The Countdown to Renewal Season Is On. Are You Ready?

Many associations operate on a calendar-year dues cycle with renewals late in the year, which means their members are currently deciding whether to join up again. Here are three tips to boost the chance of a renewal.

Associations typically operate on one of two membership dues cycles. Either everyone renews on the same date each year, or individual members renew on their join-date anniversary.

In the 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report from Marketing General Incorporated, about half of associations surveyed (48 percent) said they operate on calendar renewals. And Callie Walker, senior inbound marketing specialist at MemberClicks, says peak renewal season usually takes place between now and the end of January.

“It’s a very busy period, between the holidays and end-of-year deadlines,” Walker says. “If you can have the renewal process automated, it can help save your staff a ton of time and make the member engagement feel personalized and urgent.”

Regardless of which dues cycle your association uses, Walker suggests giving members at least three months’ notice to ensure renewals. And she recommends the following three tactics to boost your association’s retention rate.

Use compelling subject lines. If you use an end-of-year renewal cycle, you’re probably already alerting members by email. Are you paying attention to writing short and urgent call-to-action subject lines? “Don’t be afraid to showcase some personality in the subject line,” Walker says. “It helps grab attention and make an impression. Also, you can include a specific date or important deadline to make the email stand out.” She also suggests A/B testing multiple headlines to determine which call-to-action message works best with members.

Focus on ROI. It helps to remind members why their membership is so valuable. A bit of personalization can go a long way toward showing return on the membership investment for individual members. “It’s a really compelling argument if you can show [individual] members what they’ve taken advantage of in the past year,” whether in terms of engagement or savings, Walker says.

If you can’t do this with your current membership software or database system, she says you can make the same ROI pitch in more general terms by demonstrating big wins—whether it was a legislative achievement or record high attendance at the annual meeting, demonstrating the value of your education offerings.

Consider grace periods and reinstatement incentives. Of course, not all members will act in time—particularly if your renewal deadline is during the busy end-of-year rush when so many other things are competing for your members’ attention. That’s why a grace period can help keep retention strong. “It’s a good idea to have that grace period just in case someone forgets to renew,” Walker says.

She suggests keeping members who do lapse on certain email and newsletter communications, as well as extending a reinstatement incentive. “You still want to remain in contact. Maybe send that person content or invite them to an event as a nonmember,” Walker says. “You may even send them a special discount if they rejoin. It’s targeted and extra incentive to renew.”

What tactics have helped your association keep member retention strong? Post your comments and ideas below.

(oatawa/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!