For your professional organization to be successful, your members have to be engaged. It’s a simple truth that, while seemingly obvious, deserves further considerations.
What is your core goal as an association? Chances are that you are working toward some type of common good for your industry or profession. But that common good cannot be achieved in isolation. Associations and professional organizations of any kind need active and engaged members to fulfill their mission, work toward their mission, and play their role in achieving sustainable, positive change.
That engagement is directly connected to your renewal rate. You need membership dues to sustain and grow your operation, and cannot simply rely on new members to build your budget. In addition, you need a consistently high membership renewal rate to be successful and achieve your goals in the long term.
And here is the key: one can lead to the other. Through effective member engagement, you can improve your renewal rates, and even raise your annual dues. The result is not just more effective and communal work toward the association’s goal, but a higher budget that increases the possibilities for the future.
Distinguish Between Engagement and Satisfaction
Too often, we confuse member satisfaction and member engagement. Both are complementary, but not one and the same. A satisfied member of your association might never take advantage of any of your grassroots advocacy tools, and never attend any event. On the other hand, some of your most engaged members may not ultimately be satisfied with their membership.
That distinction is crucial because of one core reason: in isolation, satisfied members are the most likely group among your entire user base to renew. They simply have no reason not to. But they’re also the most fickle group; should their budget or needs change, they have no reason to stay with you and continue paying their dues.
Contrast that with engaged members, who feel a connection with your association because of the benefits they get out of it. A recent study showed that even though 84 percent of association members are satisfied with their organization, only 55 percent actually feel a close connection to it. That gap suggests a significant need for engagement. Once that engagement occurs, the connections strengthen, and the likelihood of renewal increases dramatically.
Allow Your Members to Find their Benefits
Your members renew not because of the services and opportunities you offer, but the benefits they get from these opportunities. That might seem like a minor distinction, but is actually crucial to understand just why engagement is so important to your renewal rate.
A great association is member-driven. The services it offers are dictated by member and industry needs, instead of the other way around. New members join and existing members stay on because the services provided become a core part of what is needed to survive and thrive in the industry or trade in question.
That’s the ideal scenario, but it’s easier to accomplish than you might think. The key is simple: allow your members to find their benefits. In other words, shift your messaging to offer not just the services and features membership offers, but how those services actually solve your audience’s pain points. Once you do that, your audience’s internal motivation to engage will become strong enough that it leads to increased renewals.
Segment Your Audience to Personalize Your Messaging
Every member’s needs are different. So are their engagement rates and preferences. Some of them might be happy to get your email newsletter once a month, and will renew for eternity. Others provide you with their industry information and company size, and expect information and professional development opportunities specifically tailored to them.
Each of them requires a different strategy toward renewal. That’s because, quite frankly, each of them has a different definition of what it means to be ‘engaged.’ In her book The Art of Membership,
(Sheri) Jacobs doesn’t suggest that you stop trying to increase engagement among your members but rather that you try to gain an understanding of individual members’ motivations and align your interaction with them accordingly. Finding “ways to deliver more value to unengaged members” is an entirely different type of effort (and one likely to be more efficient) than trying to engage every member as if they all have the same potential to get involved or willingness to do so.
More personalized messaging allows for better-tailored and more personalized engagement efforts. And the more personally involved a member becomes with their association, the higher their chances of renewal rise.
Raise Your Dues Once Retention Peaks
High renewal rates don’t just help to build marginal revenue won by a lower churn rate. They also allow you to raise your dues regularly without alienating your membership. The more engaged your members are, the more likely they will be to see the value in their membership, even at increased prices.
That’s why according to one survey, most associations with renewal rates at or above 80 percent raise their dues annually without much (if any) damage. Once the engagement and satisfaction rate line up to build strong connections between membership and organization, that connection will be worth more than a few extra dollars in annual fees.
Of course, you have to monitor this step carefully. Raise your dues by too much, and retention will drop. The right balance might see a slight drop in renewals, but one that is outweighed by the additional revenue gained by the higher fees.
Take the First Step Toward Increased Engagement
Member engagement, in other words, is closely related to your membership renewal rates. The more engaged and satisfied your audience is, the more likely they will become to see the benefits in their membership. Once that happens, they begin to rely on your services and opportunities, and become less likely to jump off.
Of course, that requires a wide range of opportunities for easy engagement to begin with. Segmentation requires an effective database with plenty of information about each member. Grassroots advocacy should be easy and streamlined, while professional development opportunities should be clear and easy to participate in.
In other words, taking the first step toward increased engagement and renewals involves an effective association management platform. Our software is designed for both of these goals, helping you better manage, satisfy, and engage your new and long-term members. Schedule a call today to learn more about our platform, and how it can build your renewal rate.