Monday, June 16, 2008

Improving Membership Retention through Automatic Renewal Programs

Posted by Princess Eva Angelica at 12:21 PM

There is a way to increase renewal rates without adding more member value or changing your marketing efforts. You can raise rates by adding an automatic renewal program to your payment options.

Time after time, we find in lapsed member interviews and surveys that many members leave an organization for reasons of omission instead of commission. They did not dislike the organization, they simply forgot to renew.

That’s why associations have experienced success by adding an automatic renewal program where members actually have to proactively stop membership. It is not unusual for automatic renewal members to renew at 10 points above those not in the program.

Under this system, a member is given the option when they join or renew for an annual -- or sometimes even monthly -- credit card or EFT debits made to their account for dues payments.

Here is the publically available language that one organization uses on their web site to set up an automatic annual renewal program.

“Yes, I'd like to take advantage of AOPA's Automatic Annual Renewal Program and save $4 off my dues this year. I understand that each year you will automatically charge my annual membership dues to my credit card unless you receive a request from me to withdraw from this program. Enrollment in AOPA's AAR program will convey 2 sweepstakes entries to the enrolling member.”

Legally and ethically there are also issues to consider in launching this type of program. Rather than go into detail about them, here is a link to guidelines in the circulation industry that are used in order to establish an advance consent or automatic renewal program. Many of the points apply to membership.

Also be aware that an automatic renewal program will require additional administrative time and attention. On the June 13, 2008, ASAE membership listserv, Lillian Israel, the Director of Membership for the Association for Computing Machinery, wisely shared these experiences and cautions. “My association just began using automatic credit card renewal on our online renewals . . . there was a large pick-up of the service by our members. The only con, and you might not even term it that, is coming up with a strategy on the process used to notify members of expired cards, getting the updated credit card information, naturally making sure the credit card information on file is encrypted in a really smart way.”

If you are not looking at automatic renewal programs, it is something to put on your list. For those of you who have it in place, what has been your experience?

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