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5 Ways to Win Back Your Association’s Lapsed Members

Every association has lapsed members, but not everyone understands how to win them back – or prevent them from leaving in the first place.

Community Brands report of the association industry sheds light on the subject. It turns out that half of members believe their professional membership organization is more important now than before the pandemic. Furthermore, forty percent say they’re interacting with their organization more than they did before.  

In an environment of high engagement, it might be easy to forget about the members you’ve lost. Once you understand what makes some members leave, and you can take action to keep members from lapsing in the future and win back those who have already lapsed. 

Why do members lapse?

Associations lose members for a variety of reasons, predominantly because members either can’t or don’t want to spend the money and/or time asked of them. 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 value regardless of obstacles your members might face. 

How can you win back, or prevent, lapsed members? 

     1. Position your association as the most valuable resource in the industry. 

Remind members of all the benefits available to them exclusively through your association. You can even take it a step further 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”.  

Members who have been lapsed for several months or more than a year might not realize that  you’ve enhanced or added new benefits since they left. Highlight any new benefits and maybe  even a positive quote about the benefits from a current member who has taken advantage of  them. 

Also, ensure your association’s career center positions you as the industry leader. Make your  website and member portal the go-to place for the latest information, trends, and regulations.  Provide the best job board and career planning resources that propel your members’ careers  upward faster than any other association.

     2. Personalize the member experience. 

The Community Brands Digital Evolution Study shows that 79 percent of members think “targeted, valuable content” is important. Showing your members that your association can cater to their specific needs is a great way to win back or prevent lapsed members.  

Put your data to work by fully utilizing the data provided by your association management  software. For example, help members advance their careers by suggesting educational courses  based on previous courses they’ve taken through your online learning program or based on job  opportunities they’ve viewed in your online career center.

Ask a short list of current members to contact a few lapsed members directly and invite them to  join an upcoming event. If it’s an in-person event, be sure to greet the lapsed members face-to- face if they attend. Offer to connect lapsed members with a volunteer ambassador  (member) in your online community.

Another approach is to offer members the opportunity to customize their memberships to  include only the benefits they’re seeking. That way, they aren’t paying for benefits they won’t  use. 

     3. Make membership affordable and renewal easy. 

To avoid members leaving due to financial reasons, offer budget-friendly installment payment options. Or, offer a discounted membership for returning members.  

Research from Community Brands shows that seven percent of lapsed members simply forgot  to renew. To avoid this, offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the  membership fee charged to the member’s credit card.

     4. Create a marketing campaign. 

Remind your lapsed members (or unengaged members) of the unique value your organization provides. The right marketing campaign can re-kindle the relationship with those members whose interest may have faded. 

Ensure your messaging has a catchy theme (such as “Baby, Come Back!”) and reinforces the  value of membership with your association. Highlight benefits that members have taken  advantage of, such as event discounts and learning opportunities. On the other hand, remind  them of the benefits they might not have utilized, and that there’s still time to do so if they  renew right away.  

Also, remind them of the importance of association activities, such as raising awareness and  fueling innovation for your industry and profession – two of the top three important  benefits to lapsed members.  Let members know about upcoming events, resources, and  opportunities they’ll miss out on if they do not renew. 

     5. Ask for feedback often. 

With regular feedback, you can identify members who are at risk of lapsing earlier and continuously improve the member experience and 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. Additionally, utilize the insight your current members can supply. Knowing what makes your current members stay can help you understand what benefits you might want to emphasize more. 

Survey current members to discover areas for improvement. Perhaps there’s a benefit that your  association could easily add on to your offerings, you just aren’t aware that members want  it. When reaching out to lapsed members, invite them to join a committee or advisory board. It  might be that they wanted to be more involved and simply were never asked. 


Associations are always looking for innovative ways to attract new members. But what about making sure the members you already have realize the value you provide? What if you could get in front of disengaged members before they lapse?  

Become the go-to resource for career advancement in your industry. With a job board, Career Journey®️ career pathing tool, InternBoard, MentorBoard, Career Fairs and Events and more, YM Careers will make you an indispensable resource for your members.  

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