Why is Our Retention Rate So Low?


Member retention—what drives it and how to improve it has been a hot topic for a long time.

Get together with a group of association professionals and the question often comes up: “What’s your retention rate?” If the answer is 90% or higher, everyone wants to know the secret. Generally, rates are between 78 – 86%. That could make many people wonder, “What’s normal?”

There are two different kinds of retention rates that are typically tracked: Accounts Retained and Dollars Retained. Accounts Retained refers to the number of primary member accounts that renewed for the year. Dollars Retained refers to how much of the membership dues invoiced were collected. Accounts Retained and Dollars Retained rates are not always the same, and the Dollars Retained is usually higher (because you can keep members at negotiated rates rather than losing them altogether).  Most of the time when renewal rates are discussed, it usually focused on number of members.

Hight Performance Group | How Effective Is Your Member Retention?

What is Considered a Normal Retention Rate?
Norms are usually determined by organizations that collect, track and monitor retention rates for the industry. There are a few sources you can use to compare your rates to other organizations. The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) conducts annual surveys for chambers of commerce (a subset of the association industry) and provides reports on membership statistics and operational metrics. (Reports are free if you are a member and participate in the surveys.)

ACCE tracks Accounts Retained and Dollars Retained based on the total annual revenue of the chambers. Year-to-year rate trends are also provided.

Hight Performance Group | ACCE's 2014 Operations Survey Report on Member Retention - Accounts
Hight Performance Group | ACCE's 2014 Operations Survey Report on Member Retention - Dollars
The 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, provided by ACCE.
2015 report will be available soon.

Marketing General, Inc. conducts annual surveys for the overall association industry and provides reports on annual rates. MGI reports on rates for individual, trade and combination memberships. Renewal rates are based on Accounts Retained.

Hight Performance Group | Overall Membership Renewal Rate
The 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, provided by Marketing General, Inc.

These types of reports can help you determine if your retention rates are “normal” and how you compare to your peers on an annual basis. If you feel that your rates are lower than normal or you are interested in learning how you can increase member retention, check out the next blog in this series: What Drives Our Retention Rate? You will explore factors that influence retention and realize that the real secret to understanding what drives your rate from one year to the next is hidden in your database!

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

Cathi Hight helps associations manage constant change, deliver benefits that members value and effectively communicate the value of membership. She is Senior Vice President of Growth Strategy for the Greater Austin Chamber and president of the Hight Performance Group. Cathi is the developer of The Member Retention Kit and A New Approach to Tiered Membership. Learn more at www.hightperformance.com.