How Do We Increase Our Retention?


Even if you have consistently experienced “good” member retention rates year over year, I’m sure you or someone on your team or a Board member has asked, “What would it take to increase our rate?”

And if your rate is far from “good,” then this question has probably kept you awake for many more nights than you would prefer! (BTW, if you’re wondering how you compare to other industry peers, check out my earlier blog Why is Our Retention Rate So Low?)

Identify the Root Causes of Churn
Before you can determine where to begin, you need to first identify the root causes of the churn. After all, you don’t really have a retention problem with all members. Your biggest issue may be with newer members who have only been of part of the organization for less than two years. But, not all newbies are the challenge, as the chart below illustrates. The chart showed this organization that its 1st year retention challenge was only with new members that have 10 or fewer employees.

Hight Performance Group | Membership Retention Rate by Employees

Conducting a retention audit based on variables such as Industry/Category, Join Date, Dues Level, Zip Code, Number of Employees, Date Established (business start year) and Engagement patterns may confirm your assumptions about the root causes and provide valuable insights to consider. For more info on conducting retention audits, read my previous blog, What Drives Our Retention Rate?

Hight Performance Group | Improve your member retention with a solid step-by-step process

Aside from determining which members you have a challenge with, you should also consider other factors that may have an influence on your retention rates. By comparing your organization other industry peers, you may gain additional insights. For example, the organization illustrated in this chart shows that compared to other industry peers, it has a much higher percentage of members with 1–5 employees and fewer of those in the other segments.

Hight Performance Group | Mix of Members by Number of Employees

Is this indicative of recruiting patterns or are the service market characteristics that different from other industry peers? Asking these questions may require one to probe deeper to learn the answer. A deeper dive into the characteristics of new members recruited over the last three years may reveal insights.

And reviewing market demographics between your service areas and several of your industry peers will help to understand whether these are fair comparisons or not.

Ask these questions to identify key factors that may be influencing your retention outcomes:

  • Should we focus on recruiting members that are more likely to stay?
  • Do we have the appropriate resources to focus on member segments that have shown to be a retention challenge?
  • Are we providing the right mix of benefits and programming that align with our members’ interests?
  • Do we struggle with effectively communicating the value of membership?

Employ the Right Strategies
Your responses to these questions will help you to identify the root causes that are preventing you from achieving an optimal retention rate. Once you know the real problems, you can set appropriate goals and select the right combination of strategies to employ. Strategies that have proven success to drive positive retention outcomes include:

  • Recruit for retention — by developing a targeted recruiting plan based on market gaps and characteristics of your ideal members, and creating incentives that change recruiting behaviors.
  • Allocate resources for retention — by outlining roles and responsibilities for staff and key volunteers to onboard new members, monitor engagement, and conduct targeted outreach to selected members based on agreed upon criteria.
  • Realign benefits with member needs — by evaluating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your programs, products and services; collecting feedback from various member segments and identifying new opportunities that enhance the value of membership.
  • Communicate the value of membership — by understanding the motivators and interests of different member segments, and leveraging engaged members to share their passion and experiences in their own “voices” that resonate with peers.

Learn more about these strategies in my upcoming blogs and webinars. And feel free to share what’s working with your organization and to contact me for additional information.

Hight Performance Group | How Effective Is Your Member Retention?

Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, deliver benefits that members value and effectively communicate the value of membership. She serves as the SVP of Growth Strategy and Investor Relations for the Greater Austin Chamber and is the President of Hight Performance Group. Cathi is the developer of The Member Retention Kit and A New Approach to Tiered Membership. Learn more at