Recruiting and retaining members are usually two of the top concerns for any organization. It’s impossible to achieve your goals and mission without a healthy and robust core of membership. The total numbers will ebb and flow, but if you’re consistently having trouble attracting new prospects or if you’re losing people around renewal time, it’s important to analyze what might be going on.
As you reevaluate your process, we have some tips on techniques you should be including in your recruitment and retention efforts.
Much of your activity as an organization affects both recruitment and retention, but let’s concentrate first on some techniques to jump start your ability to find and encourage new people to join:
Have the membership chair present at every board meeting with an update on trends and progress. Membership is something you’ll need to constantly be focused on. It’s not something you should wait until an annual membership drive or the end of the year to review and think about.
Host interesting events that will appeal to new members. These can serve a dual purpose of keeping current members engaged in your group, but also give you a chance to invite and get to know new potential members. Make sure events are easily shared online by your existing members. Consider creating an event invitation through Eventbrite or Facebook so that you and your members can easily share and invite people online. You will also be able to track interest in the event based on how many RSVPs you get.
Ask your existing members to recruit. Your current members are your best pipeline for recruitment. If they are already passionate members of your organization, they can be very effective salespersons. They will also tend to associate with friends who are like themselves and if they are dedicated members who truly care about your mission, their friends and coworkers may be a good fit as well.
Review your website. Does it have current, updated information? Is it user-friendly? How does it look and work on a cell phone? If your website is outdated and hard to use, it could turn off potential members and make them think twice about joining your organization. If you don’t have the budget for a professional redesign, poll your board and members to see whether they or someone they know may have the skills to do some tweaks to bring your site up-to-date.
Review your joining and paying procedures. This also comes back to the website, because you want to make sure that joining and renewing are quick and easy, and that is best achieved by having a payment system online. It’s fine to offer the option to pay by cash or check if you have older members who are not computer-savvy, but in this day and age you need an online payment option. Only 42% of millennials use checks. If prospective members can’t figure out how to navigate your membership portal and pay dues or are expected to mail a check, they will likely go somewhere else, particularly the younger cohort.
Create urgency with a limited-time membership discount. Host an event and/or publicize a special promotion like “Sign up before Oct. 20th and receive a 25% reduction in your first year of membership fees!” This will often encourage some people that are on the fence to make a commitment now.
Advertise. If you don’t have the budget for print ads, you can very inexpensively create an ad on Facebook targeting people that are similar to your existing members if you have a Facebook page for your organization. You can spend a very small amount of money and track how many people clicked on a given ad, seeing what works by trial and error.
It usually takes far less resources to retain an existing member than to sign and initiate a new one. That is why retention is so important. Some tips:
Once a new member has joined get them involved right away. The first year of membership is key, because if a member drops off and does not renew their membership, it is most likely to happen after the first year. Find out what special skills they may have and how they’d like to contribute. Invite them to a volunteer project or recommend some committees that would be a good fit for them.
Assign a person or team to head up engagement and retention. This is such an important factor for any organization that there should be dedicated resources for it and leadership beyond just the director of the organization focused on it. If you have the numbers to warrant it, assign one of your younger members to be specifically in charge of recruitment and retention of younger membership.
Keep up consistent communication. Ensure that members are able to get their ideas heard and concerns addressed. Create an online forum or social media group for members to chat and share ideas between meetings and events. Assign someone in your organization to keep an eye on this forum so that questions and concerns are answered in a timely fashion.
Consider offering a discount for early renewals. This can give you a handle on how to plan for the upcoming year and gives you a chance to target those who do NOT renew right away. Those are the less engaged folks still on the fence. See if you can talk to them and find out how they have lost interest and whether they could be re-energized.