Retention isn’t an unfamiliar concept.

As long as nonprofits have been acquiring members so too have they been taking (or at least we hope they’ve been taking) the steps necessary to retain them, to keep them on board and part of the organization.

But it’s a brave new world filled with seemingly boundless free resources and an emerging population of members used to the transient, subscription-based models of things like their gym, streaming media or meal kits. In a previous blog post and in our recently published Young Members 2.0 report we shared the good news, that member not only still relevant but, in the eyes of younger members, is becoming more important. But is that enough to retain them?

Dark Clouds on the Horizon

Ensuring an authentic connection with young members is, unsurprisingly, an important indication of how difficult it will be to retain them and of their overall satisfaction with their membership. It is a culmination of your engagement efforts, where the rubber meets the road.

When asked if their association seemed out of touch with younger members, both Millennials and Generation Z respondents were more likely to agree than disagree, with African-American respondents in particular suggesting their associations were missing the mark (25 percentage points higher than average). Almost half agree that their experiences with associations have been “underwhelming.”

More concerning:

  • Almost half of respondents in this study agree with the statement, “There isn’t a strong return on investment when it comes to participating in associations.”
  • One in three respondents and two out of five Millennials agree with the statement, “I have no idea how being in association actually benefits me.”

In a word? Ouch.

Why Are They Leaving?

Only 40 percent of young members report their experience is “worth the dues (I) pay to be a member.” These perspectives show in questions asked to young members about retention.

In our report, almost one-fifth of all young members have let a membership lapse in the last year. When asked why, young members told us:

All Young Members Millennials Generation Z
Company would no longer pay 32% 38% 21%
Decline in benefits or quality offered 37% 34% 43%
It became too costly 29% 31% 26%
Forgot to renew 28% 31% 21%
Could get the same benefits elsewhere 21% 22% 18%
Changed industry/employment 17% 21% 10%

We also asked young members what is it that associations don’t get about asking them to renew their membership. Here’s some of what we heard:

  • “They need to increase the value of benefits if they are increasing fees”
  • “Sometimes the process is too lengthy when they could produce an online form instead of a paper membership form.”
  • “They typically don’t ask if there is anything that they could do better”
  • “Sometimes I need a payment plan”
  • “The more they push or use sales pitches, the more they’re are losing me as a customer”
  • “I would automatically renew if they targeted my age better with more members of my age and our shared interests incorporated as well.”

Recapturing the Magic

How can you overcome the retention hurdle with young members? The good news is that although the data in our study is pretty eye-opening, the steps you can take to mitigate the risk that you’ll lose them in the retention process are pretty straightforward and benefit all of your members:

  • Reinforce the value you’re providing every step of the way. Consider taking a page out of the consumer sector and provide members with a year-end summary statement of benefits, quantifying the value of the benefits they’ve received.
  • It’s been said before but bears repeating: Make membership affordable. Explore opportunities to align your existing membership offers with the preferences of subscription-savvy young members with monthly billing options.
  • Make renewals easy with a streamlined, online process and automated workflows to send proactive reminders.

While membership is viewed as important by young members, the need for membership organizations to articulate a clear return on investment in order to stay relevant has never been clearer. Leaders interested in attracting, and retaining, young members must not only prove the real-dollar value of their membership but also coach young members in internalizing what membership means and in bringing this message to their own leadership teams and other prospective members.

Interested in learning more about what this means for your organization? There’s still time to join us for Personify’s upcoming webinar, February 27th, where we’ll take a deep dive into the data to understand how to build awareness with Millennials and Generation Z and what you should be thinking about to drive conversion with these prospective young members.

Reserve your spot today.