Failure to renew doesn’t have to be the end of the story. There’s always an opportunity to get lost members to return. Read on to find out how.

You might find that your association focuses a great deal on attracting new members and maybe not as much on winning back lapsed members. If so, you’re not alone. The Community Brands study on small-staff associations suggests that small associations focus more on member acquisition and increasing revenue than on member retention.

But retaining members is arguably as important, if not more important, than acquiring new members – especially when you consider the higher cost of attracting a new member than retaining an existing one. It’s time to win back those members that got away.

Here are four steps to getting your lapsed members to return:

1. Find out why they walk away.
Understanding why your members lapse is critically important to getting them back and making sure others don’t follow them out the door. Send lapsed members a survey to ask them why they left and what might make them return in the future. Be sure to regularly review feedback and incorporate your learnings into your lapsed member marketing plan.

TECH TIP: YourMembership AMS has survey functionality built in, making it easy to create and send targeted surveys and get feedback.

2. Create a re-engagement campaign.
Build a campaign to encourage lapsed members to return. Here are some key communications to include in your campaign plan:

  • Expiration day email – Connecting with members the moment they lapse is a great way to catch those who are on the fence about renewing or simply forgot to renew. Remind them that their membership ends today and that you hope they’ll renew right away so they don’t miss out on any benefits.
  • 30 days past expiration date email – Members might have been busy around the time of their expiration day. Checking in with them a month after expiration day gives them some space after your first email and still allows you to give them another chance to renew.
  • Membership ending email – While the number of days after expiration depends on your association’s strategy, at some point it’s time to officially drop lapsed members from your organization. This is the time to give them one last chance to renew and let them know the official date they will no longer be a member of your organization. Be sure to make this message friendly and keep the door open for them to return in the future.
  • Phone call – You likely don’t have time to call every lapsed member, but consider calling a small group, such as those who have been members more than one year or those who were more involved in the past but whose engagement has dropped off over time. Reaching out personally gives them a chance to give you feedback and just might convince them to renew after all.

TECH TIP: Use YourMembership AMS to set up and automatically send lapsed member emails so your team can spend more time delivering a great member experience.

3. Build compelling messages.
In all of your messages, remind your lapsed members of the benefits your organization provides and try to re-kindle the relationship with those members whose interest may have faded. In your messages to them, be sure to:

  • Thank them for being a member. Remind them of the value your association provides to the industry and that their membership helps support that mission.
  • Personalize the content. For example, reinforce the value of membership by reminding members of the specific benefits they have taken advantage of, such as event discounts and learning opportunities. Remind members of the benefits they have not yet taken advantage of, and that there’s still time to do so if they renew right away.
  • Let members know about the upcoming events, resources, and opportunities they’ll miss out on if they do not renew.
  • Offer them an incentive to renew, such as a discounted membership, a monthly membership dues payment option, or the opportunity to customize their membership to include only the benefits they’re seeking.

TECH TIP: Use YourMembership AMS to build emails that include personalized content for each lapsed member, such as which benefits they have taken advantage of in the past.

4. Avoid the lapse in the first place.
The Community Brands Member Loyalty Study found that 13 percent of lapsed members simply forgot to renew. Avoid this type of lapsed membership altogether by offering an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card.

TECH TIP: YourMembership AMS allows you to set up auto-renewals, with corresponding automated emails that notify members when their membership has been renewed.

Go a step further by setting up a member advisory group and meeting with them (in person or via web/phone conference) at least once or twice each year to get their input on how to improve member benefits. Be sure to include members who are newer to the organization as well as longer-term members. Establish a team that meets regularly to review member feedback and determine how to fine-tune your benefits to provide a better member experience.

Learn more
While it’s important to have a plan to bring back your lapsed members, retention requires a focus on membership renewal year-round. From the moment your members click the “join” button to the day their membership is set to expire, they’re deciding if they’ll stay, or if they’ll go.


Learn how to nurture relationships and convey value to keep members around long-term: Download The Ultimate Guide to Membership Renewal