Member Retention – Even More Valuable to Your Association Than You May Think

Categories: Membership Sales and Retention

By Tao Stadler, Membership Management Specialist

Isn’t it interesting when a well-worn cliché proves itself to be true yet again?

Yes, grandpa, I know a penny saved is a penny earned. Many times you are damned if you do; damned if you don’t. But would you dare say a member in hand is worth 1.5 in the bush?

A recent sample we took with some of our more established association clients illustrates this nicely.

I recently gathered the VPs of Membership at a handful of associations. We came up with a list of metrics to focus on and ran a few of the stock retention reports in their membership database software, WebLink Connect, to see how everyone stacked up over the last 18 months. It wasn’t a competition, but more of an exercise in looking at trends and developing benchmarks for standard metrics. The results told an impressive story.

We looked at several things, but these three stood out immediately:

  • Average annual dollar value of a new member
  • Average annual dollar value of a dropped member
  • Average annual dollar value of a renewing member

Which do you think was worth the most? For these VPs, the following averages played out:

  • New members were worth $497.19
  • Dropped members were worth $521.43

Immediately, we all saw that once a member drops, the association’s sales department is already in the hole almost 5%. For every lost member, these groups needed 1.05 new members to replace those funds. The more members that drop, the deeper the hole. Quite the bummer, but not really anything revolutionary.

But look at the next number:

  • Renewing members were worth $775.65

All hail the retention plan!!


Keeping one member was actually worth more than 1.5 new members, and that’s before you count the costs of staff and admin time to get that member into the system.

So how did these associations react? One association had already changed their new member sales department over the previous 12 months from a breakdown of 4 new member sales people and 1 member retention person, to 3 member retention people and 2 new member sales people.

And what were they doing with all these member retention people? Proactively calling members, reminding them why they joined in the first place and encouraging them to use their benefits. If it keeps a member engaged and happy, they do it.

Full disclosure, this was not, obviously, a wide-ranging or scientific study. But because all the associations were using the same reports and metrics, it was an apples-to-apples comparison.

And clearly, every association needs an emphasis keeping the members you have – as much as or possibly even more than pursuing new ones.

Because you really do reap what you sow. Seems like I’ve heard that somewhere before…


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