Why your association’s members might be walking out the door

You lose members every year, but you don’t have to.   

Here are four common reasons for member lapses and what you can do to head them off.

Tirrah Switzer Tirrah Switzer, Product Marketing Director, Community Brands


Each year, your association loses members. Some of those members leave because they’ve retired or changed industries, and there’s not a lot you can do about that. But for others, there are things you can do to strengthen their loyalty and keep them from walking away. 

Here are four common reasons for member lapses and how to win them back (or avoid the lapse in the first place!):

1. Cost
The 2021 Association Trends Study by Community Brands suggests that cost is the top reason that members leave. It might be due to personal finances, or maybe an employer that has stopped paying for employee member dues.

You can offset the cost issue by providing members with some relief. For example, offer a discounted membership for lapsed members who return. Or, offer a budget-friendly monthly membership dues option that will help with everything from recruitment to retention.

2. Lack of value
If your members don’t think they’re getting enough value from their membership dues, then they’ll walk away. Here are some ideas for demonstrating member value:

  • Remind members of the benefits available to them (they might not have taken advantage of everything available to them as a member) and assign a dollar amount to each benefit. For example, if you offer members free admission to your annual conference, list the ticket price of your event next to that benefit as “a $XXX value”. Remind them of these benefits occasionally throughout the year and in your membership renewal and lapsed member emails.
  • Keep in mind that members who have been lapsed for several months or more might not realize that you’ve enhanced or added new benefits since they left. In your membership renewal and lapsed member emails, be sure to highlight any new benefits and maybe include a positive quote about the benefits from a current member who has taken advantage of them.
  • Offer members the opportunity to customize their memberships to include only the benefits they’re seeking. That way, they aren’t paying for a bunch of benefits they won’t use.
  • Set 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 greater member value. 

TIP: Make sure the cost of membership is aligned with the value that your organization is offering in your membership.  

3. Lack of engagement or connection with the organization
Some lapsed members might not have put much effort into their membership, and then felt as if they had little connection with the organization. But your organization still might have work to do around member engagement to strengthen the connection with members overall. Some ideas:

  • Thank new members for joining, and thank returning members for renewing. In these communications, let new members know you’ll be sending more communications with additional information about their new membership, and then put them into an onboarding email series. For returning members, send them a note with a personal touch – such as acknowledging how they’ve been involved with your organization in the past and thanking them for their participation and ongoing membership.
  • Offer to connect new and lapsed members with a volunteer ambassador (member) in your online community to get them more involved and make them feel more like they’re part of the organization. 

TIP: If you haven’t launched an online member community yet, no problem. YourMembership AMS by Community Brands includes online community functionality to help you set up a vibrant virtual community for your members.  

  • Ask a short list of current members to contact a few new and lapsed members directly and invite them to join an upcoming event. If it’s an in-person event, be sure to greet the new and lapsed members face-to-face if they attend. You might even ask current members, board members, or staff to greet the new and lapsed members and invite them to join their tables.

4. Forgetfulness
The 2021 Association Trends Study shows that 9 percent of members studied simply forgot to renew. A great way to address this issue is to offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card. Your membership management software should allow you to set up this option, with corresponding automated emails that notify members when their membership has been renewed. If members decide not to renew, they can simply update their account information to cancel the automatic payments.

For example, YourMembership AMS allows you to set up auto-renewals, with corresponding automated emails that notify members when their membership has been renewed. YourMembership also offers account updater functionality, which ensures that your recurring revenue remains intact even if your members’ card information changes.

Learn more
Every day presents another opportunity to win your members over and keep them around. Learn more tips for driving member loyalty and retention: Read the guide, How to drive greater member loyalty for your association

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