Even when your association has a small staff, there are things you can do year-round to improve member retention. Here are four simple yet effective member retention strategies.

When it comes to the priorities of many associations, improving membership retention is near the top of the list. In fact, it’s a close second to increasing membership. That’s what findings from the 2023 Association Trends Study by Community Brands indicate.

Getting members to stick around longer is vital to your association’s success. It creates a loyal membership base. It also supports your overall membership marketing efforts.

But improving membership retention is about more than just focusing on the 90 days leading up to member renewal dates. That’s because your members’ entire experience with your organization influences their decisions to renew – or not!

Even when your association has a small staff, there are things you can do year-round to improve member retention. Here are four simple yet effective member retention strategies that go beyond the 90 days before renewal:


Four great member retention strategies


1. Make a great first impression.

The first 90 days of membership are critical for making a good first impression with new members. Making new members feel appreciated and welcome right away sets the stage for a strong relationship with your organization.

Some tips for making a great first impression:

  • Map out the sign-up process and ask yourself what you can do to make it better. For example, can you make it easier to find the membership form on your website? Can you simplify the form to make it easier to complete?
  • Map out the onboarding process and consider if it’s as clear, simple, and welcoming as it could be. For example, are you thanking them for joining? Are you pointing them to key resources and information? Are you letting them know what communications they can expect to receive from you?
  • Look at the process for the first three months of membership with your association and think about how you might add value for members. For example, what benefits do they receive? Are you communicating those benefits to them clearly so they can take advantage of them?


2. Keep members engaged.

Once new members are happily onboarded, it’s vital to keep them engaged. To increase member engagement, there are two key areas to address: member engagement channels and member benefits.

Make sure you’re optimizing engagement channels, including email communications, text messages, and your online member community to keep members informed and connected.

TIP: YourMembership association management software (AMS) is all-in-one software for small to mid-sized associations. It includes functionality to help you quickly and easily build email communications, text messages, and a thriving online member community so that you can effectively communicate and engage with members.

Also, give members more of the benefits they want most. For example, in the 2023 Association Trends Study, members were asked to rate the importance of key benefits provided by their organization. It turns out that top benefits from previous studies are even more important in the 2023 study – with training, certifications and credentials, fueling industry growth, advocacy, and help with career advancement all up significantly from 2022.

Use data points like these to offer more member value. For instance, engage members by giving them a variety of learning opportunities throughout the year to accommodate their schedules, learning preferences, training, and certification needs. Another example: Offer an online career center that provides not only an online job board, but also a range of career development resources.

TIP: You can deliver educational content more efficiently with Freestone learning management system (LMS) by Community Brands. It integrates with YourMembership AMS to help small associations organize content and deliver a modern online continuing education experience. Also, YM Careers by Community Brands integrates with YourMembership AMS and offers job board software to power your association’s online job board. Each job board comes with the Career Planning Portal, a career advancement hub that offers a comprehensive set of career development resources.  


3. Recognize member achievements and contributions.

Make your members feel appreciated by recognizing them for their accomplishments. For example, when your members do something notable, such as receive an award in your industry, are featured in an industry publication, or make an outstanding contribution of time or money to your association:

  • Promote the accomplishment in your member newsletter.
  • Give them a shout-out on social media.
  • Highlight the achievement in a “shout-out corner” in your online member community so that other members can join in to recognize the accomplishments.

The simple act of recognizing member achievements can go a long way toward making members feel more connected with and loyal to your association.


4. Understand why some members leave.

It’s not fun to think about, but no matter how great your member retention strategies are, some members will leave each year. Understanding why they lapse is critically important to making sure others don’t follow them out the door. It might even give you insights into how to bring back those lapsed members.

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 lessons learned into your member retention activities.

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


Also, consider sending a series of emails to re-engage lapsed members. For example, you might send an expiration day email, a 30-days past expiration date email (to check in and give them another chance to renew), and a membership ending email (to let them know the official date they will no longer be a member and leave the door open for them to return).

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.


One other great approach is to avoid the lapse in the first place by offering an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card. This approach helps to avoid membership lapses due to members simply forgetting to renew.

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


Learn more membership marketing tips for your association

Increasing member retention is just one aspect of successful association marketing. Discover more tips and insights in the guide, Top 10 Greatest Hits for Membership Marketing.

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