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Membership retention is essential to your nonprofit association, so plan for it throughout the year

The 12-month mark is a pivotal date for members of your organization, especially when the first anniversary occurs. It’s your job to turn a renewal notice into positive action. Not every first-year member will decide to renew, but a healthy organization will enjoy 80 percent or more in annual renewals. And remember, data shows that when someone renews at his or her first-year anniversary, chances are they will become a long-term member.

Members need to know the value they receive is commensurate with that dues investment they make. They are asking themselves:

  • Was the investment of my time and finances worth it?
  • Is continuing membership essential to my professional future?

We’ve learned that “maybe” often means “no,” so how do you ensure an unqualified “YES” from those first-year members considering renewing their annual dues? Building strong relationships with other members and feeling a personal tie to the association’s values are key, of course. But how do you get everyone in the sandbox together so these important connections are made?

Start with New Member Outreach

Deploy a cohort of passionate ambassadors to do outreach and connect with each new member during their first year. It seems so basic, but new friendships can turn an impersonal institution into a scene from the TV classic “Cheers.” Does someone know their name and does someone greet them, even if it’s by telephone or email? Are your key members willing to meet up with a newbie at the next regional meeting or annual conference? Take networking to the next level with a dedicated outreach program. It’s the strong foundation on which renewals are built.

Provide Mentorship Opportunities

Partner seasoned veterans with those new to your organization. First-timers will be grateful for the advice and insights from someone who knows the ropes. A mentor program is also a valuable way to engage established members who may wish to “give back” without serving on a committee or on the board. Making a meaningful connection with a new member is as simple as asking “what do you need from the organization?” or “how can I help you with a personal goal?” Make sure to share success stories of these relationships with your members and turn past protégés into motivated future mentors. Soon you’ll be watching the next generation of leadership emerge.

Create Opportunities for Committee Involvement

Value the skills and perspectives that new members bring to your profession by inviting them to serve on a committee or task force. One of the best ways to identify potential committee members is to communicate a menu of volunteer opportunities when a new member joins your organization. Let them know, “we’re responsive to your interests and here’s a committee aligned with those interests.”

Gather Member Feedback

You should regularly poll members and event attendees about their experiences and then take that feedback seriously. Working with your volunteers and leadership, use survey results to identify ways to further engage members. You will never be able to act on every idea or suggestion generated through a member survey, but make a point to communicate specific actions through your newsletter or at events so there’s a sense of responsiveness and transparency.

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