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person sharing tips for how to win back lapsed members

10 min read

Your Guide to Winning Back Lapsed Members

Encourage Former Members to Return and Renew

Tags: Lapsed Members,Marketing and Communications,Member Engagement,Member Retention

What Happens When Members Don't Renew?

Should you just give up and throw in the towel? While it’s true some members may never return, others can be enticed with the right messaging.

Deploying a targeted lapsed member campaign allows you to rekindle connections and address the concerns or barriers that led to the lapse. By actively engaging with lapsed members, associations not only have the chance to win back valuable contributors but also gain insights that can inform enhancements to their offerings and membership experience.

Below, you’ll find strategies and tactics to help create win-back campaigns to compel former members to return — and we’ll explore how other associations have already done that successfully.

Why Do Members Lapse?

It’s important to understand why members don’t renew in the first place. Ideally, your association should have a lapsed member survey to help you gain valuable insights about why members chose not to renew. You can use the feedback from any membership surveys to help define your unique value proposition and determine where you need to create more awareness of certain benefits your members might be missing out on.

In our 2023 Association Member Experience Report, association members shared their top 2 reasons for not renewing their membership.


say it's because they don't feel they're getting value from their association


say it's because they don't feel engaged

4 Steps to Apply a Member Win-Back Campaign

Analyze Lapsed Members' Experiences

To create a solid foundation for your messaging strategy, begin with a clear understanding of what lapsed members have experienced. Look for answers to these questions:

  • What happens after the lapsed grace period?
  • What communications do they still get?
  • What do they still have access to?

(Note: If your lapsed members can still access most of your resources, it will be a tough sell to get them to pay membership dues again – what do they really gain with a paid membership?)

Once you know more, you can match up which aspects of your association will be most likely to draw lapsed members back. What do you offer that they can’t find elsewhere? And what resources do you have that might be under the radar or under-utilized by members?

man reviewing lapsed member survey results

Target Your Audience

You might be tempted to use a one-sizefits-all message that lumps all former members together. Don’t make that mistake. Instead, try segmenting your lapsed members by reasons for not renewing, membership type, length of time lapsed, and other demographic data.

For example, AARC developed two communication strategies and personalized messaging for two member segments: those who lapsed within three to six months, and those who lapsed between seven and 24 months.

For the first group, AARC focused more on continuing education and invitations to enroll in those courses online. For the second group, AARC highlighted new enhancements and developments from the
last year that added value to the member experience — and asked this group to “rediscover” the association.

planning member segments for member win-back campaign

Create Your Campaign

You’ll gain important insights from Steps 1 and 2 — use them to map out your messaging game plan for specific lapsed member segments.

Need an example of what that means? Consider AARC’s approach for its win-back campaign. Their lapsed member survey revealed many members had forgotten to renew. They leveraged that information to construct messaging for the members who had recently lapsed, focusing on getting them signed up for the next class. Renewal was simply the pathway to gain access to that member benefit.

Above all, remember that the most successful win-back campaigns don’t focus on your needs or priorities. Instead, let your lapsed members’ point-of-view inform your strategy. For example, “We miss you!” subject lines are ineffective. This isn’t a member-centric approach and won’t ignite
members’ curiosity — they need to know you understand their perspective. Emphasize how you plan to make their professional lives easier, and show them you have the tools to help navigate new developments in their field.

woman creating member win-back campaign

Test and Execute Your Campaign

Before sending messages to every former member, test messaging on a few small subsections of lapsed members to see what types of content work best with which groups. You can A/B test different subject lines, message copy, and “friendly from” fields. This will help you choose the most effective messaging and put together a final version of your campaign with added confidence.

Automating your campaign with Higher Logic Thrive Marketing can make your win-back campaign even better, saving you valuable time and empowering you to personalize your messages. The platform includes pre-built campaigns to help you get started.

woman sending a successful member win-back campaign
person using marketing automation to streamline their lapsed member campaign

AARC Brought Back 800 Lapsed Members

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) used Higher Logic to create a personalized win-back campaign  – and automation helped make it possible. They created and A/B tested highly relevant messaging for several audience segments to optimize their final campaigns.

“None of us have the time to constantly be manually sending out emails of this kind. It makes perfect sense to automate.”
-Sherry Milligan, Former Associate Executive Director of Membership AARC


Put Insights into Action with Automated Email Campaigns

To make the most of your win-back campaign, you need to approach it as a critical year-round effort.

And if you’re going to continually pursue renewals from lapsed members, you want that win-back campaign to be efficient. That means finding a way to avoid constantly sending out emails manually. Automating this process lets you skip those clunky time-wasting tasks. Instead, you can run campaigns that draw from lapsed member data and segment your data to send personalized messages.

