Every association executive knows that it is easier to retain existing members than to attract new members. In a previous CSAE blog post about retention, Chris Larsen let us know that first-year members are the group that’s the least likely to renew. Capture the hearts and minds of both your first-year members and longer-term members with a great membership renewal letter.
Cover the Basics
- Remind members why they belong
Mention benefits, preferably in a bulleted list format with links to further information. If you are taking the time to customize the letter on an annual basis, touch on annual report highlights. Create a calendar reminder to prompt you to adjust your renewal email when your new report comes out.
- Make it urgent
You want your members to act the first time they read the renewal email or letter, not procrastinate. Their expiration date should be front and center.
- Keep it short and simple
Emails between 50-125 words long enjoyed response rates of above 50 per cent according to a Boomerang study. Other tips to keep it simple include:
- Use bullets and short sentences to convey key points.
- Run your content through an online readability test. Ask a co-worker to proof your letter for typos, grammar mistakes, punctuation and spelling.
- Almost half of all emails worldwide (49.1%) are read on mobile devices. With Canada, 45.69% of all emails are read on mobiles, which underlines the importance of mobile testing. One mobile “no-no” is incorporating wide images that can break your email layout on mobile.
- Your logo is enough in terms of images at the top of your email. Get right to the point; don’t distract readers.
- Capture attention with a strong subject line
41 characters work out to about seven words and maybe the sweet spot for email open rates. Put a verb in there. Get some subject line ideas.
- Direct members to the right place to renew
Your members might end up trying to join again instead of logging into their account to renew. The renewal link or button within your email should be placed close to the membership expiration date.
- Test before sending
If you are using merge fields or tags, be sure they are properly populating by sending a test to yourself. Check that emails look good in both mobile and desktop format. Be sure that subject lines are not cut off (or at least the important information appears early) when viewed on mobile.
- Who is the point person for troubles?
Renewing members may have trouble with their passwords or other technical issues. Including the staff’s email and phone contact information helps resolve these issues.
- Ask members to take action
The more engaged the member is, the more likely they are to renew. Possible calls to action:
- Tell them about the benefits of their membership directory listing (assuming you have an online directory) and ask them to update their profile.
- Mention committees that are actively seeking members, or other volunteer opportunities.
- Encourage event registration; link to your calendar page.
- Affiliate members love to know about all the ways they can connect to your members. Compile an extensive list to insert in the email or link it to a page on your website.
9. Remind, remind
Today’s members are easily distracted. Send one or two emails in advance of the membership renewal date; get paid sooner. Send two to three emails if the member goes past due. Vary the focus of the emails so you provide new information that may compel them to renew. Don’t overlook old school outreach.
Consider a phone call somewhere in the process. Do you have a member or volunteer who might be willing to follow up this way? Track personal outreach efforts for each member in your membership database.
Go beyond the basics
- Push auto-recurring membership billing
Many things can go wrong when a member tries to renew, including typos in credit card numbers and frustration with passwords. The more members you can convert to auto-renewing credit card billing, the fewer members who will experience retention-killing friction like this. Mention efficiency and perhaps offer a discounted membership rate to those who choose this option.
- Customize your renewal email by membership level
Your membership database software should allow you to send out different renewal letters to each membership level. Remind certain levels about any premium benefits they can access. Also, think about upselling lower-level members to convert them to a premium membership.
- Are you sure your emails are getting through?
Use a spam test to look for problems with your subject line or content. Have you authenticated your email address using DKIM/DMARC? Creating these records at your domain registrar will enable your membership platform to legitimately send emails on your association’s behalf. Look to your membership software’s Help section for instructions.
Up your game all year round
Ideally, you have been communicating with each member regularly since their join date. Look at your existing communications and consider putting in some additional effort using the tips above. Are you communicating in all of the following ways? Do you need to add anything new to the mix, or improve upon what you already send?
- Thank you emails for membership and other transactions,
- Event notices,
- Calls for volunteers or committee members,
- Social media posts,
- Blog posts that are sent out by email,
- Listserv emails,
- Autoresponder series on a topic of interest,
- Forum posts,
- Phone calls,
- Texts (bulk or personal), and
- Personal communications.
Members who have heard about the value of belonging, attended an event or otherwise engaged with you or other fellow members should welcome the chance to remain a part of your association.
About the author
Amy Hufford is a technologist at MembershipWorks. She has worked in non-profit and association technology for more than 20 years and has experience with a variety of donor and member management software platforms.