The Three Steps to Membership Success

Are you serious about gaining more members? Are you serious about earning more revenue from your members? I constantly hear the words ‘of course we are’, yet, the reality is often different.

Building a strong, loyal membership in your organisation takes time; it is a systematic process; it needs total commitment from all of those on your team and your executive committee; it takes money – a wisely spent investment will gain you explosive membership growth.

This is what causes the problem … few people have the time; many people haven’t got a clue how to create a sustainable, dynamic system; membership development is often buried deeply (and sometimes irretrievably) in a committee’s agenda and, as for investing some money in a worthwhile member development program … it is easier to take the ‘safe’ option – bury ones’ head in the sand and do nothing.

Here is an example of a campaign I conducted for a non profit organisation, part of a larger group. I worked with this organisation’s manager and developed a recruitment, retention, renewal / reactivation membership program.

We developed a system for each of the above steps, worked with his staff to actively encourage visitors to join, conducted a targeted direct mail (and some telemarketing) campaign, actively sought out new members in the community and … grew their membership by 47% in one year. Also, we achieved a 98% renewals rate amongst their current membership.

We worked well together. It was a great outcome. The Manager won a ‘highest category membership growth’ award.

Did that bring other organisations within this group knocking at my door? Yes, there was a lot of interest shown and I gained a further … one assignment.

But the interest shown was huge!!

I was asked to write two reports for the main groups executive committee, meet the committee and make a presentation, meet the CEO, meet with a number of different executives and managers and so forth. Yet no one else hired me. And this is a group where membership is falling and new members are hard to find.

Was I too expensive? Hardly, if people choose to deal with commercial reality, my fees are very reasonable … and the rate of financial return to the Club I worked with would be around 1,000%.

No, it was the usual excuses … financial, time, committee procrastination and the unwillingness to put in the effort.

If you really, seriously want to grow your members and earn more revenue, here are three steps to follow:

1. Develop a Proactive Member Recruitment Campaign

  • Define exactly what it is you wish to achieve e.g. new members from new target markets, a 10% increase in membership, a 15% increase in revenue … if you don’t set realistic objectives – don’t commence the campaign.
  • Develop a series of strategies all designed to achieve your objectives such as appointing a dedicated membership person, appointing at least one dedicated membership committee member, seeking volunteers to assist you, a ‘member-get-member’ program or …?
  • Create a culture of member recruitment (and retention) – everyone talks membership (e.g. collects business cards, recommends the organisation to others at every opportunity), every phone call is from a potential member, every visitor is a potential member. Live and breathe membership.
  • Create a prospect (potential member) data base. If you haven’t got a good data base … obtain a good data base! You cannot succeed without a good data base. Full stop.
  • Gain as much publicity and promotion for your organisation as you can. It can be surprisingly inexpensive.
  • Develop a great membership kit for prospects – follow through with every prospect you gain. Ask them to join (or find out why they don’t join) your Organisation, offering them benefits and value.

2. Develop a Member Retention Strategy, to build loyalty and relationships

  • Acknowledge every new member – write to them, phone them, invite them to a new member’s night. Appoint a mentor for new members. Many current members will volunteer, if they are asked.
  • Be aware of the fact that your first year member is your biggest potential loss. More members fail to renew after their first year than at any other membership stage. Keep in touch with all of your members, but especially your first year members.
  • Build your data base, record member likes and needs and use it to keep in touch with members. Create a retention system.
  • Consider your ‘Member Only’ benefits – are you meeting their needs / expectations?
  • Survey your members, or at least a reasonable cross section of them. Find out what you are doing well, not so well and how you can do things better.
  • Your staff should treat your members as the number one reason they are employed. Excellent service is every member’s right. If staff cannot give 100% excellent service … employ staff who can (and, yes, I have some horror stories!).

3. Develop an Effective Renewals Campaign

  • Establish realistic objectives for renewal e.g. how many or what percent of your members did you renew last year? How can you improve on this figure next year?
  • One organisation who utilised my services over a three year period in their renewals, achieved a 42% renewals increase over that timeframe – simply by developing and following a system …
  • Your renewals system should include:
    • timelines – the earlier you commence, the better;
    • offers (if applicable) – what is in it for them if they renew with you? Members want innovation and value;
    • promotion – your direct mail campaign, an email campaign and (dragging in the more reluctant ones) a telemarketing campaign.Together, these are dynamite.
  • If they don’t renew, find out why not. At least their feedback will help you to improve your member benefits.
  • Conduct a lost member win back campaign for members who have not renewed over the last 1 – 2 years (any further back is a waste of time). Results will amaze you – if it is conducted professionally.
  • Measure what you have accomplished, benchmark your renewals with previous years. Strive for improvement with detailed, systematic feedback, and apply what you have learned to the next renewals campaign.

If you apply basic business and marketing principles; put in the time and effort; develop systems for measurement / monitoring / review, work with quality, dedicated people within your organisation, you will build your membership and earn extra revenue.

Kevin Cahalane

Author Kevin Cahalane

Kevin has been involved in the fields of sales, service, management, retail, training, business development and marketing, for 30 years. As an executive he has worked for companies such as IBM, and The Age newspaper. Kevin has worked with some of Australia’s top Associations, Clubs and other non-profit Organisations including CPA Australia, Financial Planning Association of Australia, Kindergarten Parents Victoria, Deakin University and Zoo's Victoria.

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