Best Practices for Re-Engaging At-Risk Members

All associations have some members on the fence about renewing. How can you recognize these individuals and then convince them to stick around for the long term? One membership professional shares strategies to help turn at-risk members into more engaged participants.

Associations must care for and support their members, no matter where they fall on the engagement scale. However, at-risk members require a careful approach as they teeter between whether to renew their membership or leave the association.

According to Kevin Jacobs, membership manager at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), associations will see their at-risk numbers grow if they lack awareness about their members’ needs and concerns.

“Organizations that don’t take the time to know their members usually throw things against the wall to see what sticks,” he said. “Knowing your members will not only help you target your communications more authentically but also turn members into advocates because you’re giving them exactly what they want.”

He shared ways that associations can identify at-risk members and then help them become more engaged.

Tenure and Interests

These are a few things to consider when evaluating at-risk members. For instance, length of membership can be a key factor as first-year members typically drop at higher rates than longer-term members. That’s why CEC provides more support to individuals in the first one to three years of membership.

Knowing certain characteristics about members, such as age, education, and primary interests, can also help determine who may be on the fence about renewing. “We look at student members and early-career professionals since these members often join through their schools or districts rather than on an individual level,” Jacobs said.

CEC has also developed a customized onboarding program for new members, which pushes resources based on their interests at various points throughout the year. At the end of that year, CEC uses those same interests to encourage members to renew.

“We feel strongly that by tailoring our outreach to our members’ primary interests, we can directly correlate the value of our resources to their daily work,” Jacobs said. “This encourages our members to not only engage with us but also become advocates.”

Active Engagement

Looking at how active members are can help associations get a good sense of whether they’ll choose to renew. For example, if someone hasn’t set up a member login, that’s a huge red flag. If members have set up a login, check whether they’ve created a profile or completed their profile to include demographic information.

“I also review their email history but only for click-through rates, which require user interaction. I also consider their other affiliations and volunteer activities and event attendance,” Jacobs said.

He recommends associations remove barriers to engagement where possible to simplify the member experience. For example, having basic member information (e.g., name, email, member ID) autofill when members register for webinars will make it easier for them to join and become active in your association’s events.

Meaningful Connections

Building relationships with other members is a huge reason why people renew. These connections can also come in handy when encouraging at-risk members to renew.

For instance, consider having chapter leaders or board members reach out to these members. “When board members are reaching out, it sets a different tone,” Jacobs said. “It makes people feel more special and valued. It often helps encourage a lot of renewals.”

In addition, Jacobs recommends asking for feedback from members at specific intervals. Knowing what members think of your association and how they feel about renewing their membership will help mitigate losses.

“Always ask members what they want and how they like to engage,” Jacobs said. “Tailor your offerings toward what they want and helping them connect with other members. When your members drive the conversation, they’re the ones that truly benefit.”


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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