Switching to an automated campaign will help you:

  • Save time and money: Instead of having your staff waste time on mundane tasks, you’ll create an efficient process that allows your staff to use their time strategically and focus on high-value
  • Grow revenue: Because automation leads to more effective campaigns, it improves your ability to regain lapsed members — and that helps maintain your association’s overall financial health.
  • Monitor message success and learn from your data: With the analytics available in Higher Logic Thrive Marketing, you can see which emails are being opened and succeeding – and which ones are falling flat. This gives you key insight into subject lines, content, calls-toaction and more, which helps you optimize your win-back email campaign.
Tip: If you’ve never tried using A/B testing (also known as split testing) for any of your email campaigns, this is a great opportunity to experiment. Compare different parts of your messages to see what’s driving clicks and opens. Check out some ideas for A/B tests from our annual Email Benchmark Report.
man celebrating saved revenue from automated member win-back campaign

SNMMI Restored $28K in Revenue

SNMMI used Higher Logic to revamp their lapsed member campaign to bring back 237 lapsed members for a total of $28,206 in reinstatement revenue in 60 days.

Before updating their approach, they had minimal strategy behind marketing outreach to former members. With automation, they targeted lapsed members by member type and using personas developed around their industry. With an automated workflow, they also repurposed content that was performing well to retarget members who hadn’t opened any previous emails.


Getting Tactical: How to Build a Lapsed Member Campaign

Although the detailed structure of your automated win-back email campaign will depend on which email automation software you use, there are some basic steps that help demonstrate the fundamentals:

  1. Determine who belongs in this campaign.
  2.  Add your email list through your Association Management System (AMS) integration (more on this
    in the next section!)
  3. Send your first email.
    A. If a lapsed member renews, roll out the red carpet with a “Welcome Back” campaign to highlight (and provide access to) your most desirable benefits. It’s a key part of getting members re-engaged.
    B. If the lapsed member doesn’t open the first email, re-send it.
  4. Determine how long you want to wait before sending a follow-up. Maybe it’s one week, or two weeks, or 30 days — you choose what’s best for your audience.
  5. If the lapsed member still doesn’t renew, send a second email (after your predetermined waiting period).
    A. If the lapsed member renews, send them to the “Welcome Back” campaign.
    B. If they don’t renew, stop the campaign.

Don’t send more than two messages — your lapsed members know how to find you. If you start filling their inboxes with “give us another try” messages, that can become a turn-off.

Tip: Welcoming members back is key. When your lapsed members renew, don’t end your automated campaign there. If you don’t showcase the value of membership, you’ll come across as a bill collector. And that means you’ll miss critical opportunities to keep members engaged long-term. What are you going to do to reassure them that renewal was the right decision? Consider repurposing some version of your member onboarding campaign or sending a targeted message to lapsed members who’ve renewed to invite them to enroll in a course.

How to Use Data Strategically for Member Win-Back Campaigns

Want to work smarter, not harder?  By integrating your marketing software with your Association Management System (AMS) you can move away from pulling manual lists and make your automated email campaigns even better.

AMS Integration Improves Your Marketing

  • Don't waste time on clunky processes that require you to upload lists. When you integrate your AMS with your automated email campaign software, you gain efficiency.
  • Improve your return on investment (ROI). Thanks to integration, your systems can communicate with each other. Your data is easier to manage. That allows you to improve membership strategy more quickly, with less work.
  • Create personalization with a purpose. With the data available from your integration, you can tailor your communication for different audience segments. This will help you send a more compelling message to groups based on their member data and their behaviors.
woman writing compelling lapsed member email message

Write Compelling Emails Lapsed Members Can’t Ignore

Win-back emails campaigns represent a powerful way to reconnect with former members and pique their interest, reminding them that your association provides outstanding value. But your emails will fall flat if lapsed members feel like they’re reading a sales pitch.

Explore our 5 tips for writing successful lapsed member messages!


Automated Win-Back Campaigns Generate Results That Bring Back Hundreds of Members

With a personalized, targeted win-back campaign, you can motivate lapsed members to revisit your organization as a place to learn, network, and build their careers. That’s what associations like AARC and SNMMI have discovered.By highlighting the latest developments for your association’s resources and speaking directly to your audience’s needs, a strategic win-back campaign can prove to lapsed members that your organization is indispensable, both now and for the future.

Learn how Higher Logic can help you improve membership marketing

Want to win back former members?

We’re happy to show you how Higher Logic’s software can make your marketing campaigns more efficient, help improve lapsed member campaigns, and accelerate your growth.