Do You REALLY Know Your Membership Program?

The Usefulness and Importance of Membership Audits and Strategic Plans

As a membership manager, you live and breathe your membership program.

You know all the weird quirks of your database system.

You know the names of your “problem” members—each direct mail campaign is accompanied by the phrase, “Make sure Mr. Jones does NOT get two letters this time!”

You know all of the basic things like your membership numbers, popularity of your benefits, renewal rates, and annual revenue.

So, you know just how well your program is doing—right? Possibly. Here are a few reporting metrics you should also know. Do you know the answers to these questions about your membership program?

  • What is your first-year renewal rate?
  • What is your cost per member household?
  • What is your net revenue per member household?
  • What are your response rates and revenues of your last direct mail campaign?
  • What are your response rates and revenues of your last direct mail campaign after a matchback analysis? (Have you ever had a matchback analysis performed on your acquisition campaigns?)
  • Do you have the right amount of staff for your membership size?
  • Do your membership benefits match the dues your members pay? Are you doing enough in terms of benefits? Are you spending too much compared to your dues?
  • Have you met your membership projections from last year? (Did you have projections?)
Image Credit: Max Pixel

These questions cover just some of the many caveats of really knowing your membership program. If you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, you should try to find the answers. These answers help to tell you exactly what your program is up to, and they give insight to what your program could be. Knowing these answers also gives you the information you need to construct a well-rounded membership strategic plan.

Developing a well thought-out membership plan will ensure that your membership program is functioning properly, and that you have a course of action put into place to maximize all of your efforts to maintain and grow your membership. A membership plan is a step-by-step guide to success.

Have you ever stepped back and really had a look at your membership program? Have you looked at all of the things you offer, the things you and your staff do on a daily basis, the ways you communicate with your members, and all of the data that your membership program creates? Performing an audit lets you take a critical eye to all of the aspects of your membership program. It shows you your program’s strengths and weaknesses; the things you are doing well and the things you could improve on; and all of the many special quirks and facets of all that you do in your program.

So, why do a strategic plan for membership? Here are a few reasons:

  • Jump start a stagnant membership program
  • New direction when new staff take the reins of the program
  • To take advantage of the excitement of an expansion, new building or remodel of a current building by revamping your membership program

Your plan should cover every aspect of your membership program—from acquisition and renewals, to processes and staffing, marketing and communications, dues and benefits. Your plan should also include a general schedule and projections for the next five years, taking into account anything out of the ordinary, such as…

  • Grand Openings (and closed buildings)
  • Anniversary years of your organization as well as other stakeholders (such as city celebrations)
  • Major events and exhibitions (or lack thereof)
  • Major institutional changes, such as price increases, change in leadership, mission expansion, to name a few.

These could impact your numbers in unique ways. Your projections will give you goals to aim for, as well as a way to see how your program is actually doing compared to what you projected could happen.

Often, we look at the creation of a strategic plan as something that should occur at the beginning of the year. It’s great to get a solid set of data to guide your decisions for the upcoming year. But, let’s face it—the beginning of the year is crammed full already! With all of the added planning for the New Year and processing from end-of-year appeals and gift memberships, you’re busy!

But, truth is, you will always find yourself too busy to do an audit and plan. You’ll always be busy with something.  Even in your slow season, you’ll find other matters more pressing than an audit and plan. But, you just need to find the time and energy to do it NOW. It’ll seem like at pain while you’re pulling everything together, but when you are done, you’ll be very happy that you have a comprehensive plan for your membership program.


If you are still sure you don’t have time to perform your audit and plan, we can help! Just fill out the form below to find out how we take the burden off of your shoulders by performing your membership audit and creating your strategic plan for you!

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