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Ask Hero: Help, expertise, resources, online

By Sarah Myers and Holly South

Best Practices in New Member Retention

Q: My first-year member retention numbers are less than impressive. Any suggestions for improving? What are other chambers doing?

According to FY2014 data from Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking, the median member retention rate of ACCE member chambers is 86 percent. The graph below, from Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking, is based on data from 299 chambers. First-year retention rates are considerably lower than the median retention rates for all member accounts. Retaining first-year members is more difficult than retaining longer-term members, most likely because new members aren’t involved, invested, or committed enough, and need more engagement to perceive the value of their chamber membership.

First Year Member Retention: Percentage of new members from prior fiscal year that renewed in the current fiscal year.

The red line shows first-year retention for small chambers (total revenue less than $1.5 million).
The low end of the red line represents the 5th percentile; the upper end represents the 95th percentile.
The green line shows first-year retention for mid-size chambers (total revenue of $1.5 million to $5 million).
The blue line shows first-year retention for large chambers (total revenue of $5 million and up).

Chamber consultant Cathi Hight says that integration of new members is critical to achieving a higher overall retention rate. Onboarding and tracking engagement levels are keys to success. Make sure you understand why each member has joined in order to meet their expectations, and establish a plan for the first year of membership that includes regular outreach by staff and volunteers. Hight’s best practices, including evaluating whether your organization is truly “member-centric,” can be found along with many other resources in the Member Management section of Chamberpedia, part of the Information (aka HERO) portal on the ACCE website.

Chamberpedia and the Samples Library include resources such as timelines for outreach, engagement plans, retention plans, strategic plans which identify goals and plans for both new member retention and member retention in general, ideas for ambassador programs and effective outreach to members, communicating the value of your chamber to members, and member communications with invoices, dropped member letters, and retention messages.

In addition, you can benchmark your retention performance, among numerous other membership statistics, by using the Dynamic Chamber Benchmarking platform. Consider joining ACCE’s Membership Development Division, an excellent resource offering solutions and strategies for membership initiatives, with a quarterly newsletter and a LinkedIn discussion group.

If you need help finding any of these resources, contact HERO@acce.org. We’d love to hear what your chamber is doing to engage and retain new members. Send your samples to HERO@acce.org!

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