It’s that time of year again. That time when you worry about your member renewals in hopes that your churn rate continues to stay low. And while you can offer the best resources, member benefits and community around, declining membership in professional organizations is still on the rise.
So how can associations take an active approach to improve the renewal process?
It often starts with something you never give a second thought – your membership renewal letter or email.
Chances are you have templatized and automated renewal letters that give active members the basics: Membership expiration date, when they can expect to be charged, an outline of any changes to membership dues and a simple thank you. Bonus points if you outline some of your upcoming events and content offerings.
It may have gotten the job done in the past, but today, members expect more from their subscriptions – even those in the professional development world.
Why? Because they have plenty of options to consider before they renew their membership. From LinkedIn Learning and Udemy to virtual coworking groups and in-person meetups, members have the luxury of being selective and that can be a challenge come renewal date.
So, how do you boost membership renewals and encourage members to re-engage when they're faced with a critical decision? Simply put, elevate your renewal letter and make it as persuasive and personalized as possible.
If you haven't updated your renewal letter template in years, here are seven must-adds before your next campaign.
Before you even get into membership renewal incentives, fees or any other persuasion tactic, start on the right foot. Personalization starts with ensuring your members feel valued and seen. Nothing is worse than members getting a "Hello, [First Name]" email right when you're asking them to renew (and we know mistakes can happen). Your CRM, AMS or association membership management software is an easy tool to help with this, but you want to be sure you have the right information as well.
Take renewal planning as an opportunity to double-check names, titles and organizations to avoid mishaps. Or, at the very least, make sure the default filler word for merged fields is something friendly and conversational.
Depending on the size of your membership and staff, another way to add a personal touch to your renewal campaign is with a physical letter. While it may be difficult to produce at scale, these are often the differentiator that helps boost renewals. You might even consider adding a thank you note to your renewal process or membership communication strategy.
Many associations have talented marketers and experts on staff who work diligently to grow the reach of an organization. When member renewal comes around, however, we often take some of those creative skills off the table. The stakes may be higher because renewal reminders can make a big difference in your organization's revenue.
However, gaining insights into what moves the needle and encourages people to renew their membership is key. Some experiments to try include:
Before you can ask for that membership fee, you want to be sure members directly understand membership value. Your renewal letter should explain everything an active member gets – coursework, resources, community building activities, access to exclusive groups and any member pricing they may get for add-on events.
It’s also always a good idea to highlight new plans, events, content or features your association will offer in the coming year — especially if membership fees are increasing.
Additionally, look to incorporate other members to help outline the value of membership. Whether it's written or video testimonials, personalization is key to finding more members.
Membership renewal often comes down to whether or not a member feels the cost was worth the value. While you can always remind members of all the great perks you have (and should be a part of your renewal letter), more often than not associations should be focused on showing.
Chances are, when it's laid out in plain terms, they will understand the value of your membership program.
Most associations have payment processing capabilities that make it easier than ever to charge for membership and events. But what happens when a payment fails, and your membership renewal letter is triggered?
It can be stressful to get an email saying "membership expires today," and then not have a convenient way to process that payment.
So, instead of asking them to log into their profile, include a renewal link in the email. Not only does it make sure dues are paid in a timely manner, but also it makes it easier for everyone. Also, have an active renewal URL on your site so members can opt for early renewal.
In the same vein as self-service options, ensuring members renew often comes down to options. While some will gladly pay their membership fees, others may not be convinced by the experience from the past year. This is often where your association's membership expert should have a say in what behaviors dictate the type of renewal letter they receive.
A new member may be the most likely to lapse. The same can be said for members who have little to no engagement with your association throughout the year. Your renewal letter can be a great way to outline membership programs and provide options, whether that means different pricing tiers or special programs based on role or experience (another point where member data and personalization can help).
Of course, if you had a highly-engaged member (i.e. they completed courses, attended an event or earned a certification) – meaning they'll likely renew – don't miss the opportunity to use your renewal email as a way to outline membership level upgrades. Annual conferences, mastermind events and paid bootcamps can all help new members leverage their membership more effectively.
Finally, don't let member renewal letters be the only well-thought-out communication and interaction your members experience. They joined your organization because they want to feel a sense of community, expand their professional skills and grow within their organization. And while they can achieve many of these things with self-service options, they still want to feel like a valued member.
Outside of your member renewal letter, be sure you're creating opportunities for personal connection. A handwritten note, one-on-one call, exclusive meet-ups at your organization's offices – no matter the strategy, don't let a renewal letter be the only thoughtful communication they experience.
Even with the best advice, it's often helpful to use a membership renewal letter template to build out your campaign. A simple one can look something like this.
Dear [Member Name],
We are so happy you've chosen to join us this past year at [Organization Name]. Through your support, we've been able to [project or impact the association has made in the past year]. While your membership expires [date], we hope you join us for another year of programming and professional growth.
As we close this year of membership, we want to celebrate you for all your achievements. In [Year], you:
Now is your chance to keep the good times rolling. As a part of our continued commitment to our membership community, we want to ensure you're taking advantage of all the opportunities that come with your annual membership. Coming in [Year], you'll have access to:
Finally, because we always like to make things easy for our members, here's a handy renewal link where you can easily pay your dues today!
On behalf of the entire [Organization Name] team, we look forward to continuing to support your journey!
The basics of any membership renewal letter template are the same – bring attention to the expiration date, explain the benefits of their membership (and celebrate their wins) and finally make it easy for them to renew.
Associations are facing the not-so-unique challenge of competition. Your members have more options than ever, and when the time comes for dues payments, they may be taking a harder look at that membership renewal email.
Because of this, upgrading and optimizing that note has never been more important.
Whether you're incorporating a handwritten note, showcasing their achievements or simply giving a member new options to help avoid cancellation, your membership renewal letter is the key to showcasing the value of membership.
Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.
If you’re ready to increase your membership organization’s revenue, connect with an entire community of purpose-driven leaders and grow yourself, we’re ready to help you do it.Learn More