Back to Basics: Membership Renewals

All of the hard work that you do to acquire new members is effectively useless without a solid renewal strategy. In this post, we’re going back to basics on membership renewals. Whether you are new to membership or are a seasoned veteran, here are the four T’s to keep in mind when planning and executing your membership renewal strategy.

1. Timing

Questions to ask: Are we sending out renewal reminders early enough? Do we have enough renewal touches in our renewal cycle? Are we sending out the last renewal reminder after members’ expiration dates to remind them to renew?

We all know that timing is everything! We find that successful renewal programs have a four month window during which reminders are sent. These renewal touches generally start about two months prior to expiration with one reminder sent each month through the month after expiration, for a total of four reminders.

2. Tracking

Questions to ask: Are we tracking renewal effort results? Are we tracking renewal rates by touch? Are we looking at renewal rates yearly for mature renewal rate?

Tracking your renewal efforts is very important. The first metric to know is your renewal rate. Knowing your renewal rate allows you to plan ahead and create accurate budget forecasts. Additionally, tracking by renewal touch can help you see the efficacy of your renewal reminders. Tracking by touch allows you to see how each renewal touch is performing, and it can show you if you need to add another renewal touch or if you are sending out renewals too early. Finally, you can get a matured renewal rate by seeing how many people still haven’t renewed after a year and comparing those numbers to the original renewal numbers at the start of the cycle.

3. Touches

Question to ask: Are you sending out multichannel touches?

Successful membership renewal programs utilize a multichannel approach. Mailed letters should have accompanying emails that mirror the look and feel of the mailed reminders. These emails are often sent out a week or so before the mailed reminders are sent. Additionally, there are digital marketing opportunities for renewals—such as uploading your list to Facebook and sending targeted renewal reminder ads to your expiring members—this can give your renewal program an added lift!

4. Testing

Question to ask: Are you testing your current strategy to maximize your renewal returns?

Just like we test direct mail letter packages in acquisition, we should also be testing renewals. Do we need a four-color outer envelope or will a two-color design work? Are we sending the right messaging about the support our members give us with their membership renewal, or should we focus more on benefits? Do we need a full letter package for each mailing, or will a postcard work for one or more mailings? Each of these can offer testing opportunities for your renewal packages. And remember: test only one aspect against the control each test for the clearest results!


Do you need help creating the best renewal strategy and implementation for your program? Just fill out the form below to find out how we can assist you in your most successful renewal strategy yet!

Telemarketing – How to Make it Work for You!

A brief one on one conversation with a current or lapsed member offers a customized and personal touch that you can’t get with direct mail and email. Believe it or not – even in 2016, a well-planned Telemarketing Campaign remains one of the best methods of growing your membership program.

Have you ever utilized or considered telemarketing for your nonprofit?

Follow these simple “Do’s and Don’ts” to make your next telemarketing campaign a success!

telemarketing_image

DO: Utilize telemarketing for renewals and lapsed recaptures

A personalized contact with members is sometimes more successful than direct mail. Renewal and Lapsed telemarketing is not a “cold call” and is often more successful than other campaigns. In some cases, a brief phone conversation serves as a welcomed reminder of membership expiration and will prompt the member to renew.  Telemarketing campaigns can be implemented very quickly—with proper planning, campaigns can be up and running in 2 to 3 weeks, if needed.]. Adding this personal touch to your renewal cycle or a “welcome back” to lapsed members can provide a boost in revenue and renewal rates.

DON’T: Think telemarketing is outdated or unwanted

A telephone conversation is the next best thing to being there in person and individuals are more likely to answer a call from an organization they already support. A brief call to thank members for their participation, update them on upcoming events or exhibitions or just ask for feedback about membership can all be positive ways to use telemarketing to make your members feel appreciated.  Members who feel appreciated are more likely to renew and encourage their friends to join, visit or support your organization.

DO: Train and retrain

An effective telemarketing campaign will take place over a period of several months. As exhibitions open and close or events and seasons pass, your telemarketing team needs to be kept up-to-date. Evaluate and refresh your script monthly to be certain that the most recent and important information is being shared with your members. Be certain to have ongoing conversations with the team to address any questions, concerns, or member feedback.

