Every time a member walks through your organization’s door, they represent more than just themselves. They’re also representing their friends, families, coworkers, and social media followers, meaning losing just one single member is more like losing 1.25 members.
That’s why it’s crucial to develop a strong membership retention program, and that starts well before annual renewals. In fact, it starts the moment that a new member joins your organization.
As part of our new survey program for cultural institutions, we recently issued a nationwide survey to membership and development managers of zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, art museums, science centers, and historical sites. The results showed that organizations who deploy a multi-step welcome series shortly after joining retain members for another year at a higher-than-average rate.
That’s right—well before your new member even needs to think about renewing, a strategic new member welcome series is imperative to start your relationship on the best footing and foster a deeper commitment to your organization that, in turn, motivates members to renew.
Why is a welcome series so effective in retaining members?
Beyond the basics of providing a receipt of membership details and perks, initiating a new member welcome series quickly is a key predictor of higher-than-average membership retention rates.
A welcome series acts as a personalized introduction to your organization, one that ushers the new member through each facet of your mission and makes them feel like a valuable part of your team, ready to be an active community member during their year of membership. This is essential because members are a valuable part of your team, and not just because of the direct dollar value of their membership.
Making new members feel included and empowered with knowledge about your organization encourages higher engagement, increased visitation, and a more committed member. In turn, each new member that has a positive interaction provides the most desirable, cost-effective type of marketing that exists: word of mouth.
Members spread the word about your incredible organization through their social media posts, conversations with their friends and family, and invitations to attend your exhibits or events. This is priceless! What people say about your organization makes a deeper impact than anything you could ever say about your own organization. The more you can get people talking positively about your organization and actively participating and attending, the more opportunities you have to not only share your mission, but also retain and attract new members.
How can you deploy a welcome series that boosts your member retention?
- Start your welcome series within a week of the member joining. Overall, we found that cultural institutions who deployed a multi-touchpoint welcome series within one week of the member joining achieved higher average membership retention rates than those who didn’t. Specifically, results showed that 57% of surveyed organizations who reported higher-than-average retention rates regularly deployed a welcome series for new members within one week of joining, whereas only 13% of those with lower-than-average retention distributed welcome materials within one week. While one week is most ideal, within two weeks is still beneficial and very common—70% of surveyed organizations initiated their welcome series within two weeks of a member joining.
- Don’t think you can get your materials out that quickly? Send a welcome series anyway. While it’s better to send your welcome materials sooner than later, it’s clear that sending any sort of welcome communication is imperative to prime your member for retention. 50% of organizations who reported lower-than-average retention sent no welcome series at all compared to just 29% of those who reported higher-than average retention.
- A welcome series should have multiple touchpoints and include a variety of onboarding materials. The way that you welcome new members into your membership program is critically important to your organization’s membership retention. When deciding communication channels for your new member welcome series, a combination of the channel in which they joined plus email and mail are key. Onboarding materials could entail a welcome message, fulfillment package, and instructions on how to access their membership card. You may also want to have different series for different levels pending on your resources and budget. As for content, we found that the organizations with the highest retention numbers delivered a variety of information throughout the welcome series that included:
- Details about their membership benefits
- Basic visitation information
- An overview of what’s currently available and upcoming at the organization
- Examples of how membership dues support the organization
Looking for more information?
If your organization has questions or wants more information about member retention programs, our 2022 Cultural Survey, or how to participate in our future quarterly surveys, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.