Want to know why members left? Ask them. Effective exit surveys can give you insight into what your association can do to better retain current and future members. Here are a few best practices.
What’s worse than a member leaving your association? Not knowing why. With an exit survey, organizations can turn their lapsed members into valuable sources of information on what they can do better.
But not all organizations take advantage of this opportunity. Jayne Tegge, member engagement manager for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), says she has received only one exit survey from companies she has worked for. “And I’ve worked at a lot of places,” Tegge says.
For smaller organizations with limited staff, it’s probably just not a priority, she says. But if you make it one, you can gain insights on the state of your organization. Use these tips to build an exit survey that will tell you what you need to know.
Keep It Short and Simple
Members who are on their way out probably won’t want to sit through a hundred questions. Promote participation by asking about a dozen questions that cover the basics. Questions should include:
- Why are you discontinuing your membership?
- What did you like best about your member experience? What did you like least?
- How can our organization improve the membership experience?
- What could we have done to keep you as a member?
- Do you plan to rejoin in the future?
The key is to understand exactly why they’re leaving and what they think you can do better.
Avoid Leading Questions
You won’t have a clear road map for improvement without truthful responses. Make sure that questions are worded simply and without bias and that they don’t suggest an answer. For example, don’t ask, “Do you think our low-cost membership dues are fair?” Instead ask, “What do you think about our membership dues?”
If you create multiple-choice questions, make sure the list of answers covers the entire spectrum of possible reactions, from very positive to very negative, instead of putting a positive spin on each potential response. Make sure to add an “other” option as well to offer more flexibility.
Another way to ensure honest responses is to keep participants anonymous; SIOP follows this strategy, Tegge says. Don’t ask for any identifying information, and make sure you’re not requesting details that are too specific, such as the exact date the respondent joined.
On the technical side, services such as SurveyMonkey let you decide whether to track and store identifiable respondent information.
Leave Room for Written Responses
Use some open-ended questions—including a final question such as “Is there anything more you would like to add?”—to allow respondents to expand on their thoughts.
“That’s why we have open-ended questions, so they can tell us exactly what they want to tell us,” Tegge says. “That is where the content we want is located, because that is an individual’s personal experience.”
Give Lapsed Members a Breather
Wait a few months after members lapse to send your survey so they have a chance to spend time away from your organization and reflect on their experiences. Plus, you don’t want to contact lapsed members too frequently, or they might tune you out.
At SIOP, members receive an exit survey 12 months after their membership ends. Three weeks after that, the organization sends a reminder to complete it, and lapsed SIOP members have a month to submit their answers. This generous window of time increases the number of responses—and the more you get, the more data you have to work with.
“Some think, ‘I’m going to do that, but I don’t have time today.’ So they might do it in five days. Then we have all the stragglers who totally forget about the survey,” Tegge says. “So when we send the reminder at the three-week mark, we get a whole other blast of people.”