There’s no doubt that implementing automatic renewals through a membership management program is a terrific time-saver. Having this process in place also ensures renewals are scheduled and that reminder and confirmation emails are automatically sent to members.
But membership renewal is more than just a process – it’s likely THE most important interaction you’ll have with each member this year. After all, your members are your reason for being, so retaining members and keeping them engaged is critical. Be sure you take this opportunity to make your renewal communications really count.
Your membership technology does a lot of the work for you at renewal time. However, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you are actually reaching out to individual members. This means you need to put yourself in their shoes and think about how each member will react when they receive your renewal email.
There certainly isn’t an established book of etiquette that applies, but there are a few unwritten rules you might want to follow to ensure your renewal email motivates your members to renew and gets them excited about staying involved with your organization in the coming year.
Here are a few tips and ideas for effective renewal communications.
Make sure the salutation isn’t a show stopper!
Remember that famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire: “You had me at hello”? Well, your first two words – “Dear xxx” can have a huge impact on whether your letter or email are read or taken seriously. If you fumble the salutation, your member may never get to your wonderful prose about how important he/she is or the amazing work your organization has accomplished over the last year.
So, here are a few tips on getting the hello or welcome right:
- Never say “Dear member” – remember it needs to be personal
- “Dear [first name]” – is probably best, but ensure your database has correct first names for all members so you don’t end up with a “Dear blank” or worse, “Dear first name”!
- Avoid using Ms., Mr., or Mrs. – since any glitch in your database can be the “kiss of death” – when a staffer or the system gets the member’s gender wrong! Mistakes like those certainly suggest you don’t know this member.
Make them powerful and personal
Your renewal letter or email needs to speak to each member and make them feel they have a personal connection to and are an integral part of an important organization. It should be a powerful message that reminds and reinforces the value your organization brings to their personal and/or professional life. It also needs to acknowledge both the organization’s commitment to the member and the importance of his/her support.
Customize your message as much as possible
You probably capture a wealth of data in your membership database so be sure to use your data to personalize renewal emails. Start the process by thinking about what sets your members apart – for example:
- Do you have a number of membership levels or categories? (e.g., student, active member, retired, affiliate, etc.)
- Do you segment your list based on membership status? (new member, active member; long-standing member, inactive/ lapsed member, former/returning member)
- Do you capture engagement data (e.g., volunteer activity; attendance at events or professional development sessions; involvement in committees or task forces; etc.)
The more you know about your members, the more you can personalize the email to speak directly to them. For example, if you know that a group of members have been active on your advocacy committee or interested in an initiative, you might want to highlight the association’s success over the past year and thank and acknowledge their contributions that made this possible in their renewal letter. Alternately, if you have a student membership category, you might want to highlight specific member benefits that this group finds most beneficial (e.g., such as professional development or networking events).
Show me the benefits
When your member receives your renewal email, they may be reminded of another line from the Jerry Maguire movie: “Show me the [benefits].” When they receive your yearly renewal email, they are automatically thinking, “What has my association/club done for me lately?” They are wondering about the value of their membership and the benefits you’ve provided.
Your overview of the benefits doesn’t have to be long-winded – but it does need to be relevant and outcomes-focused. If you’ve done some thinking about customizing to suit your audience, it can be a brief, bullet-point list that speaks directly to the member.
Renewal Reminder de Rigueur
We’re talking renewal emails here, but your organization may think about renewals in terms of “renewal notices”, “renewal reminders” or even “renewal invoices.” But no matter how your process or membership management systems work, you should take the opportunity at renewal time to reach out to all of your members with a personalized message.
If your organization is using online membership management software, many of your members might have taken advantage of signing up to have membership fees automatically paid on a regular (yearly, quarterly, monthly) basis. But even though technology can save enormous time and effort with renewal administration, if members are paying through your membership management system’s recurring payments processes, it’s still important to take the opportunity to connect with members. After all, it’s a courtesy to notify them that their membership renewal is coming up and that their credit card will be charged. It’s also an opportunity to re-connect with them on a personal level as you are with your other members who are receiving the renewal letter or email.