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Quick Guide: Membership Retention Rates for Associations

By: Jennifer Rock

Membership retention is critical to a healthy association. Successful associations carefully monitor membership retention as one of their most crucial metrics.

While you already know the importance of a high member retention rate, do you know how to calculate your retention rate? Just as important, do you know what to do if your retention rate isn’t up to snuff?

Where Do I Start?

The first step is to calculate your membership retention rate. This will be your baseline metric. Each year, perform the same calculation to assess whether your membership is growing or declining.

We're going to share how to calculate your membership retention rate, but you can download a free membership retention rate calculator here.

What Figures Do I Need?

As shown in the equation below, you will need to identify the number of members you had on January 1, the number of new members you obtained in that year, and the number of members you had on December 31.

How Do I Calculate My Membership Retention Rate?

While there are several different methods to calculate membership retention, we’ll use the most simple of the calculations:

_Membership Retention Rate Formula (1)

You can run these calculations for any given time period — monthly, quarterly or for your organization’s fiscal year. The same formula applies no matter the time period.

Can You Show Me an Example?

Absolutely! ABC Association had 1,000 members on January 1, 2023. Over the course of 2023, they obtained 50 new members and ended the year on December 31, 2023 with 980 members.

Here's what that formula looks like in action:

Membership Retention Rate Example

You can download our free membership retention calculator, which allows you to easily track your association's membership retention from year to year.

What Should My Membership Retention Rate Be?

In a perfect world, the retention rate for a membership type organization would be 100%. In all honesty, associations are rarely able to achieve let alone maintain a 100% membership retention rate, especially amid today’s unpredictability.

Anything over 90% is really the goal for any type of membership association or society.

My Membership Retention Rate Is Much Lower Than I Expected. What Now?

The first step is to identify why you are losing members. Once you identify the why behind the drop, you can identify the “what now.”

Are you giving members what they want? Ask your members why they joined your organization in the first place, then do more of that. Did the majority of your members join for educational opportunities? Then offer more webinars. Did most of your members join to study for and obtain an accreditation that only your organization offers? Then offer programming around the accreditation and, just as important, spend time educating your stakeholders about the accreditation and why it’s significant. Consider polling current and past members to determine exactly what they want out of their membership. Then do more of those things.

How engaged are your members? The top reason that members don’t renew is because of lack of engagement with the organization. Engage your members with automated email campaigns, social media campaigns and events. Even better, engage them with a personal phone call or email every now and then. If you don’t already have one, create a membership committee to continuously brainstorm on effective engagement strategies.

Are your members getting enough value from their annual membership? If the only benefit a member receives is a discount to your annual event, that might not be enough to convince them to renew. Take stock of exactly what you are offering members. Then ask yourself how well your association is promoting those benefits, discounts and other member-only perks. Research associations or societies similar to yours and determine what benefits they are providing to their members.

Remember Your Outreach to Prospective Members

Even if your organization’s membership retention strategy is top-notch, it’s inevitable that you will lose members from time to time. Healthy organizations not only work hard to retain members, but they also have strong outreach programs to replace members who don’t renew.

Consider stepping up your organization’s marketing to attract new members. Ask current members for referrals, partner with another organization to expose your association to a new audience, boost your social media presence or give new members a discount to join.

Need Help?

Do you need help calculating your membership retention rate, or do you want to brainstorm on how to make your association stronger? Contact us here or call 800.899.4623.

This article was originally published in 2021 and was updated in July 2024.

Published February 4, 2021

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