networking. With a membership system be able to connect your organization’s social media such as Twitter account for powerful social media monitoring. In some instances, you can even match tweets to constituents in your database, or add new constituents who are tweeting about you.
In order to select and notify committee members about upcoming events, they needed to have an integrated solution for handling this. With membership systems today, you can now have a place to store your committee lists, including sub-committees. All members, chairs and secretaries can be identified and listed, and have their own directory listing. So, you can place people strategically with those you desire and work them to advise them on upcoming events.
Further, with a built in email message center, there's no need to worry that your message will be sent to the incorrect audience. For the committee that you wish to correspond with, in membership systems you can simply select that committee and you will only have the option to email all or some of the members who belong to that group.
No problemo amigo!
When member retention rates are higher, less effort and fewer marketing dollars are spent in members acquisition, and greater focus can be placed on upgrading existing members. Members who are contained longer tend to participate more and contribute more. Your long-term members tend to recruit new members at a faster pace, especially those who move up the engagement ladder over time.
So does your member management CRM reinforce best practices in member retention? If not, you might not see those retention campaigns bear fruit.
Until next time, Keep SmartThoughts in mind.