DON’T: Be afraid to change it up

With telemarketing, it is very easy to change messaging and offers in real time. If something doesn’t appear to be working – switch it up. Update your script to lead with a different ice breaker. Change the offer to something more appealing. Schedule a monitoring session to evaluate individual callers to see if a switch needs to be made. Flexibility is key!

DO: Offer an incentive

A special and exclusive offer will sweeten the deal, encourage upgrading to higher levels of membership and entice people to join over the phone. Incentives don’t have to be costly. Discounts, free guest passes, parking passes, event tickets, exclusive tours, scooter and stroller rentals, ride passes – be creative. Remember that members want to feel special – so make sure your offer feels exclusive. Bonus – offer an additional incentive for upgrading to a higher level as well!

DON’T: Leave it up to volunteers to make calls

To maximize the success of a telemarketing campaign it is essential to have a professional firm who has been trained as direct representatives of your organization and is familiar with the climate and intricacies of phone campaigns. It’s important to ensure the firm has the ability and capacity to efficiently manage the call volume.

While volunteers can be a wonderful way to spread the mission of your organization, they are not always the best choice when it comes to phone campaigns. Many volunteers feel uncomfortable making a financial ask and often the volume of people who need to be reached is far too large for volunteers to effectively manage.

Volunteer phonathons and calling sessions can often be time consuming and labor intensive for staff. In the long run, bringing in a professional firm will be more cost effective as it both increases revenue and frees the staff and volunteers to use their time more effectively in other ways.

DO: Track member feedback

Telemarketing campaigns can be a wonderful way to informally survey current, renewing and lapsed members. Utilize a calling strategy that leads with a conversational ice breaker about your organization and membership. Ask leading questions about recent events, membership benefits, favorite part of your facility, etc. and briefly capture the responses. Professional calling firms can capture brief notes and reasons for non-renewals in reports and transaction files.

There is so much to be learned from a simple phone conversation that increases the value of a Telemarketing Campaign to an organization. What events do your members love? What member benefits are used the most? What is the reason for not renewing? Having these answers at your fingertips will help you structure and build your membership program for the future!

When and how to conduct a telemarketing campaign

Telemarketing can be a part of your renewal cycle, a way to recapture lapsed members, before a major event or exhibition, as part of first year renewal strategy or a “preemptive strike” to get blockbuster members to renew. Also, the phone is excellent for upgrading members or the Annual Fund Campaign for donor gifts.

Multi-channel campaigns perform best!

By coordinating Direct Mail, Email and Telemarketing timing and messaging, it will keep your museum, garden, zoo or science center at the top of your members’ minds increasing the likelihood that they will renew or rejoin!

 

WE CAN HELP!

Membership Consultants offers the professional telemarketing campaigns that can add to your program’s success. Let’s talk! Email us to schedule a chat or request a proposal!

Membership Loyalty = Membership Renewal Success

Membership health and growth is dependent upon keeping your Members and keeping your Members happy! With a healthy membership renewal rate, our programs have a much greater likelihood of achieving growth. So it is sometime the little details that are a BIG deal to our members, and in turn, help them decide what to do at renewal time.

I am borrowing from a recent post in the Agitator (a great daily read at http://www.theAgitator.net) that they borrowed from a retail study produced by Aimia entitled Inflection Points: Seizing the Moments in Customer Loyalty. We all believe in recycling, right? See how this applies to your membership and donor programs. See how many of these you can say “Yes, we are doing that!” to!

1. Timely sending of a ‘thank you’ (and their membership cards)

2. Using personalization in any communication (in emails, renewal reminders and annual appeal asks)

3. Correctly spelling a name

4. Correctly making an address or any other record change

5. Effectively and graciously handling any ‘customer service’ type member inquiry

6. Honoring a member or donor request (e.g., a channel preference)

7. Demonstrating you know who that specific member is (e.g., referencing a recent contribution, a program preference)

8. Acknowledging the anniversary date of the member’s first engagement with your organization

9. Thanking a member for taking a non-contribution action (and especially when she sings your praise, on Facebook, social media, or in a letter to the Director!)

10. Asking the member for advice or input (e.g., member surveys)

This retail industry report is focusing on a loyalty program – and as Membership Managers, so are we. Here are some other good pointers to use as a lens to look at your program and your service delivery to members:

Break down the silos – what internal challenges are road blocks do you need to clear to provide better service to members?

