Earning Loyalty in the Age of Choice
Why Member Retention Matters More Than Ever

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January 25, 2024

Associations can no longer rely on the old adage “once a member, always a member.” In today’s competitive landscape, members have more options than ever before when it comes to choosing which organizations that they want to be a part of. ASAE reported that on average, a new member is 50% likely to renew. This should be alarming for associations, as member retention is key to sustainability and growth, especially since GrowthZone reported that only 44% of associations had an overall increase in memberships between 2022–2023.

While recruitment brings in new members, retention keeps the lifeblood of your association flowing. MGI states that, on average, it costs five times more to recruit a new member than to retain an existing one. Focusing on loyalty and retention leads to a stable membership base, higher member satisfaction, and a stronger association. Now, achieving a 100% retention rate may be challenging, so Gross Mendelsohn says the goal for most associations is to maintain a retention rate of over 90%.

To gain true loyalty from members in 2024 and beyond, associations need to focus on delivering real value. Members want to feel engaged, connected to their community, and that their voices are being heard. They need to see how their membership dollars are directly benefiting them through high-quality events, networking opportunities, education, resources, and advocacy.  

With competition coming from all sides, associations must work harder than ever to prove their worth. Members who do not feel they are gaining anything from their membership or that the association does not care about their needs will not hesitate to move on to other organizations—or drop out of associations altogether. In fact, a recent MGI report found that 33% of members dropped at least one membership in the past year due to lack of perceived value.

The key to improving member retention is enhancing the member experience at every touchpoint. From the initial onboarding process to ongoing communications and events, associations need to make members feel valued, heard, and supported.

For example:

  • Building real connections and trust with your members is key. Send personalized welcome messages, offer networking opportunities, and engage members in your online community. Ask for feedback and be responsive to members' needs. Loyalty is built through consistent high-quality experiences over time. 
  • Relevance is also essential for keeping members engaged. Continually improve your programs, events, education, and resources based on the latest industry trends. Members will stay loyal to organizations that add ongoing value. Consider conducting an annual survey to determine how well you're meeting members' needs and make improvements.  

When members feel deeply connected to an organization and the community it represents, they become loyal advocates and ambassadors. But that loyalty must be earned through trust, transparency, and by consistently delivering on the promise of membership. If associations fail to make member retention a top priority, they risk losing not just members but their relevance in the marketplace. The time for action is now.  

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