Retention is a Relationship

And you can’t claim to have a relationship with people you don’t know.

This topic has come up frequently with clients in the past six months, both within full engagements, where we’ve been looking at how to increase membership, and in speaking engagements, where I’m trying to help chapter leaders learn how to be more effective.

Retention is key to long-term membership growth and to maintaining vital, lively chapters. While recruitment is like dating, retention is like getting – and staying – married. It’s about being in it for the long haul, about making an increasing commitment of time, energy, attention, focus, and money on BOTH sides.

The problem is, too many of us don’t know our members. That’s a data issue. We don’t think about what data we should be collecting on our members and other audiences. We don’t think about how to store that data in a way that it’s accessible and useable. We don’t think about how to integrate disparate data sources. We don’t think about how to use that data wisely, analyzing it to look for meaningful answers to important questions, and then acting accordingly. ACTING is key.

Being honest with ourselves, we’re lazy, and we throw up our hands: “It’s too hard!”

And we become takers in the relationship. We want the members to give us their money and their time and their attention, but we don’t give anything meaningful back (a subscription to your magazine is not a meaningful relationship). We don’t make any attempt to get to know them: their professional (and personal, where appropriate) wants, needs, problems, dreams, fears, goals. We don’t work to find out how we might be able to help them meet and fulfill those.

That’s unacceptable.

It’s OK to start small.

This week, call five members. Not because you’re trying to get them to renew or register for your new professional development series or donate to your foundation. Call just to ask what their number one biggest professional challenge or most important goal is for 2016. Record that somewhere that your colleagues can access. Share that information with your team at your next meeting. Start the conversation about ways you can, as an organization, get to know your members better. Brainstorm about how that knowledge could impact how the association intends to invest your resources (staff time, staff attention, volunteer effort, public focus, money, etc.) in 2016.

But start. Now. Today.

No more excuses.



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