How to retain members

Keeping the members you’ve already got is a lot easier than finding new ones. A well-maintained database, good communication, and a simple renewal process will help ensure you don’t lose contact with the members you worked so hard to recruit.

People move, change phone numbers and update their emails fairly frequently. How are you going to ensure that you remain on your members’ minds (and in their hearts) long after they’ve joined?

We’ve identified some important points worth remembering to retain members.

A good database management system

It’s important to have a database (preferably electronic) that stores all the details about your donors, including names and contact details, donation amounts and frequency, any contact with them, and any other detail that may help you with future appeals.

Your database doesn’t have to be high-tech, however – you can use programs like Excel or even Word, but it’s important that you have a system in place for managing your members’ information. Many organisations may still use paper records, which are fine, so long as they are backed up somewhere else. You don’t want to risk losing all of your members’ information!

Some of the information that you may want to gather from members includes basic contact information, including name, email and phone number. You may want to ask for a postcode for reference if your members are located across a broader area.

Other useful data you could gather includes:

  • Joining date
  • Reason for joining
  • Referral method (how they found out about your organisation)
  • Events held by your organisation that they’ve attended

Having a record of the joining date will come in handy when you are processing renewals, and knowing the reason a member joined, how they found out about your organisation, and any events of yours that they’ve attended will help give you an idea of who they are, and what information they’re interested in hearing about.

Remember that a membership database contains personal information and that it is your responsibility to ensure the information is managed securely. It’s good practise to ask yourself what information is important and what’s not, and only gather the information you need. And always make sure it’s stored securely.

The Australian Government has published a great reference tool to help you comply with the Privacy Act – see here.

You may also find The Institute of Community Directors Australia website helpful, as it features a wide range of policy templates available for use by not-for-profit organisations, including a Privacy Policy, available for download here.

OUR TIP: "While you’re here..." Ask them for a contribution. They’ve already decided to make a commitment to your organisation by signing up, so they may be willing to spread the love a little further.

Allocate a space on the sign up form to ask them if they’d like to make a donation or be willing to volunteer their time. If you have a website, you can embed a GiveNow donation form so that members can make a donation within a couple of clicks. Find out more here.


Maintain open lines of communication to keep members aware of what you’re doing. This can be in the form of newsletters, emails, social media, etc. The important thing is to make them feel involved and engaged.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Welcome them aboard as soon as they sign up or join. Have a “new members’ kit” available to send them.
  2. Set up online and offline opportunities for members to interact and get involved in your group.
  3. Invite your members to events, launches and other happenings. Offer them cut-price tickets.
  4. Keep them informed by ensuring they get your newsletter, or receive emails with any of the latest news.

Facebook groups are a helpful (and free) tool to use to keep members engaged with your group and with each other. Creating a group on Facebook is as simple as clicking a button and inviting members to join. Keep an eye on the conversations circulating around the page to stay abreast of who your members are, how they’re engaging, and what they want and expect from your organisation.

OUR TIP: If you don’t have a Facebook page set up for your group, create one now! It’s a great tool for members to engage with one another about a particular cause or topic. And you can learn a lot about your members by the content they post. Set and publish rules for engagement (no advertising; no personal attacks; no abuse) and ake sure you’re prepared to act quickly to take down posts that don’t comply.

Simple renewal process

Remember the advice earlier about it being easier to retain current members than it is to recruit new ones? Don’t wait for a membership to expire before you try to lock it in. Make sure you get to those members with memberships that are fast-approaching expiry sooner rather than later.

You may choose to set up an automated email advising members with upcoming membership expiration dates that they should renew, and how to do so (as an incentive you could offer a small discount for early renewal).

Make sure the renewal process is as streamlined as possible. The easier it is to renew (the fewer steps/clicks), the more likely a member is to sign up for another year’s subscription.

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