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!

2016 New Year’s Resolution: Healthy Habits for Your Membership Program

berriesIt’s the New Year, and we are all looking to start off on the right foot. We’re promising ourselves that we’ll exercise more and eat healthier. We resolve to keep better organized and get to those projects that we never seem to get to. While you’re getting organized and starting those fresh and healthy habits, we’d like to offer a few good habits to keep your membership program fit and focused throughout the year.

Reporting.

Do it and do it often. Membership software programs hold a lot of data about your program. However, some don’t give you the reporting you need in the way you’d like it. The best option is to do monthly reporting and compile your own data. This way you, you’ll have accurate data for your program that you can use for benchmarking, projections, and goals—both short- and long-term.

Benchmarking.

Do you know how much more (or less) successful your program is from last year? What about how your program stacks up to other membership organizations of similar type, size, and budget? Do you know how you compare to your “competitor” organizations in your area? These are all very useful figures to know. Knowing each of these benchmarks gives you a good and data-backed way to measure the success of your program.

Keeping Up on New Trends and Membership Options.

Did you know you can remind your members to renew though Facebook retargeting? Have you ever conducted a back-end analysis on your direct mail or email campaigns to see how successful they really were? How about using mobile strategies and other member-focused social media posts as a way to communicate with your members? Have you thought about implementing a loyalty rewards program that will compliment your membership program? These trends and more will become the membership waves of the future. You need to know what’s out there to know what you could be doing with your program, and keeping your membership program relevant in today’s world of ever-changing technology.

Communicating.

Make 2016 the year of communication between you and your members. While the means and frequency of your communications are not always in your control, you’ve got to try! Work with your communications or marketing team to make sure you get membership messaging into your organization’s email, social media, and print communications. A new year is an excellent time to get membership needs on your institution’s communications calendar. Being proactive with your communication and promotional needs for the whole year heads off push back at busy times. Email, social media, and other channels can be utilized to communicate with members.

Planning.

Departmental and institutional planning are very important tasks. Get all of your acquisition, renewal, and member events on everyone’s calendars NOW! Make sure membership is everyone’s priority. Members are your organization’s most loyal audience and stable revenue stream!

If you have any membership questions, please feel free to contact us at any time!

What If?

You are at the end of the year, the end of your wits, and just a little bit delirious. The Membership Fairy makes an appearance, handing you a magic wand. So why not believe in what “could be” in the new year?

What if….everyone at your organization made you the Membership Queen, or King? They let you have anything you want for a whole year, when it comes to your membership program, of course?

What if…. Everyone listened to you about what membership had been able to achieve this past year (without everything you needed to have a robust program) and what you COULD attain in the new year with all the tools, budget, staff support you needed?

What if….you got to set your own goals for membership in the new year? Rather than someone in the finance department assigning a certain percent of increase in your revenue expectations without your input or without giving you additional budget to make that increase a reality?

What if….your members were totally delighted with the turnaround time on receiving their membership cards, and with all of your member events and communications?
What if….you could make all of this happen in the new year?

Maybe you can! Here’s how. Wrap up the numbers from 2014 and then create a “State of Membership” report. Tell your story – how did renewals do? What about new member acquisition? What worked the best? Where were your challenges? How was attendance at members’ events?

Then, pick at least one doable thing you can do to improve each of those areas. Some of your additions can be done without additional budget, some will require investment.

Renewals. Ideas such as adding email to the snail mail renewal reminders if you are not already doing, adding a phone contact for first year members who are the most vulnerable, adding a Facebook renewal contact to people up for renewal using Facebook retargeting.

Acquisition. Adding direct mail or new lists to your direct mail. Or a backend analysis to more fully understand exactly how many of your new members were touched by the mail that you are already doing, adding an online campaign that uses email to your audiences and outside audiences as well, to simultaneously conduct a Facebook campaign.

Engagement. Getting members engaged in your conservation mission, getting members to become your social media advocates, to recognize members when they visit, get members to give memberships as gifts or to involve them in a member get a member campaign.

Pick ideas to help tick up your renewal, acquisition and engagement numbers, commit to it in writing, make that new year membership plan part of your “State of Membership” and then share your report and plan with your boss, the marketing department, with your Director. Then put your plan into action! Catch everyone’s attention with these new efforts, and then report back. You will be a proactive Membership Manager who is not willing to accept the status quo. Hopefully you will grab attention and be more likely to make the ‘What if’s” come true for you and your program in 2015!