Leverage data to improve service – Use your data to provide better service, know when to expect high volume, get extra help to keep quality and response high during your busy times.

Deliver a flawless renewal and joining experience – Make it easy, don’t confuse, deliver benefits in a user friendly way.

Practice surprise and delight – give your members little extras throughout the year – a thank you event, an extra discount at the shop. Make their day with special deals when they visit.

Exploit the network effect – Get your members involved in your social media. Get them talking about what a great experience membership can be. Let them be your brand advocates!

100 Tips for Revolutionizing Your Membership and Development Program

By Sheldon Wolf and Dana Hines

1. Have an annual and a longer-term Development Plan. Have this plan (based on Board participation) approved by the Board.

2. Define success to include cultivation and stewardship.

3. Know your marketplace. Who is your competition? What are they doing?

4. Read donor lists. Collect playbills. Read donor walls in libraries, hospitals, wherever names are listed. Having money is not enough. Who has charitable intent?

5. Know your Board? Who has greater capacity?

6. Seek out a Board member who will challenge other Board members to increase their gifts.

7. Use the nominating process to introduce the expectation of high giving levels.

8. Expand the circle of people invested in your museum by adding non-Board members to your committees.

9. Create ad hoc committees of non-Board members.

10. A major gift named after the founder or a key generous donor allows the message to be “Join this chain of philanthropy that extends back to our very beginnings.”

11. Draft a letter for Board members to send to their personal and business contacts.

12. The words, “Join me,” are extremely powerful.

13. The words, “Join us,” are extremely powerful. 100% participation by your Board in your campaigns is essential.

14. The more personal the approach, the more effective it will be.

15. Cultivate long-term relationships with donors to the collection.

16. Join the most important civic groups in your community. Be seen as a “player.”

17. Be visible at other cultural institutions and major community events.

18. Foundation executives are people. Meet them.

19. Every grant proposal tells a story. What need will you address? Why now? Why you?

20. Use special events to cultivate new relationships.

21. Thank special event guests as they enter, during the event, and as they leave.

22. Engage your staff and Board at events to make sure strategic conversations occur with the most important people.

23. At events, seek out people who are standing by themselves.

24. At a special dinner, your Board Chair and your CEO should be at different tables. Have two head tables rather than just one.

25. Read your local newspaper.

26. Use your communications to donors/members to help them feel like insiders. Give them information about your exhibitions and programs they can use to “show off.”

27. Invite special prospects to see recent acquisitions.

28. Once you have a constituency, and a sense that the organization is here to stay, mention planned giving in annual report, newsletter, online, etc.

29. Most planned gifts are bequests. You don’t have to be an expert in everything else.

30. Create a planned gift advisory group of experts from your community.

31. If you have a community fund in your area, work with the people there.

32. A capital campaign is an outcome of good strategic planning.

33. What is your Museum’s value for the community? Will changes in the program make it even more valuable?

34. Stress community in your communications.

35. Use photographs strategically. If your museum serves a poorer constituency, be careful with black-tie images.

36. While your annual report might acknowledge the past, use it to inspire donors about the future.

37. With your Board, create a Development Policy that addresses how/when you will accept gifts, who must approve them, who acknowledges what, etc.

38. The “public campaign” is the most costly part of your capital campaign with the smallest return, so hold off as long as you can.

39. Don’t let “public campaign” be an excuse for your Board and solicitors to stop doing their work.

40. Development must be included in marketing decisions (especially products=exhibitions).

41. Ask donors for feedback and advice.

42. Corporate philanthropy hardly exists anymore. It’s all about marketing.

43. If there are not enough people coming in the doors, development goals will not be reached.

44. Look at the relationship between admission fees and membership. When does membership become an offer that cannot be refused?

45. Develop a Membership Plan.

46. Your emphasis on money (we want more cash from our members) vs. people (we want more members) may lead you to different strategies.

47. A plan helps you stay on track and fend off other people’s ideas that will take you off track of what you are trying to achieve.

48. Include others in your membership planning

49. Have a monthly goal for number of members to join, renew, and a revenue goal, too. Check to see if you hit your goal and figure out why you did or did not meet goal.

