Improving Your Membership Renewal Letters: 6 Tips for Success

Associations, Communications Strategy, Retention // Sitting down to write a membership renewal letter can give you writer's block - these tips will help. Plus, get ways to create engagement year-round.

Joshua Slyman
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Content plays a vital role in your association’s membership renewal process, because your renewal letters are much more than reminders to pay up.

It’s easy to ignore an invoice. That’s not the case when you receive a message that feels personal and speaks to the issues that concern you most. To get your audience’s attention, use the renewal campaign letters to highlight the issues that members really care about for 2020 and 2021.

For a comprehensive overview, check out our eBook on how to streamline your association’s membership renewal process.

Even when you know what you want to convey to members, a blank screen can be daunting when it’s time to compose renewal letters. There’s a lot at stake with these letters — if you struggle to write them, you’re not alone. With that in mind, here are 6 suggestions to help improve your membership renewal letters:

1. Unleash your creativity.

To get noticed in today’s visual society, use creative tactics. Try video — that could be a recording of your association president, with an optimistic message about how members can get involved in the coming year. Make sure you include captions, synchronized with the audio portion of the video, so members can still see the message if the volume is turned down.

2. Track email conversion rates.

Measure the success (opens and click rates) of your various emails to see which subject lines are driving opens and which calls-to-action are driving clicks. Then, improve on what’s working and stop doing what’s not working.

3. Use social proof.

Showcase testimonials from your most enthusiastic members, and have them mention specific ways they’ve benefited from the association. This kind of social proof is a powerful marketing tool. Feature members from different segments — such as a young new member who’s recently renewed, and long-time member who’s enjoyed the community for decades.

4. Make it feel personal.

Have each email come from a different person on the membership team. Sending your emails with a “friendly from,” like “Jay at CAU” instead of just “CAU” can help increase opens in members’ inboxes.

5. Speak clearly.

Make your messaging straightforward. If you want to make a clear call to action, skip the jargon, and communicate using plain language.

6. Highlight key benefits.

Draw members’ attention to key sections of your association website — members who aren’t particularly active will probably be surprised to learn about the myriad resources you offer.

TIP: Try offering an incentive to encourage members to renew early. That could be a free course, or a discount for membership dues or the fee or your annual conference. By offering a limited-time perk, you’ll give members an additional reason to change their behavior.

These ideas for improving your membership renewal messages should help you communicate clearly, but there’s a caveat.

The “But”: A Great Membership Renewal Campaign Needs More Than Great Content

Content isn’t the only component that matters for membership retention best practices. As you probably know, you won’t win members over with one great renewal email.

When asked why members don’t renew, 43% of associations say the top reason is a lack of engagement with the organization, according to the 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. This represents an increasing concern for associations, since that figure was 41% in the previous year’s report.

When you consider members’ point of view, it’s no surprise that engagement and retention are so closely connected. When they pay membership dues, members are making an investment in your association. If they don’t stay involved, they may start wondering, “What’s my ROI here? Am I getting my money’s worth?”

And if your association only communicates at renewal or your messages don’t showcase the value of membership before you send that renewal message, you may come across as a bill collector, missing critical opportunities to persuade members and showcase the value you can provide.

The bottom line: A successful member renewal campaign starts with an effective engagement strategy that reaches members year-round with valuable member benefits.

3 Ways Automated Email Campaigns Improve Your Membership Renewal Process

With smart email automation software, you can replace outdated processes that help you reach members year-round with all the benefits you have to offer.

1. Identify unengaged members.

Automation provides your association with a way to identify disinterested members throughout the year, and communicate with them in a focused, strategic way that continually conveys your association’s value. Don’t wait until renewal time to remind unengaged members why your association is so great — if you make that mistake, you’ll have a much smaller chance of convincing them to stay.

2. Segment and personalize.

After determining which members lack engagement, you need an effective way to remind them that your association provides a place to learn, network, and build their careers. That requires a process to separate and segment the unengaged members in your audience, so you can send them personalized messages.

3. Work more efficiently.

With automated email campaigns, you can achieve this efficiently, without placing excessive demands on your staff’s schedule. These re-engagement email campaigns provide targeted methods to reach unengaged members — and they avoid filling the engaged readers’ inboxes with emails that don’t belong there.

Your association deserves the best way to get renewals sooner, without wasting time and resources. A business-as-usual approach to membership renewals will limit your association’s ability to thrive during an economic downturn.

When you shift from outdated manual processes to an automated email campaign, the benefits go beyond timely dues payments. It brings a new level of efficiency that allows your staff to think strategically as they focus on member retention and new revenue sources.

Joshua Slyman

Community Manager

Joshua Slyman is a creative communicator and strategist with over 15 years of communications experience. He is focused on driving customer success and innovation by bridging concepts, making connections, fostering relationships, and maximizing available assets. He lives in Upstate New York with his wife, Jean and their dog, Ida. In his free time he enjoys printmaking, skateboarding, and binge-watching bad TV shows.

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