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The Art of Winning Back Lapsed Members

Ryan Graham
March 15, 2024

Member-based organizations face a common challenge: keeping their members engaged and retaining them year after year. A significant part of addressing this challenge involves winning back those who have lapsed. The reasons behind a member's decision not to renew can vary widely, from a perceived lack of value to simply forgetting to renew. PropFuel, a conversational engagement platform for email and SMS engagement, offers a unique approach to not only understand why members lapse but also how to win them back effectively.

Understand the "Why" Behind Members Lapse

Before exploring strategies to re-engage lapsed members, it's crucial to understand the reasons behind their departure. Many times, it's a misalignment of value; what the organization offers doesn't match what the member needs or perceives as valuable. Other times, life changes such as retirement, job changes, or financial challenges come into play.

Surprisingly, a study conducted among PropFuel clients revealed that 53% of responding lapsed members in 2022 were not even aware that their membership had lapsed. This challenge highlights a significant gap in communication and engagement strategies that organizations need to address. Associations need to seek to understand the unique needs of members in order to act accordingly to increase the member’s perception of value, and give them what they want or need to make membership worth it to renew.

The PropFuel Approach: Ask, Capture, Act

PropFuel's methodology revolves around three core actions: Ask, Capture, and Act. This conversational engagement strategy begins by asking members targeted questions to gain meaningful insights into their needs and preferences. By capturing these insights, organizations can then act by tailoring their engagement and offerings to match the specific needs of each member, making the membership experience more personalized and valuable.

Associations Turning Stale Relationships Into Renewed Members

Many associations are using PropFuel to recapture member interest, discover more about why each member lapsed, and take immediate actions to guide them toward renewal. The following examples display options for associations to effectively seek new information from their members to enable action, and ultimately move the member to renewal.

Individual Members

INCOSE's use of PropFuel in May 2022 aimed to boost retention and understand non-renewal reasons. By focusing on winning back lapsed members, they saw remarkable results, reinstating over a thousand members across various member categories from September 2022 to December 2023:

  • 884 Regular Members
  • 57 Senior Members
  • 58 Students
  • 23 Other Category Members & Associates 
  • Total Reinstated Members from Campaign: 1,023

Recently Lapsed Members

The Association of Legal Administrators targeted members past their expiration date but still had access to their benefits. An engaging campaign prompted a significant number of engagements and renewals, demonstrating the power of direct communication and follow-up inquiries. Campaign highlights:

  • Of the initial 1,841 enrolled contacts, 715 (39%) engaged with the campaign.
  • 160 typed text responses received to open-ended "What can we do to get you to renew?" question.
  • A second check-in had the highest response rate at 23%, with a 17% average response rate across all 3 campaign check-ins.
  • All-Time Campaign Renewals: 1,118 (61% of enrolled campaign contacts have renewed).

Individual Members

One professional association reached out to members that had lapsed in the previous year. A simple question designed to find out if members were even aware of their lapsed status brought big results:

  • Out of the 3,500 enrolled contacts, 1,133 (32%) engaged with the campaign.
  • The first check-in yielded the highest response rate at 22%, with a 15% average response rate across the three check-ins.
  • All Time Campaign Renewals: 369 (11% of enrolled contacts rejoined, and an additional 196 members expressed interest in rejoining).

Organizational Members

After not getting a response from the primary contact of 92 organizational members, the National Quality Forum enrolled 537 contacts from lapsed member organizations in a campaign to inquire about their organization's intention to renew and drive action.

  • Out of the 92 organizations enrolled in the campaign, 37 (40%) had at least one contact engage with the campaign.
  • The check-ins yielded a 6% average response rate and spurred the new or existing primary contact from these member organizations to email or call NQF's membership team directly.
  • Campaign Results: 36 conversations created. Within the four weeks that the campaign ran, NQF staff regained direct contact with 36 member organizations (39%), helping them facilitate reinstatement.

Lapsed Member Win-back with a Nurture Campaign

The American Academy of Pediatrics engages recently lapsed members in a campaign to understand if they plan to renew. If the member indicates "yes," they are added to a nurture campaign to continue the conversation in a more personalized way.

  • High response rates to nurture campaign: 33% responding to the first check-in and 24% to the second.
  • An dditional 739 individuals reinstated their membership, yielding a 80% win-back rate from their PropFuel engagement efforts.
  • All Time Reinstated Members: 2,027 (48% reinstated prior to receiving the first nurture check-in)

Integrating SMS for Enhanced Engagement

What do you do after a member has rejoined? Keep them engaged (so you don’t lose them again)! Try a multi-channel approach to engagement, which caters to different member preferences in communication.

Adding SMS to the renewal efforts, as demonstrated by the American Psychiatric Association, can significantly impact crucial moments in the membership cycle. Alerts sent at the beginning of the grace period, one week before its end, and on the last day offer timely reminders that can prevent lapsing or encourage renewal. SMS options like these are available in PropFuel to streamline and expand your outreach.

Beyond Winning Back: Enhancing the Member Experience

Once members are won back, the journey doesn't end there. PropFuel encourages ongoing engagement through further inquiries about members' renewal method preferences, valued benefits, and communication preferences. This continuous dialogue ensures that the organization remains aligned with its members' evolving needs, fostering a sense of belonging and value that extends far beyond the initial win-back campaign.

Winning back lapsed members is more than just a strategy to boost numbers; it's an opportunity to deepen engagement, understand member needs better, and build a more vibrant and responsive community. By adopting a personalized approach and utilizing tools like PropFuel, organizations can turn the challenge of member retention into an opportunity for growth and renewal. The key lies in continuous engagement, asking the right questions, and acting on the insights gained to create a membership experience that resonates with value and relevance.

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