Retaining current members costs less than recruiting new ones and saves your staff time and energy. Additionally, a high retention rate shows that people find their membership value in line with the price, which bodes well for enticing new members to join. Overall, retaining members is vital to the long-term success of associations and nonprofits with membership programs—and data plays a key role in this effort.
Collecting data and extracting insights from it helps enhance the member experience and boost member retention. Member preferences and interests differ from organization to organization, so it’s essential to have accurate, up-to-date information that will guide your membership program’s decision-making. Below, we’ll walk you through three ways to make your data work for you.
1. Calculate your member retention rate.
The first step in leveraging your data for member retention is to know what your member retention rate actually is. A retention rate provides a baseline for how well you’re preserving members between renewal periods. It allows you to set a goal for the rate you’d like to achieve or maintain. Future updates show how different approaches impacted your efforts to reach that goal.
This ongoing calculation is important to prioritize for several reasons:
- Member retention impacts your association’s overall reputation. If you can’t retain members, you don’t benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. Prospective members may come to view your organization as unreliable or unsustainable.
- Retaining members allows your organization to generate more revenue with fewer expenses. The more members you retain, the less you have to emphasize your resources toward a membership recruitment budget.
- High membership retention can lead to a higher acquisition rate. When you retain members, they’re more likely to tell their wider network about your association. These peer referrals can make recruitment easier.
Calculating your annual member retention rate is simple. Divide the number of members you currently have by the number of members you had in the previous year on that same date. Multiply the resulting number by 100 to get a percentage.
2. Collect key types of member data.
To start collecting data that will help boost member retention, look at your association’s existing data and identify information gaps. You can add fields to your membership applications, send surveys to existing members, or take notes during member engagements to help fill these gaps.
Using membership software makes keeping track of member data easier. All your information is organized in one place for gleaning crucial insights into your member experience. In particular, here are three data types you can collect to help retain more members.
To build lasting relationships with members, you need to know when and how much they interact with your benefits and services, such as:
- Job boards
- Discussion forums
- Volunteer opportunities
- Educational offerings
This lets you determine which activities your members prefer. It can also provide insights on the days and times that work best for members.
Events are an important way to bring members together and engage them with your association. Use your event management tools to track event attendance. You can identify the event types your members value most, including whether they’re virtual, hybrid, or in-person. If you keep throwing monthly happy hours that few members attend, but find that your quarterly online webinars are packed, use that data to adjust your event calendar accordingly.
You can also collect member data through pre-event and post-event surveys. These let you gather feedback directly from attendees and gauge their satisfaction with each event. They’ll appreciate that you’re taking the time to seek their opinions—just make sure you follow through on their suggestions.
If your membership operates as a tiered model, one of your association’s goals likely involves promoting membership upgrades. Organizations with different membership levels should track how many members they have in each and how that number changes from year to year.
This can indicate how appealing each membership level and its associated benefits are to members, letting you make adjustments, as needed. It can also shed light on which member cohorts are most likely to upgrade each year, which can inform how you conduct renewal outreach to these individuals.
3. Implement improvements to retain members.
Your data is only as good as you use it! Once you’ve gathered the information above, it’s time to leverage insights from the data. Use these to improve your membership program in ways that encourage members to renew year after year.
You may want to make a list of the different aspects of your association that you’d like to address, along with notes on the next steps you’ll take for each. Here are a few areas to consider, plus questions that can help you determine next steps:
- Member onboarding: Do members feel welcomed when they join our association? What frequently asked questions come up that we can better address upfront? Is anything missing from our welcome packet?
- Member benefits: What benefits do our members use most? How can we better promote or change our underperforming activities? Would investment in learning management software help our members with their goals?
- Member communications: What forms of communication do our members prefer? Are we checking in with members frequently enough? Is there a social media platform we could better leverage?
- Member appreciation: Do our members feel appreciated? What are we currently doing each year to thank our members? What is a new event we can try to ensure our members know we value them?
- Membership website: Is our membership website easy to use? Are there additional resources or discussion boards we should add to our website?
Remember that improving your membership retention strategy should be an ongoing process. The more information you collect, the more equipped you’ll be to make impactful improvements to boost your results.
Use Data to Retain Members and Grow Your Association
Retaining members is key to your membership organization’s growth, as doing so reduces recruitment costs and improves your reputation.
By using member data to inform membership decisions, your association or nonprofit can better communicate with, appeal to, and appreciate your members—three steps critical to retaining members year after year.