50. Keep an eye on the competition. But don’t copy anyone else’s campaigns unless you know how it performed (don’t copy a failure)

51. Pick three top goals for your membership program and spend the year achieving those goals

52. Test offers – a premium vs. a discount.

53. Know your audience. Who is your typical member? Plan accordingly.

54. Ask people to join

55. Tell people why they should join your organization. Tell people why you deserve their support – quantify what you do

56. Tell people what you want them to do – be explicit. I want you to upgrade to $150, I want you to renew at the Patron level, renew your membership by December 31

57. Sell memberships face to face.

58. Train your frontline admissions and sales staff.

59. Develop an incentive program to get front line people to sell memberships

60. Don’t abandon direct mail – it still works!

61. Do letter packages to ask for money, not self mailers.

62. Code all sources of new members – you need to know what is working!

63. Put your museum’s name and address on each piece of the mailing.

64. Track the number and source of new members

65. Track renewals by each mailing – know what your response rate is for each contact.

66. Combine the methods of asks and track each method – phone, email, direct mail

67. Lapsed members are gold – solicit them often

68. Segment you lapsed member campaigns by year – learn how far back you can mail or email and still be able to recapture Members

69. Offer a premium to get people to join, renew, upgrade or give to the annual fund

70. Do not abandon the phones. Telemarketing works to renew memberships, get lapsed people to join or to get members to give a second gift

71. Run reports at month’s end

72. Know your renewal rate

73. Track numbers of renewals sent by each renewal contact. Use this to figure out your renewal rate

74. Stay in close touch with members. Email, phone or visit with members often

75. Survey your members at least every three years in a comprehensive, professional survey.

76. Survey lapsed members at the same time and compare the results.

77. Raise your dues every three years

78. Figure out how much it is costing you to service each member – make sure you are charging at least twice that amount in your lowest level membership category.

79. Evaluate your membership categories. Do you have too many? If so revamp and make easy, simple categories.

80. Know your average gift, response rate and cost per dollar raised on each campaign that you perform.

81. Learn from failures. Evaluate each campaign and find a gem of wisdom in each one.

82. Take risks, try something new.

83. Experiment with colors, shapes, formats.

84. Ask your members/donors to give in other ways. Annual fund, upgrade, tributes, give a membership gift, special project. Don’t be afraid to ask again and again!

85. Ask for more.

86. Keep stats on everything. Keep files to give to the person who take over after you leave. Don’t leave them in a lurch!

87. Share information with your peers – at your organization or at others. Being secretive doesn’t really pay off.

88. Share the names of key donors and prospects with the person who answers the phone for the Director.

89. Thank people profusely!

90. Evaluate often. The reality around you is changing often.

91. Remember to thank your staff, your volunteers, your Board.

92. Schmooze. Darcy Rezac in his book, The Frog and the Prince, wrote that schmoozing is “Discovering what you can do for someone else.”

93. Continually move from transactional to relational.

94. Survey people who are involved. Survey people who are not involved.

95. Involve the entire staff in your Plan. Everyone is meeting people and/or engaging with the public and/or improving your program.

96. Support your museum at the highest level you can. Challenge others on staff to give. (“Join me.”)

97. Hire staff with good people skills. The technology can be taught.

98. Your most important skill is listening.

99. Celebrate victories – not matter how large or small.

100. Pat yourself on the back every day.

BONUS POINTS

101. Have a membership and development presence on Facebook and social media

102. Mirror your mail campaigns with a simultaneous, similarly branded email request

103. Have a JOIN tab on your Facebook page

104. Don’t abandon mailed asks (still the most important driver of giving) for electronic only asks

105. Don’t forget the members or donors you don’t have email addresses for.

106. Make email collection a priority with every contact

107. Host Facebook and social media contests and engagement to involve, excite and Create buzz – and make sure there is a way to collect name and addresses

108. Create branded landing pages for each of your campaigns that mirror the brand of the mail or email campaigns

109. Make sure you are in control of your communication schedule with your members/donors

110. Make friends with your organization’s marketing and IT teams – to get the support your campaigns and communications need

Sheldon Wolf

President

AdvancementCompany, LLC

806 Pleasant Avenue

Wyndmoor, PA 19038

215-836-8484

http://www.advancementco.com

Dana S. Hines

President & CEO

Membership Consultants

3868 Russell Blvd.

St. Louis, MO 63110

dana@membership-consultants.com

314-771-4664 ext 105

314-771-2759 fax

http://www.membership-consultants.com