Saturday, February 14, 2015

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm (or membership retention ideas)

LI, Orlando, FL--Every IABC chapter--indeed, I'll wager every association--struggles to attract and retain members. A standing room-only crowd attended a forum Friday at Leadership Institute in Orlando, FL to discuss this very topic.

We all understand the barriers to retention--cost, fewer employers paying for memberships, younger professionals are less likely to join associations--but how to keep our members and remain viable?

Lapsing membership has a number of causes. Chief among them: "I forgot" and "my employer won't pay for it this year." Twenty percent of first year members don't renew when their anniversary comes around. How do we get them plugged into the organization and to see the value?

First, identify what we have to continue to do to run the business: provide the services needed, maintain and improve infrastructure such as websites, manage resources effectively and efficiently.

Then, determine what to change. In IABC's case and at a high level:

  • Certification program and academy (June)
  • Create a plan to engage communications professionals, whether as members or other users of our programs
  • Put ourselves as a business brokerage, connecting small to medium business with communication needs to member practitioners
  • Align chapters to regions to headquarters--one IABC
Some key things to note:
  • Chapters and volunteer boards are the heart and soul of IABC. HQ needs to supplement and support local boards.
  • While membership is dropping, our followers on social media have grown to 40,000 on LinkedIn and 20,000 on Twitter.
  • We have a retention rate of about 65 percent, below industry standards.
  • Associations average nine touchpoints with lapsing members. IABC HQ does five at present and assume another three to four from the chapter. In addition to emails, IABC has tested adding a telephone call and will begin regularly calling lapsing members in March (will do on a quarterly basis). They will also begin sending a print letter. Future enhancements include providing a print invoice to aid those who must submit an invoice for payment at work.
  • Corporate memberships (one-third of our membership) will evolve into an account management process--more to come.
  • Additional tools: reintroducing the Steal Sheet, an electronic document with news and info that can be copied and pasted into chapter communications.
  • Membership month: March and October in 2015 and 2016. Chapters can do another month; just let HQ know. Will do a prize drawing for all who pay to join or renew in March. Prize: communications makeover, including four to five one-hour coaching sessions with subject matter experts.
  • Another possibility: auto renewals, most likely on an opt-in basis.
  • IABC will conduct a member survey in March/April and will provide segmented data to chapters.
  • Members will get a new IABC pin upon joining. Existing members will also get one (roll-out at World Conference in June).
Ideas from other chapters:
  • Connect with lapsing members on Twitter.
  • Provide event passes to renewing members.
  • Assign an existing member to each new member--buddy system.
  • Ramp up recognition by issuing certificates to milestone anniversaries: 1, 5, 10, etc.
  • Use social media to congratulate member at the one-year anniversary.
  • Use a calling tree to contact lapsing members, or assign each board member a certain number of members as contacts at the beginning of the year for regular contact.
  • In an email to lapsing members, include a list of upcoming events that they might miss (or will have to pay full price to attend) if they lapse.
  • Take new/renewing members to lunch.
  • Customize the reminder email for different career stages--what's important to early career professionals, senior communicators.
  • Offer premium content for members only; i.e., book club.
One more report, then bed!

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