Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Membership Renewal Should be More Than a Business Transaction

I recently received my first renewal invoice for my ASAE dues and (warning: ruining the ending of the story) – I renewed.  The network and community I am a part of, the volunteer opportunities and ways to give back to the association world I have discovered – all of it makes my continued relationship with ASAE as a member a no-brainer.  I am looking forward to receiving what I think is one of the best examples of a membership card in the association world – my foldout from ASAE with a trophy on front with my years of affiliation, personalized to my membership.  

So, now that you know the ending, I have to say that the renewal process I experienced as a member was….well, not cutting edge.  Perhaps it is unrealistic expectations, or that since my track is membership I look with an ultra-critical eye, but I think there are a number of basic lessons we can tease out of the first phase of the ASAE renewal cycle.  (I renewed after the first phase – I know further down the line that if you do not renew you received additional asks and person phone call follow ups.  If the full ASAE renewal cycle plan is available for member review on Collaborate, it would be much appreciated if someone can post the link in the comments below)

1.      1. Invoice first? – Ok, call me crazy, but I just don’t keep stamps in the house.  With the way that postage continues to escalate I know I should buy some of those ‘forever’ stamps that will hold the price steady – but I just don’t have anything to mail.  My bills are online, I usually send e-cards, and when ordering items, Amazon is my buddy.  Though I know there are people who still prefer to renew from a paper form, mailing or faxing it in, I can not believe that this is the majority of the association population.  I really believe that in today’s membership world, the first formal renewal ‘ask’ should be electronic.  I rather click through, pay through the site, and be done in under three minutes.  The benefits to this are a win-win all around – saves the member time and postage/finding a fax machine, online renewal should be tied to the AMS so that upon payment renewal is immediately acknowledged, and best of all – not printing an invoice and mailing it saves costs.  Yes, if I do not renew after the first email/e-outreach then send the invoice – but give me the chance to do it online first!

2.       2. Online Renewal Path Identification (ORPI) – Ok, so I wanted to come up with a new association acronym – but in all seriousness, it is an important one.  On the renewal invoice I received there was information for sending it back in, and faxing it in.  There was the general association website, but no direct url/link was given for renewal.  If I wanted to renew online, I was on my own to find the path.  Granted, there is a link from the homepage, but if the invoice is going to be sent it should be comprehensive in providing the different renewal options.

3.       3. Missing the Warm Fuzzies – While for an association membership renewal is a transaction that is counted and depended upon for the budget, this is not a member-centric perspective.  Ideally, a member has a relationship with their professional community thanks to the association, and the discussion of value attributed with that relationship is ongoing throughout the year.  When the time comes for membership renewal, the ‘ask’ can start from a place of conversation and appreciation.  Thanking the member for their ongoing participation, recognizing that their affiliation with the association has made it a more rich and vibrant community.  With the help of members, some highlights of what has been accomplished, and what the association is looking forward to in the year ahead.  Then the opportunity to remain part of the conversation and important endeavors the association and its members is set to tackle in the year ahead – and the member can renew to remain a vital part of that effort.  I think the direct opposite of this approach is to simply send an invoice with what is owed, demographics to fill out and some general website information.  It is a missed opportunity to remind members of why they want to be members in the first place.

4.       4. Online Renewal should have Glitter – For most AMS it is difficult for the system to recognize the difference between membership renewal and buying a book when it comes to processing the transaction.  I understand that is where we are technology wise, and am ok with that for now.  With that said, the screens leading up to the decision to renew, and the automated response that is sent after should stand apart.   A purchase of a product is a singular transaction – a renewal payment is a commitment to an ongoing relationship with the potential for MANY purchases, volunteer involvement, etc – do we really want to treat them the same?  If we can get the emotion into the logistics of renewing membership, and make a member feel good immediately upon deciding to remain part of the association then that is a huge stake in the ground when the next organization opportunity presents itself.  (Note: I did receive an email letter to this end 8 days after I renewed)

I want to say that I think ASAE rocks – the community I have found and the professional I am becoming because of the association is simply invaluable.  I am guessing that the next steps in the renewal cycle are more engaging, and perhaps speak to some of what I addressed above.  I guess it is just the association professional in me that had hoped that experiencing my own membership renewal with my professional association would be a lesson in what to do rather than what not to do.


  1. I totally agree and blogged about the topic in 2010, asking "What is it that you want to renew? http://www.ideaarchitects.org/2010/09/what-is-it-that-you-want-to-renew.html

    This year I waited until my fourth renewal invoice before renewing ... just to see what happened after the first mailing. Nothing. Same invoice every time.

  2. There is really important and good stuff here for us—thank you! We really appreciate it when our members take the time to let us know what we’re getting right, and, in this case, where we have room for improvement. Our renewal process is something that we’ve been looking at and we can promise you that your feedback has been read and will be kept in our minds as we move through the process of re architecting that experience. We hope that next year, the renewal process will reflect some of these changes and bring a smile to your face—although we can’t promise actual glitter at this point, of course. We also thank you for your continued membership and hope we can call on your for additional input as we move through the process of revising the experience.

    Mandy Stahl
    Community Manager, ASAE

  3. Jeffrey - Thank you for the reference to your post from 2010. Indeed, it seems that we are referring to the same issue - and I found the comments/discussion on your post to be interesting - some people simply want a 'bill' and don't see the connection to how that should be part of the overall connection campaign that an association should run throughout the year. Even if the bill is simple and straightforward (and ignoring the online component) it should continue an ongoing conversation of community and value that should take place between the member and association throughout the year.

    Mandy - First, thank you for the really quick reply to my post - I appreciate your response, and through you that of ASAE. I think one association world universal truth is that an association is only as good as the members who belong help make it - so yes, I am sure there would be many of us who would be happy to help ASAE in reviewing this process.

    And I will go with glitter optional if in its place there can be some shiny star stickers.

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