The Most Important Year for Association Membership Renewal (9:55) – Association Hustle Podcast Episode 254




This is the most important year for membership renewal and now is not the time to take your foot off the gas. Listen to this week’s episode for tips on how to prepare to have a successful membership renewal season this year and beyond.
P.S. Stick around for a free offer at the end of this episode!
Hello and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive and a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. 21st century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core.
Here’s JP.
I have a special offer at the end of today’s podcast so hang with me over the next several minutes to find out what it is!
We’re seeing a fast track to 2020 being the most important membership year in the history of our association industry. Why?
We’ve had contraction across industries due to mergers and acquisitions and companies coming in and out of a recession. This has caused non-dues revenue to become uncertain and reduced for associations. If you look at the ASAE operating ratio study, the average association brings in anywhere between 30-40% of their revenue from meetings and events. That gross revenue is clearly reduced because we’re currently using virtual formats. Some associations are seeing success. They’re making money and we’re helping them net more money than we did prior to the pandemic. However, we’re not bringing in the volume and the gross revenue that we were before. All of these things are affecting our business model, which makes membership renewal that much more important.
A Marketing General study shows that an average association experiences an approximately 90% renewal rate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw at least a 10% reduction in renewal rates next year to be closer to 80%. Association membership renewals are very important for 2021 and beyond.
In addition to the expected ruction in renewal rates, we are also seeing layoffs across the association industry. If you read CEO Update, Axios, or Politico you’re probably monitoring some of these layoffs and cutbacks that associations are making right now. I get calls from executives right now looking for their next deal.
We’re seeing it firsthand with the distribution of our e-newsletter. Every other week, we send out a newsletter and our reports show hard bounces – indicating that the e-mail address no longer exists – and out of office responses showing that the subscriber is no longer with the association. This is affecting the ability for us to develop and implement a good membership renewal and recruitment program because a lot of these people were in charge of that function. Membership related work will be the most important work that you do this year.
There’s a trend in membership development showing a more holistic approach when it comes to onboarding, renewal, engagement, and recruitment. We used to look at recruitment and renewal as two separate seasons with different methodologies and now there’s a lot more synergy.
In the last several months, associations have been delivering value in a variety of different formats: Zoom calls, webinars, newsletters, podcast, video, and more. You’re communicating with more people in your industries than you ever have. We also are facing what people are calling a K-shaped recovery that may affect renewal and recruitment efforts. Some of your membership segments may be doing better than others and we need to take this into consideration as we go into the renewal and recruitment process.
This shouldn’t stop us from asking your existing members to renew. Don’t assume what’s happening internally and don’t say no for someone else.
Small businesses have needed resources for PPP loan applications and now they are seeking resources on loan forgiveness and other survival tools. Every one of your members recognize the value of advocacy now, probably more than ever. Membership modernization continues to trend; we’re doing a lot of consulting projects in this area right now. Modernization includes – but is not limited to – segmented value propositions for different groups, introducing new dues levels, and introducing new membership segments. Associations are pulling in new member types with content, education, and advice. Some of these members come from different parts of the supply chain.
Mergers and acquisitions will continue to accelerate in your membership groups. The same goes for associations. Association members are going to be picking which associations they will remain a part of and we know that most companies that join associations are often members of multiple organizations. This is the year they will decide their membership status, will yours make the cut?
The virtual meeting format has become the norm; I think it’s viable long-term and that is not bad a thing. We have improved data, including about the content preferences of our members. We’ve been hearing a narrative that people are not as engaged in virtual meetings as they are in an in-person meeting. Make sure that you have a way true way to capture engagement data. Are your attendees tuned in or tuned out and doing work at the same time? Could the same be said during in-person events, too? I’m looking forward to the opportunity in 2021 to hold both types of event formats for our clients because I think they both have qualities with major upsides.
There’s another trend bubbling up that showcases the value of local and regional organizations, ones that I think were challenged in our previous environment. Now, national groups with a federated structure – where you can tie together a local state national organization in a fairly seamless value proposition – have a greater opportunity because people may be more willing to travel to in-person meetings closer to home. They may not be getting on a plane for a while, they’re going to be driving to their local chapter’s events. If you have strong relationships with your local and regional chapters and you’ve got consistency in terms of quality and deliverables, a federated structure has many possibilities as a vehicle to deliver your value.
As you think about renewal for next year, what I would encourage you to showcase your value to your members by listing out everything that you have done for them over a period of time. Let’s take a look at our friends over at the National Waste Recycling Association – hope they don’t mind that I’m talking about them her – they’ve been great partners of ours. The NWRA represents organizations that pick up our trash and recycle it. They recently sent out an infographic that shows all of the wins that they had in their industry over the last year. The infographic included:

  • number of communications sent to the federal government
  • number of letters sent to state and local government
  • number of press releases distributed
  • number of mentions in the media
  • number of people that they’ve reached broken down by different formats
  • number of social media posts they’ve put out advocating for the industry
  • number of teleconferences that they held for chapters
  • number of webinars they’ve conducted on behalf of and for the members and the number of attendees that participated

You have to tell your members the story and the NWRA did so with the infographic; it’s been an absolute home run in terms of demonstrating what the association has done during this pandemic.
Some people are going to make the argument that your association would have done all of those things, anyway. However, that’s not true. If they do not renew as a member, you will be doing all of those things for their competitors and do everything that you can to make them successful. Same as what you’ve been doing for them all along while they were your members.
My recommendation is to create a plan to communicate these items monthly and provide context around what it all means. Select a monthly theme and member service to promote. May be demonstrate the value of the service through a webinar.
To tie it all together, your monthly membership outreach plan may look something like this:

  • monthly theme or service
  • invoicing plan
  • e-mail campaign
  • social media campaign targeting your industry stakeholders
  • direct mail campaign
  • personal letters followed by personal phone calls
  • phone campaign using volunteer staff or outsources membership professionals (like us!)

Every month, use a combination of the above components and you’ll have a successful renewal and recruiting season.
This is the biggest year ever for membership and one that can be a successful one if you plan for it.
I’ve got a special offer for you! If you send me a personal e-mail at, I would be pleased to send you a free copy of my book, Association Hustle. I look forward to hearing from you!
We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blog at and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JPMoery, as well as The Moery’s Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth, go to
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