It’s almost here – membership renewal season! Whether it’s an exciting time for your association or causes a little stress, it accounts for large portions of membership revenue for many associations.
Your members probably don’t have membership renewals on their radar yet, but staff members are thinking about sending notices, collecting fees, moving membership status from active to graced, stopping subscriptions, wooing lapsed members, and all the rest of the tasks associated with raising thousands or millions in membership fees. Is there a better way?
Maybe it’s time to think about implementing an auto-renewal program to make membership renewals easier for your members and your staff.
Associations normally operate two types of auto-renewal programs. One is a recurring annual payment and the other breaks down an annual renewal into monthly payments. Most programs use stored credit-card information to automatically renew membership. Here are the benefits of running either type of auto-renewal program:
What Are the Benefits of a Membership Auto-Renewal Program?
- Members are already aware of auto-renewal programs
It’s likely that your members are already aware of auto-renewal programs. They probably use programs in their personal or professional lives like Netflix,, Stitch Fix, Dropbox, Slack, Adobe Creative Cloud, and others. You won’t have to run an awareness campaign for your members to understand what you’re offering. They already get it.
- It’s convenient
Members don’t have to think about renewing their memberships because renewal happens automatically. With auto-renewal, it takes effort to leave the association, instead of an effort to join and renew membership. When members’ cards expire, you will remind them and make it easy for them to update or change cards. Because their memberships are always active, they won’t experience a lapse in benefits, subscriptions will continue without interruption, and they avoid reminder notices.
- It makes the “join” decision easier, especially for younger members
Younger members are often hesitant to join an association because the cost of membership seems too high. Offering them monthly membership fees removes the perception of high cost. It seems easier to pay $35 per month than it does to pay $420 a year. The fees are the same, but the perception is different. It may also help members who are between positions, contract workers, and those running small businesses. Monthly dues also allow you to prove the value of the association every month, and if your members perceive value in their memberships, they will continue to renew.
- It helps members “remember” to renew
According to several recent studies, almost a third of those who don’t renew simply forget to send in the payment. Auto-renewals help them stay current. Auto-renewals are also great for those who might not check their email or mail as often, they've opted to have their credit card on file and renew automatically, so you don’t have to prompt them to go into the portal and renew.
- It gives members personalized options
Giving your members the option to renew automatically is a form of membership personalization. It allows one member to renew automatically while someone else chooses to write a company check each year. Members can pay as it suits them best. Running a hybrid model, allowing some members to renew automatically and others to renew traditionally, helps members who work for the government or who have other company restrictions that prevent auto-renewals.
- It frees up staff time
Auto-renewal programs tend to be easier to administer because they can leverage automation. You design the messages going to your members once and then program the system to send them on a set schedule. You can trigger automated responses when members renew and set the system to update member status. Your staff doesn’t have to spend hours preparing mailings or sending follow-up requests. They can use the time saved on more difficult issues nurturing your membership.
- It creates steady revenue
Auto-renewals make it easier to predict what your income will be in any given month. Monthly dues payments make that prediction even easier because the annual fee is paid over 12 months. And because it’s harder for a member on an auto-renewal program to lapse, you can collect dues rather than chase down a lapsed member. Your retention rate is likely to increase.
- Increased revenue often offsets increased fees
If you implement an auto-renewal program, you might worry about increased credit card processing fees. Most associations have found that any increase in processing fees is offset by the total increase in membership revenue.
Your association may plan to offer an auto-renewal program on its own, or you may choose a vendor to help you meet the security requirements for storing credit card information. Either way, be sure to review security policies to be sure that member data is protected.
In the best-case scenario, you can manage auto-renewals right inside of your AMS. Since it’s your source of truth and where all the information on your members resides, it makes the whole process smoother. Then, you don’t have to worry about exporting or importing information, and can use the reporting feature in your AMS to see all the data on your auto-renewals campaign.
If you have questions about how well the program will be received, don’t be shy about conducting a quick survey. If you want to take the pulse of your membership, send out a quick digital survey or ask questions through your social media channels. You will likely find little resistance and marked enthusiasm for an auto-renewal program.
Emma is the Marketing Manager at Rhythm. When she's not thinking about all things content-related, you can find her traveling or shooting 35 mm film.