Membership + Data: How your Association Management Software Can Improve Retention and Recruitment


Issue: March 2011

Membership + Data: How Your Association Management Software Can Improve Retention and Recruitment

By Carlos Restrepo, CAE

Membership management is a game of recruitment and retention, of casting the net and trying to keep the catch, and like any good game, it requires strategy. The key to effective strategic member marketing is to be aware of the data stored in your Association Management Software (AMS) and the ways that data can be harnessed to focus your efforts and get results.

The direct value of your AMS database is that it collects and stores a wealth of data, of which there are three categories:

  • Hard, or transactional, data provides direct information about customer activity or purchasing history;
  • Collected data captures demographic or survey information on customers, products or services that can be used to build a profile for your organization;
  • Soft, or implied, data is behavioral; it looks at actions taken and makes implied assessments.

But with all this data at your fingertips, how can it be used to maintain and build your membership? Let’s look at a few ways.

In addition to tracking and monitoring membership-retention data such as renewals, joins and revenue, the hard data in your AMS allows your organization to easily pinpoint core buyers among non-members. Do you have people attending events and buying your products, yet are missing out on member discounts? If they’re doing all these things without membership benefits, it’s only because someone has yet to reach out to them. You could not ask for an easier recruitment target.

By tracking demographics and building a membership profile, collected data can help you to better know and serve your members. With a picture of their backgrounds and interests as a base, you can begin targeting messages and creating events to appeal directly to individual groups. Likewise, the information you collect about customers can build an overall profile to direct your outreach. If your non-member base is lagging in 24 to 30-year-olds, why not launch a marketing campaign to college campuses and start to build a pipeline for your young professional members?

The act of participation, whether it be filling out a survey or joining a focus group, is soft data that provides a gauge to determine a prospect’s interest, as well as a member’s engagement and satisfaction with your organization. The fact that a prospect or member took the time to participate says something about his or her commitment, and it can also be used to evaluate your organization’s health.

After all, an engaged member is a retained member. Those individuals who have invested time, money and effort into championing your organization will not simply fall off the membership map.

Whose job is it to keep the member engaged? That responsibility falls to a number of departments throughout the member’s interactions with your organization.

A good tool to define these roles is with the retention responsibility curve, which represents departmental responsibilities based on member activity. As the individual is recruited, the initial retention responsibility falls to the membership department for fostering the initial relationship. As the member’s participation grows, responsibility passes to the marketing department to inform the member of new products and activities. If participation begins to wane, it’s the membership department’s responsibility to re-engage and attempt to rebuild the relationship before the member becomes a recruitment statistic.

But how can you know if a member is involved or disengaged? Whether he or she goes to every annual meeting or is just a number in a membership report? Categorizing participation data (both hard and soft) allows associations to identify members who are losing interest before they become a membership problem. Has your member bought only one book this year, compared to the seven purchased last year? Has he or she stopped responding to surveys or interacting with social media? The key is to monitor your data to identify such at-risk members and then re-engage the membership department. Sometimes a simple call is all it takes to identify issues and reveal easy fixes to keep them engaged.

Remember: A prospect becomes a member because your association offers something of value. Using data to understand what services, products and opportunities your members (and non-members) take advantage of will improve your retention base and provide information on recruiting new members from that base. Take full advantage of the vast resources in your association management software data.

Carlos Restrepo, CAE, is manager of consulting services at Avectra. He can be reached at

3 Data Queries That Deliver Immediate Results

Query: Non-members who have bought a book, attended a meeting and participated in a survey. What now? Target a campaign inviting active customers into the membership fold.

Query: Members whose membership expiration date is 6 months from today with no participation history in the past year. What now? Identify idling members and invite them to your next event at a special discount.

Query: Organizations with current membership where the primary contact has changed in the past month. What now? Send an e-mail to new contacts informing them of current and upcoming offerings to emphasize the value of membership.




Additional Articles