When previously working at an association, one of the biggest challenges was member retention. As you can imagine, it was always a hard pill to swallow when we lost a member. Here’s how to best overcome the “Hi, I need to cancel my membership” phone call or email.

Michelle Schweitz, YourMembership Marketing Manager

By Michelle Schweitz, Marketing Manager, Community Brands


Break ups are hard to do, and sometimes they come out of nowhere. Why did they walk away? They didn’t even give us a chance to prove to them how important they are to us. Do they appreciate we provide them with a job board just for their industry? Why didn’t they attend our last virtual event? It was our best event yet!

Do you find yourself going through the stages of membership cancelation grief? Here’s how to identify if you do.

  • 1. Denial: They can’t be leaving us. It isn’t happening. They need us!
    2. Anger: How could they do this to me? After all of the onboarding emails I have sent them?
    3. Bargaining: Maybe I can get them back if I give them a discount on a course? I think that will work!
    4. Depression: They always leave us. We aren’t relevant anymore.
    5. And finally, acceptance: They are leaving, but I won’t let this happen again!
  • So now moving on to the steps of improvement.

Step 1: Admit what went wrong

You now need to do one of the most difficult things done after a break up. Start by calling the ex-member and ask why. Why did you leave us? What could we do better? Critical feedback is the breakfast of champions.

During the call, listen to the response that will likely prove your fears. Did you provide the value that your members seek? Do you engage with them the way they need to be engaged?

Step 2: Figure out how to fix it

Say to yourself, I know we can do better. I know we can change the way we engage our members. Start with personalization for a memorable experience and more member engagement as key ways to improve renewal rates.

If you reach your members with relevant content—while they are on a Zoom break or the grocery store, you can delight them during those micro-moments. If you connect them with their fellow professionals—on their time, then you will be unstoppable.

You need technology to deliver data that leads you to make smarter engagement decisions. You need your information in front of your members, no matter when, where or how they access it.

Step 3: Always remember with loss, comes gain

Failure is always the best way to learn. Start by retracing your members steps until you realize what went wrong.

Strong member data and analytics allow you to quickly view the last time members engaged with your associaion or when you engaged with them. Make sure your association knows how to track new member engagement from the beginning.

Now that you understand this key information, you must take action on the solution. In the membership application, we ask members “Why are you joining?” Based on their response, segment your welcome series emails to deliver tailored content that drives them to our website to begin engaging with their colleagues. You can also evaluate a mobile responsive online community to help deliver instant value to members.

Remember that evaluating your canceled members is crucial to building a strong relationship with your members. Your association will be more successful in increasing your retention rates and creating more happy members for doing it.

For more best practices on member retention, watch the on-demand webinar: Proven strategies for increasing member retention.

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