How to Retain Association Members

Association memberships are increasing however, retention rates are at a standstill or declining, according to the Member Engagement and Performance Survey, conducted by Advanced Solutions International (ASI) and IMTS Global Research.

Associations have no trouble recruiting members, but keeping them is a struggle. It is during the third through fifth years that members start to drop and retention rates decrease.

Members begin their time with an association during years one to three without any complaints, satisfied with the organization. Once year three comes along, members begin to leave because of the lack of engagement, the lack of communication and other reasons, as reported by the 2014 survey.

Members, however, return to the association after year five.

So why does this drop occur in the first place if members end up coming back? The survey identified four main ideas as to why retention rates during years three to five are decreasing:

Communications Aren’t Reaching Target Audiences

Increased membership growth is linked to organization’s forms of communications. The channels of communications have to be similar to what members want.

Lack of Engagement and Involvement

No matter what the size of an organization is, it’s important to remember that everyone plays a part in that organization’s success. Lack of engagement among members is a large reason why retention rates are not increasing, but there’s an easy fix to this problem: involve them! Not only do members like to be recognized for their work, they like to be a part of it.

Outdated Member Management Systems

According to the survey, associations often wait 7-10 years before updating their new member management software. By updating, new members are drawn in and current members want to stay.

Furthermore, associations have various different systems within their associations. Not only is this costing assocaitions a ton of money, but it is also harder for members to keep up with on their smart phones (remember, new members to your team are working more and more from their mobile devices!). Associations should install an engagement management system, one centralized system, which is accessible from smart phones and computer desktops alike.

Outdated Website

An accessible, up to date website will go a long way with your members. Associations need to take their updated systems (see above) and tie it into their website. Also, association need to update their website frequently to keep members (and anyone really) interested! Especially when new members are coming in. Websites should be interesting and modern, yet easy to navigate through. This redesign of your website will go a long way.

Side note – Keep your social media up to date as well! Almost all new members are on social media, so it’s important that your association is on it too. But keep up with it- social media accounts are not beneficial unless they are updated frequently.

That’s not all! Here are some simple and easy tips to build membership engagement through the 3-5 hump years that were not noted in the survey:

Positive Work Environment

This plays along with involving your members. It’s important that your members feel safe and secure within your association. By doing this, members will feel as though they can share and develop their ideas. Develop trust and a collaborative environment within your association so that members will feel included. Members who aren’t just a number will want to stay with you.

Dynamic Staff

Work is work, but there is no problem with having a little bit of fun! Members should be able to relax and be comfortable with their membership. A dynamic staff will bring your members together, allow them express themselves and feel their opinions and contributions are truly valued.

CMA Association Management can help your association retain its membership and implement the strategies above. For more information, call 800-852-4269 or email

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