Every association has lapsed members, but not everyone understands how to win them back – or, even better, prevent them from leaving in the first place.
It’s important to understand where your members stand when it comes to your products, education, conferences, and other resources your organization might offer, such as an online career center. Understanding your members better will ultimately help you to retain and grow your association membership.
Let’s consider why members lapse and what you can do to keep them happy, engaged, and renewing each year.
Why do members lapse?
Associations lose members each year for a variety of reasons. It’s often because members can’t or don’t want to spend the money and/or time asked of them for the value they get back from the membership.
Each member has their own set of priorities that might lead to a lapse in membership. The challenge for your association is to prove that you can provide great value regardless of obstacles your members might face.
The 2023 Association Trends Study by Community Brands includes a breakdown of the top benefits according to members in the study. Your association’s top benefits might differ based on your industry, but this is a great starting point to get an idea about membership priorities for your organization:
Four ways to win back lapsed members and keep them from leaving in the first place
Now that you have an idea of what’s important to your members, let’s explore four ways to keep them happy and engaged so they’ll keep renewing.
1. Position your association as the most valuable and trusted resource in the industry.
Regularly remind members of all the benefits available to them exclusively through your association. You can take it a step further by occasionally assigning 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”.
Lapsed and unengaged members might not realize when you enhance or add new benefits. So, make sure you highlight new membership benefits on your website. You might also use an infographic or chart in your association’s newsletter to highlight new benefits.
The 2023 Association Trends Study indicates that job opportunities and help with career advancement are top priorities for those who are early and mid-career. So, be sure to provide a robust online career center with an online job board and career planning resources that help your members to reach their career goals. Offering these types of resources will help to position your organization as THE career destination for your industry.
2. Personalize the member experience.
Providing a more personalized member experience helps members feel more connected with your organization. There are many ways to personalize the member experience.
One effective way is to recommend professional education courses for your members based on previous education resources they have used in the past.
Another way to make the member experience more personal is to have a current member reach out to a lapsed or unengaged member and invite them to attend an upcoming networking event or conference. Sometimes the peer-to-peer connection is exactly what your lapsed or unengaged members are craving and could help them find their way back to your association.
3. Conduct marketing campaigns and membership drives.
The right marketing campaign can re-kindle your organization’s relationship with lapsed and unengaged members, whose interest may have faded.
Here’s an idea: Work with your staff and association board to create a membership drive. This could be a sort of open house in which unengaged and lapsed members come to learn about new programs in your organization. Or it could even be as simple as outreach phone calls. Your board and staff could divide a call list and talk to unengaged and lapsed members directly.
When connecting with lapsed and non-engaged members, remind them of the value of your association’s activities – especially the ones that are of top importance to members, such as trainings, certifications/credentials, the latest industry news, and career advancement opportunities and resources.
4. Survey your members.
An ideal way to connect with members and gain more knowledge about what they want is to ask for their feedback. With regular feedback, you can identify members who are at risk of lapsing and continuously improve member value.
Survey lapsed members after they leave to ask why they left and what you could have done to provide greater value and keep them around. When reaching out to lapsed members, ask if they’d consider joining a committee or advisory board. It might be that they wanted to be more involved and simply were never asked.
Send surveys to current members as well to understand what makes them stay, which can help you understand what benefits you might want to emphasize more. As you survey current members, be sure to look for areas for improvement, too. For example, maybe there’s a benefit that members want that your association could easily add to your offerings.