Members Who Suffer in Silence: The Importance of Supporting and Engaging Members for Better Retention

Members Who Suffer in Silence: The Importance of Supporting and Engaging Members for Better Retention

What are you doing to ensure that your members feel that they are getting value out of their membership? 

Associations offer a multitude of benefits to members, but sometimes members can be forgotten. When this happens, it’s important that contact is reinstated and members are made to feel valued by the association. This way, they’ll be more likely to continue to renew their membership and be more involved in the association’s events and activities.

Why do members lose contact with an association?

Especially in recent times, associations rely on digital correspondence to keep in touch with their membership. Newsletters and emails have been the main source of contact while in-person events have been impossible due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Online events have been a popular alternative, but these also rely on digital invitation.

When phone numbers and email addresses change, member details can be lost and contact can be severed. Members do not always check their membership profile to ensure that their details are up-to-date, and they may not realise that they are missing emails and other messages from the association for some time.

Just last week, I [NK1] received a phone call from a member of one of AES’s clients. This member hadn’t been receiving the association’s newsletters but had continue to pay for membership. The member sounded very frustrated, telling me that they felt as though they were paying membership dues[NK2]  but not getting anything in return. When I checked her membership record, there was no email address and no phone number listed. So, I updated the contact information on the association’s system and let the member know that I’d manually send  sending the last few newsletters via email. By the end of the call, the member was very happy.

Ideally, a member will recognise that they have not received correspondence from their association and follow up to reinstate contact. But often, they ‘suffer in silence’ instead, becoming less convinced of the value of their membership as they receive no communication for months on end. Ultimately, this can result in the member becoming frustrated and disengaged, and finally deciding not to renew their membership. 

What can associations do about members they lose contact with?

It can be difficult for associations to recognise when they have lost contact with a member. Sometimes an email will bounce, but they may not have another method for contacting the member. Sometimes there will be no obvious signs that a member is not receiving correspondence.

One option to ensure that members remain connected is to prompt them to update their details and check their contact information regularly. If you only have one method of communication, such as an email address, request a phone number or postal address as well. This way, if emails are not being received, the association can try an alternative contact method.

If members have not engaged with the association in some time, it’s a good idea to check in with them and see if there is anything you can do to encourage them to be more involved. This personalised contact makes members feel more valued and understood. 

What kinds of contact should an association be making with members?

A common mistake that associations make is only contacting members when they need something from them. This could be asking them to sign up for a webinar, offer their time for mentoring, or complete a feedback survey. While all of these are valid reasons for getting in touch, it’s important that communication doesn’t feel one-sided. 

Keep communication consistent and relevant year-round. This could be through a newsletter containing helpful industry updates and information. If you have a large membership base, it may be worth segmenting your communications based on specialised interests. For example, a young members newsletter may provide information on professional development opportunities for people beginning their careers and guidance on how to seek out industry mentors. 

Encourage members to get in touch with the association to share their thoughts and feedback. All correspondence should provide a clear way to respond, either by return email or through a feedback form. When members do get in touch, always respond promptly so that they know their message has been received and is being taken into consideration. You don’t need to wait to have an answer to their question or query – acknowledging receipt is a good first step, before following up with more detail later.

When you do ask for feedback in a more formal format, such as a yearly survey, try not to make this too time-consuming or arduous. Questionnaires that take a long time to complete are often left unfinished, and your smaller pool of responses won’t be representative of your membership base. Shorter surveys or more targeted forms that feel relevant to the member are more likely to be submitted and offer better insights into the thoughts of your membership. 

What should associations do if they don’t have the resources to keep contact with members?

Not every association will have the resources to maintain frequent and personalised contact with their membership. Growth and retention is a time-consuming task that requires a lot of man power, and communications strategies should be carefully thought out in order to be effective.  

Association Executive Services offers a member contact service to assist associations. Our team can engage with your members via friendly phone calls and other communication methods, ensuring that ‘forgotten’ members feel valued and appreciated. This prevents losing members, and can also help to win back members who have not renewed their memberships. 


If you need help with your member management, call the friendly team at AES on +61 3 8393 9382.

About the Author: Nick Koerbin (Executive Director, AES)

With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, the National Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.

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