Membership Retention Basics: What Your Association Needs to Know

By |Published On: October 11, 2022|
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Membership retention is the rate at which members remain loyal to an association. An association management company (AMC) knows that an essential requirement for a successful association is membership retention. 

To aid your association’s membership plan, we at CM Services will share valuable suggestions, a sample plan and the basics of good membership retention that every association needs to know.  Below, you’ll also find informative resources that teach your leaders how to calculate your association’s membership retention rate. In addition, you can identify the strengths and weaknesses in your association’s membership retention plan.

Most importantly, you’ll discover what a good membership retention rate is and the best practices for successful membership retention strategies. 

What is Association Membership Retention? 

Membership retention is the number of current members that decide to renew their membership during the next dues renewal cycle.  

Uniquely, one of the most common reasons that members don’t remain with an association is a lack of engagement. 

Best Practices to Follow for Improving Membership Retention 

Teach your leaders how to manage successful meetings, and share well-organized onboarding opportunities for new members. This promotes the foundations needed for associations to accomplish their missions, objectives and goals. 

Here are a few membership retention ideas for your retention plan: 

  • Create a personalized, automated email campaign to remind your members about your association’s accomplishments and benefits.
  • Emphasize the advantages of being a member of your association. 
  • Provide your members with quality content and helpful information about membership services. 
  • Engage members with entertaining events, such as virtual events and annual social gatherings. 
  • Measure the engagement of your members and find ways to increase that metric annually.

These practices offer real benefits. For example, only 63% of members believe they’re receiving value worthy of their membership fee, while 81% of associations think they’re offering a good exchange of resources.

The Membership Retention Formula

To determine your association’s membership retention rate, follow these three simple steps of the membership retention formula:

  1. Subtract the number of members at the end of a year from the number of new members acquired over a specific period (usually monthly or annually).
  2. Divide that value by the number of members you started with.
  3. Multiply that value by 100.
Membership Retention Rate Formula

A quick way to calculate your membership retention rate.

What Is a Good Membership Retention Rate?

Interestingly, this depends on many factors including trade associations versus individual membership organizations, and more.  However, on average, 90% or higher is a good membership retention rate

A membership retention rate is the percentage of members who remain with an association within a given time. Membership retention rates may vary among associations. 

You can measure an association’s membership retention rate within a set period, generally monthly or annually. 

How to Increase Membership Retention

Understanding what your members want is essential for membership retention. It’s important to know what you need to give your members to keep them happy and engaged with the association. 

For example, incorporate entertaining virtual events for your remote members, hold informative meetings and host traditional annual events to maintain engagement. Provide your members with a variety of valuable benefits and with tools that help them socialize with other members. 

Try incorporating these membership retention ideas into your membership retention plan: 

These are all excellent ways to retain current members and recruit new members.

Create a Membership Retention Plan 

In the membership retention section of your association’s communications plan, follow this example to guide your association’s strategy. 

First, define a measurable membership retention goal with attainable objectives. However, don’t over plan. 

Membership retention plans and strategies don’t need to be too detailed because they are subject to change as associations evolve and grow. 

Helpful Tip: Create a strategy list to keep your association on track. 

Use Membership Retention Strategies With Proven Success 

Membership retention is an important element of your association’s plan. Include membership retention strategies with proven success rates in your membership retention goals. 

Below, you’ll find free strategies for a successful membership retention plan from CM Services.

  • Annual goal: Retain 90% of members over one year.
  • Long-term objective: Make membership retention in your association a priority. 
  • Short-term strategy: Create a retention email campaign to highlight the advantages that your association’s memberships offer.  Don’t just wait for dues renewal time to communicate with your members. 
  • Incentive strategy: Provide members with exclusive incentives, such as a free additional month of membership.
  • New membership strategy: Provide a well-organized onboarding process for all new members, and include a survey to gain valuable feedback from them. 

Ask Strategic Membership Retention Survey Questions 

Most importantly, it is essential that you share the survey results with your members. This ensures they know their opinions matter to the association.

You must have a firm follow-up plan to comply with best survey practices. It’s beneficial to thank participants for filling out the survey. This is also a great way to secure return respondents for future surveys. 

To get you started, here are some helpful sample survey questions to ask your members. 

Is your association giving members what they want? 

Gain valuable insights into what your members need with engaging surveys. Learn more about what attracted new members to join. 

Do your members feel engaged?

Keep it short and simple. Don’t overwhelm your members with long surveys. If you include too many questions, chances are participants won’t complete them and won’t want to fill out future surveys. 

Are your members getting enough value from their annual membership? 

How you ask your members questions is also important. Consider question leads such as these: 

  • What encouraged you…? 
  • Why did you choose…? 
  • How did you decide…?

When you ask leading questions, they guide you toward getting the responses you need from participants. 

To improve member retention, establish open lines of communication. Include members in decision-making so they know your association values their opinions. 

Important Membership Retention Ideas to Keep in Mind 

Here’s a list of sound ideas and actions you can implement to keep your members happy: 

  • Maintain a high level of engagement.
  • Set clear goals to advance the association’s mission.
  • Establish access to learning and development.
  • Offer quality benefits and incentives.
  • Show respect and gratitude.
  • Have a great organizational culture and team.
  • Demonstrate support for the association’s mission.
  • Hold entertaining events and interactive meetings. 

Association Membership Retention: Summary 

The foundations of membership retention are simple. Above all, provide members with what they want from your association. The best way to accomplish your membership retention goals is by choosing an experienced AMC to manage your association’s memberships.

Choose CM Services As Your AMC 

Contact CM Services today! We’re a second-generation AMC with 45 years of experience. At CM Services, we establish lifelong business relationships with our clients and partners, who come first and foremost.

Our success originates from the core values we hold: 

  • We put our people and client partners first
  • Integrity in all we do
  • Expertise in the industries we serve
  • Collaborate to achieve the best results
  • Deliver innovative solutions for our client partners
  • A team-based work environment that is fun

CM Services specializes in managing associations and nonprofit organizations while providing exceptional leadership. Most importantly, we share professional management services through our experienced staff, best AMC practices and valuable resources for your association’s members. 

For more information about CM Services, visit, contact President and Head Coach Rick Church at or call (630) 858-7337. 

Learn more about our AMC Institute accreditation

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