by Korrin Bishop
You work hard to recruit members to your organization, and you already know that retaining those members after they join can help to save you time, money, and other resources that would otherwise be funneled back into recruitment. Member retention will also provide a more reliable revenue source for your organization, taking some stress off your fundraising plate — if you can rely on your members to stick around, you’ll be able to experiment more with new fundraising ideas and engagement tactics rather than scrambling for renewals.
Member retention efforts will look differently for every association, and may also vary based on whether a member is new or recurring. However, with a little upfront planning, you can streamline the member retention process — simplifying your already busy job!
Create Your Own 12-Month Membership Retention Plan
Below, we share a membership retention plan template for a 12-month period. This example focuses on the goal of retaining a new member for their second year.
Feel free to tailor these monthly action items to establish a formal member retention plan that’s best for your unique organization! The main takeaway here should be knowing what you want to do each month to demonstrate the value of your organization to your members and get them ready to renew on their anniversary date.
We also have a full membership retention toolkit if you’re looking for other strategies:
If not, keep reading to learn our top tips!
Month 1: Welcome
After a new member joins your organization, take the first month of their membership as an opportunity to give them a warm welcome. Your welcome strategy will be tailored to your organization, of course, but should aim to answer any frequently asked questions, get the member excited about upcoming opportunities, and express your gratitude for their involvement.
You may want to send a welcome email, give the member a quick phone call, or post a shoutout on your organization’s social media or newsletter to welcome them.
If you choose to send a new member welcome packet, you may consider including:
- A welcome letter
- A list of membership benefits
- A calendar of upcoming events
- Branded swag
- Your business card with contact information
- A quick reference sheet about your organization
- Information on membership costs, levels, and due dates
Month 2: Engage
So, you’ve warmly welcomed your new member in month one — now what? Month two is a great time to plan an engagement with them. For example, if you have an event coming up, you may want to invite them to join and let them know you’re excited to have them at their first gathering.
If you had your new member check what their specific interests are when filling out their member application form, you could also send them a targeted email based on topics with which they’re most likely to engage. They’ll appreciate you providing content that’s useful for their needs.
Month 3: Check-in
Once your new member has had a couple of months to get acquainted with your organization, a good member retention strategy for month three is doing a quick check-in. If you have the capacity, consider giving them a phone call or sending a personalized email to see how they’re doing and if they have any questions.
This could also be a good time to invite them to a new member orientation, either in-person or via a webinar, to connect them with other members and answer any lingering questions they might have. You’ll know the best way to express that you’re still thinking about them and happy they joined your membership!
Month 4: Provide
By month four, your new member has made it through their first quarter of engagement with your organization. Hopefully by now they’re feeling like a valued member of your organization, so your job is to keep demonstrating that value.
Your member retention plan for month four could simply include sending them another targeted email based on their interests. If you have a relevant event coming up, you could also plan to invite them to that this month. Whatever you decide, just remember that this stage in membership retention is all about provide, provide, provide!
Month 5: Mentor
You may have decided to do this earlier in your member retention plan, but if not, month five is a great time to offer to pair your new member with a member mentor. This mentor can help them learn more ways to utilize their membership benefits and expand their personal network within the organization. That sense of camaraderie may entice your member to want to stay a part of the community your organization provides for the long haul.
Outside of a formal mentor pairing, you could also have a staff member reach out with a personalized email that highlights a specific benefit, part of your website, or other resource that you think could specifically help them. For example, if your new member has a student membership with your organization, you could direct them to the job board you host on your site.
Month 6: Survey
Month six is the halfway point for your new member’s 12-month membership, so it’s a good time to review your membership retention strategies thus far and gauge whether your member might be at risk of lapsing in their involvement.
Some questions you might ask about your new member could be:
- Were they engaged in the new member orientation?
- How many events or webinars have they attended?
- When was the last time someone on our team had personal contact with the member?
- Has the member opted into our mentorship program?
In addition to reviewing your internal member retention processes at this point, you might also want to survey the new member directly. This shows you care about their involvement and level of satisfaction with the membership and are willing to make changes to help them get more out of the connection.
Some questions you might ask your new member about in a survey could be:
- What benefits are you using and enjoying the most?
- Is there anything we’re not providing that you’d like to see us add to our benefits?
- Has our content matched your main interests?
- On a scale from one to ten, how satisfied are you overall with being a member?
Month 7: Connect
Moving into the second half of your 12-month member retention plan is an excellent time to up your personal engagement to strengthen the connection your new member has with your organization.
At this point, you might want to focus on personal touches, such as:
- Sending a handwritten note thanking them for their membership
- Making a phone call to see if you can help them with anything
- Emailing a personal video message telling them about a new benefit you think they’d enjoy
However you choose to engage with your member at this stage, they’ll appreciate the personalized connection.
Month 8: Highlight
You obviously value your members, but when did you last tell them just how much? As you begin to move toward a member’s renewal date, consider highlighting them in your newsletter, social media, or other membership communications.
You could share a little about what they do, what value they add to your organization, how long they’ve been involved with your work, or anything else that demonstrates to your membership why you value their participation. You may even want to reach out to them to get a photo and a quote about why they’re a member.
Highlighting your members is a fun way to strengthen member retention by making your members feel seen and appreciated.
Month 9: Encourage
As you near the final quarter of a new member’s 12-month membership, you could consider bolstering their retention potential by encouraging them to take a greater role within your organization. If you have volunteer opportunities or leadership positions you need to fill with members, let them know you think they’d be a great candidate for one of those spots.
For example, your member may have appreciated having a mentor their first year with your organization and may feel excited about the potential of being a mentor for another member in their second year.
Month 10: Demonstrate
Membership renewal efforts typically start in earnest about 90 days before a member’s membership lapses. So, the tenth month in your member retention plan is a key time to start doubling down on demonstrating your membership’s value.
In your messaging to your member during this month, consider:
- Sharing a list of things your organization has accomplished this year
- Including member testimonials in emails about why they’re involved with your organization
- Publishing data on how your organization has helped its members succeed
Month 11: Renew
The month before your member’s membership expires, you might want to focus on sending your membership renewal emails. It helps to make these simple and straightforward so your members can quickly and easily understand how and when they can renew their membership.
However, you’ll likely want to continue to demonstrate both your organization’s value and your gratitude for your members’ involvement during these emails. You can use this as an opportunity to frame member retention as continuing a great friendship or partnership with your organization.
(PS: using software to remind you when their renewal date is coming up and send out emails can save you a lot of time! Here are some points to consider if you’re not already using a platform.)
Month 12: Celebrate
So, your member retention plan has gone swimmingly at this point, right? You’ve demonstrated your value, engaged with your members meaningfully, and processed their renewals for the next year. Way to go, you! But, what now?
As you prepare for your next 12 months of member retention activities, this is a good time to celebrate! You may want to create an event to celebrate your organization’s milestones with members, send out thank you cards for member renewals, or any number of light, fun activities to bond your members together as a community.
Additional Tips to Make Your Membership Retention Plan Shine
While the membership plan template above covers general potential retention activities for each month of a 12-month membership, there are other tips you might want to consider when forming your plan, too.
Holidays, members’ birthdays or anniversaries, and other annual events are typically good touchpoints for member stewardship. You could choose to include some of these in your retention plan.
As mentioned previously, you might also want to have one member retention plan for brand new members, one for recurring members, and even a third for lapsed members who are returning to your organization after a break. Your organization will know the best way to engage with each of these groups.