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10 Ways to Improve Association Member Retention

As an association professional, you probably place a high priority on attracting new members. But consider that member retention is just as important. It’s possibly even more important when you consider the old saying that it costs more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.

Here’s another thing to consider: Many of your members will decide if they’ll stay or go well before their renewal date. They’ll make their decision based on their experience with your organization and the value your association provides throughout the year.

So, with these ideas in mind, how do you grow and maintain association member retention? Let’s look at 10 proven retention strategies.

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1. Know your members.

By understanding your members’ needs and how they evolve, you can deliver a better member experience, which leads to greater membership retention. Continually gather information about your members’ interests and preferences. Then, use it to inform your services and programs.

To understand your members better, it can help to keep up with the latest association industry research. For example, association industry research by Community Brands contains powerful insights into the connection between member loyalty and innovative technology. The study, with data collected from hundreds of association leaders and a thousand members, reveals:

    • Members’ attitudes and outlooks toward technology
    • Technology’s impact on member loyalty and member retention
    • Key technology trends that all association leaders should know about
    • Action items aimed at providing greater member value and a more positive member experience, which ultimately lead to greater membership retention

Learn about the future-focused member experience.

Download the 2022 Association Trends Study

Some other ways to know your members better include:

  • Sending them a survey to find out more about what’s most important to them
  • Reading and participating in conversations with members in your online member community to discover what’s on their minds
  • Paying attention to what members are posting about in your social media channels

2. Embrace personalization.

Like all of us, your members have come to expect highly personalized experiences. Research shows that 79 percent of members view “targeted, valuable content” as important. Demonstrating to your members that your association understands and is keeping up with their expectations is a great way to keep members renewing year after year.


Use your association management software (AMS) to collect and analyze data about your members’ career stages, interests, behaviors, and preferences. Then, use that data to provide them with the personalized benefits they’re seeking.

For example, based on your members’ career stages, recommend new resources or services offered by your organization that will help them in their specific career stage. Some types of targeted information you might provide include:

  • Recommendations on continuing education related to your members’ interests
  • Information about specific programs that align with members’ needs
  • Information about products or services related to your members past purchasing habits
  • Relevant job opportunities

3. Review your membership value proposition.

In your members’ eyes, the value your association provides evolves as they move through their careers. As you learn more about your members, be sure to continually evaluate your organizational strategy to ensure you are providing value throughout the member journey.

increase member value

Reassess member benefits and engagement opportunities to ensure they continue to provide the value that members seek. Consider which programs and services should be expanded, and which should be discontinued.

Also in your assessment, make sure you go beyond a list of what’s included with a membership. Establish and share a vision of how membership will improve a member’s career and life.

4. Give your job board a boost.

Community Brands studies show that job opportunities continue to be a top benefit for members. Your members want career advancement and are looking for you to provide this value.

If you don’t already do so, offer a robust online career center that includes an online job board and a career planning portal. A career center can help your members at every career stage, making it a vital part of your membership retention strategies.

Career and Education Journey

An online career center can help your members find and apply for jobs several times during their careers. It also helps your members with career-building resources that keep them engaged and loyal for years to come.

With the right technology and some proven techniques, your online career center can help increase association member retention (and even drive added revenue) for your organization.

You can take membership retention even further by pairing your online career center with your AMS. For example, you can generate a monthly report in your AMS that shows member activity in your online career center, and then use that data to drive more informed member engagement and retention strategies.

5. Help members advance their careers.

Speaking of helping your members grow their careers, you have a critical role to play in keeping your members at the cutting edge of skills needed to allow your industry to advance. Professionals in your industry must be able to turn to you to keep their knowledge, skills, and certifications up to date.

Take time to audit your professional education program and provide the learning content your members need. Also, be sure to understand and address learner preferences. For example, you might want to add microlearning, live streaming, live webinars/broadcasts, guided learning courses, and career pathing as options.

6. Be the industry resource.

Your members look to your association to be a leader in your industry, especially when it comes to the latest industry information and trends. To improve membership retention, make your website and member portal the go-to place for the latest information, trends, and regulations. Also, provide your members with a place – such as an online member community – to discuss and share learning experiences with each other.

Some things to consider sharing with your members online:

  • Industry research studies
  • Reports on industry best practices
  • Articles about hot topics written by industry thought leaders

7. Dust off your code of ethics.

Association industry studies from Community Brands have consistently found code of ethics as one of the top membership retention drivers. When is the last time you reviewed your association’s code of ethics?

Your organization’s code of ethics describes what brings your members together as a profession. It’s also the foundation of their shared expectations of each other. Members are proud to belong to an association that provides a framework and standards for their industry. So, be sure to keep your code of ethics updated and relevant. It’s a must-do for membership retention.

Some ideas:

  • Review your code of ethics during your annual planning process to make sure it’s always up-to-date.
  • Each time you review your code of ethics, make sure it’s easy to find on your website or member portal and that it is included in your onboarding emails for new members.
  • Be sure to let members know how to notify you of potential violations of your code of ethics.

8. Make renewal easy.

The easier you make it for members to renew, the more likely they are to do so. Here are two simple things you can do to make it easy for members to remain a member:

Remove the cost barrier.

Price can be a barrier to renewing, especially for those early in their careers or between jobs. Consider offering a monthly or quarterly dues payment option.

Offer auto-renewal.

Some of your members will simply forget to renew. One of the best ways to address this issue is to offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card.

9. Give members some virtual options.

Advances in technology, member schedules, and other factors have made it easier and more important for events and socializing to be able to take place online. Provide your members with opportunities to learn, participate, and network with one another year-round by providing members with an online member community, educational webinars, and other virtual opportunities. When members can engage with their peers and your association throughout the year, no matter where they are, you can help to cement their relationship with your association.
hybrid events

10. Start association member retention on day one.

Member retention isn’t just an activity that takes place the few months leading up to renewal. It starts on day one and continues throughout the member lifecycle.

Be sure to make members feel welcome with a great onboarding process that includes a “welcome” email, onboarding email series, and links to helpful resources. Keep members engaged throughout the year through your online member community, online career center, learning program, events, and volunteer opportunities. And be sure to stay on top of what members want and deliver targeted, personalized content and programs to provide the value members seek through each step of their journey with your organization.

Take the next step with your association member retention strategy.

Remember that member retention is an ongoing process that starts from the moment a member joins your association. It requires you to provide ongoing value and continually meet your members’ expectations.

Community Brands offers a connected network of solutions, including YM Careers, to help your association attract, engage, and retain members.

YM Careers offers job board software and career development solutions built for associations. With YM Careers, you pay no up-front costs: YM Careers doesn’t start making money until you do. And if you don’t have staff available to manage job board sales and marketing, YM Careers can help you showcase your job board to employers and job seekers.

Get more membership recruitment and retention strategies.

Schedule a personalized demo with YM Careers.

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