August 2019 – Lauriane Lebrun, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

If your nonprofit is funded in part by membership dues, then you already know the importance of renewals.  You work hard to bring in new members, and keeping them coming back year after year is what makes any membership organization strong.  According to Mark Kelly of Salsa, your membership retention efforts can be optimized by:

  1. Showing your members/donors your sincere appreciation.
  2. Automating renewal-related tasks (setting up recurring payments, scheduling renewal reminder emails to be sent automatically, etc.).
  3. Making sure your membership application/renewal process is easy to access and user-friendly.
  4. Sending renewal letters/emails that remind your members of the value of their membership.

Let’s focus primarily on this last point.  Your membership renewal notices can easily make or break your relationship with any given supporter.  These letters should be personal, impactful, and brief.  Here are some best practices to keep in mind before you hit “send” or seal any envelopes.

Make a good first impression. 

Let’s say you get two letters in the mail.  One is addressed to “Current Resident,” and the other is addressed to you, by name.  Which feels more important? 

When addressing your members, always get on a personal level and call them by their first name.  No one wants to be just another nameless, faceless “Dear Member.”  Furthermore, attention to detail goes a long way in your salutation.  I get a lot of letters and emails addressed to “Lauraine” and “Laurie,” but I’m much more inclined to read those addressed to “Lauriane.”

Ask not what your members can do for you – ask what you can do for your members. 

As Jeff Gordy of Neon explains, you’ll want to take some time to remind members why their support is important, both to them and to you.  Mention the great events, activities, services, and opportunities you’ve offered to members in recent months.  “After a quick jaunt down memory lane, your member should be able to fondly recall all they’ve gained after a year as a member of your organization.” 

Additionally, it’s a great idea to show members the impact they’ve made by describing what their contribution has helped your organization to accomplish.  Be sure to use real quotes and/or specific numbers, names, and dates to add a sense of tangible value.

Divide and conquer.

While you probably don’t have the time to compose a handwritten note to each and every member, you can get more personal by segmenting your membership into smaller groups, such as volunteers, vendors, and key supporters.  Customize each letter type to highlight the special perks associated with – and contributions made by – that particular group. 

Not just another bill to pay. 

Make renewals exciting!  Give your members an incentive to renew by sharing some of your nonprofit’s future plans, inviting them to register for an upcoming event (at the discounted member rate!), or – if feasible – offering a discount/reward for those who renew by a certain date. 

Make it easy.

Your letter should never end without clear instructions regarding how to take the next step.  If your notice is in the form of an email, make sure links to renew online stand out on the page.  Make sure your renewal process is as user-friendly as possible, and don’t forget to include contact info in your letter so that members can get in touch if they have any questions.

Remember your manners.

Most importantly, don’t forget to say “thank you” to your members for their support and for taking the time to read your letter!  As Audra Hopkins of Web Scribble writes, “Having a strong support system behind you (your membership) to help you advocate and strive towards your overall goals is a gift – and a gift should never go unthanked.”

The Lexian Management newsletter is for informational purposes only.

Always consult your attorney, accountant, and/or insurance provider to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or concern.