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Retaining SHRM Members in Your Chapter
Now That You've Got 'Em, Keep 'Em

Laurie McIntosh, SPHR, SHRM  7/23/2010
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There is always focus on recruiting new SHRM members to your chapter, but don’t forget the importance of retaining your current members. 

Retention is important for several reasons.

• It is a key indicator of how well your chapter is meeting its mission and providing for members.

• Your current members add value to the chapter.

• There is less volunteer time and effort required to keep a current member than recruit new members.

• Financially, it is easier on the bottom line to renew a member than to recruit a new one.

Retention should be built into the membership segment of your chapter’s strategic plan. The cost of keeping your members should be built into your chapter’s budget as well as the cost of membership and marketing. 

Your recruiting efforts actually begin the minute you gain a new member and they don’t stop throughout that member’s tenure with the chapter. Members joined your chapter with specific expectations. How you respond to and deliver those expectations will impact the future relationship of that member and the chapter. In one respect you could say that membership marketing is ongoing to prospective, new and tenured members.


It’s important to track retention:  


# of members renewed/# of members eligible to renew x 100 = Renewal %


298 members renewed/350 members eligible to renew x 100 = 85%

For every member you lose at renewal time, you have to find a replacement just to stay even—you can’t even begin to grow your ranks until you replace those members. From a revenue standpoint that is costly. If your chapter’s annual dues are $50 per member in the example above, what is your lost revenue on dues alone? 

350 members less 298 members renewed = 53 members lost

53 x $50 per year in dues = $2,600 in direct dues revenue lost

You can see why keeping those members through a strong retention program of continuous marketing and assessment must be an essential part of your chapter’s operating plan. That means your strategic plan as well since the operating plan is conceived through the strategic plan. 

The cost of recruiting a new member is higher than keeping an existing member. In the example above, you would have to replace $5,300 in revenue and recruit 53 members just to stay even! So, you have the marketing cost on top of the lost revenue. Retention is an investment in the chapter.


The marketing process is really ongoing to remind chapter members of what you have to offer. You’ve also got to deliver on your promises. Every member has a perceived value of his or her membership. If you don’t meet each member’s expectation of that membership, you run the risk of losing that member. 

Utilize the tools at hand to market to your existing membership base.

·         Newsletters

·         Website

·         E-mails

·         Invoices

·         From the podium

·         One-on-one interactions

·         Social networking sites

Conducting a member survey will help you in your planning and assessment process.

Determining what your membership wants will be a strong beginning to delivery. If they don’t get what they need, how long do you think they’ll stay (renew)? Member surveys can be done a variety of ways including conducting the survey via Survey Monkey or another electronic option. They can be simple or very detailed and specific. The important thing is to ask relevant questions and to act on the information you receive from the survey. If the membership doesn’t hear anything post-survey or see any changes, there will be no motivation to complete any future surveys. 

Check out sample membership surveys at:

Develop your action plan based on what your anticipated ROI would be for each of the items listed. Then, look at all of your resources: volunteer time, volunteer talent, budget and reserves targeted for such a plan. 

Here are some ideas:

• If you charge a non-member rate for meetings/events, remind members how much money they saved by attending at the member rate.

• Rather than giving members discounts or credits during the first year, collect the full dues amount and apply discounts on the first renewal.

• Give members an “I renewed” or “Renewing Member” ribbon to wear at meetings.

• Recognize your members as often as possible. Be sure to thank them for their participation at each and every level.

• Send members notepads imprinted with your chapter’s logo and the dates of the meeting or its annual workshop or conference.

• Recognize members who achieve specific milestones in their membership.

• Recognize past presidents or chapter members who contribute at a high level.

• Have a “benefits of membership corner/column” in the newsletter or on the web site.


Do you have a planned process in place for issuing your renewals? When does that process start? Can members expect their invoices by October 15 for a January 1 membership year? Or do the renewal invoices go in the mail “whenever.” If your members know when the invoices go out, they will be sure to have a corresponding item in their budget for that month.  

Do you send renewal invoices? Or, do you rely on your members to remember to pay their dues? If they don’t see an invoice, they may not remember to pay their dues. Utilize the invoice to remind members why they joined. Give them an “annual report” of sorts to remind them what the chapter did in the previous year, highlights of programming, workshops, etc. And, don’t discount the impact of other facets, joining a network of professional colleagues, etc. Sometimes you can’t put a dollar figure on the impact of knowing other members and cultivating those professional relationships. Members need to be reminded of those as well.

Use collateral “marketing” when invoices go out. Place an article in the newsletter or on your website to let members know that invoices have gone out. That will alert them as well as create an expectation—they need to watch for the invoice.  

If you are using e-mail, are you sure your messages are reaching their intended audience? Are they being opened? Are they being deleted before opening? Are they simply going into the proverbial “black hole”?

When you receive bounce-backs as undeliverable, take note. Contact that member by phone to verify an address or secure a new one. If your member isn’t receiving his/her chapter communications—whether a meeting notice or a renewal notice—your chapter will appear as non-responsive. If the member doesn’t hear from you, he or she won’t see value in belonging and likely won’t renew. 

Investigate if your e-mail product provides options to track your outbound e-mail. If yes, periodically throughout your membership year check the effectiveness and/or validity of your e-mail distribution lists. Flag the outbound e-mail to monitor if e-mails are received and/or if they are opened. Follow up with those members whose e-mails are never received and update your database. Create a strategy to “touch” the members who do not open their e-mail.

Some employers have their servers set up to automatically delete or block any e-mail messages sent to multiple addresses, sent to an address other than that of their customer, or that contain any text with certain words. If you send messages with text such as “free” or “sexual” harassment (as a topic of a meeting, for example), your message could be marked as spam and deleted before it reaches the member. Also, once you send a message like any of these mentioned here, your e-mail address could be put on a “black list,” meaning that messages from you will never be accepted again. 


Have a marketing campaign to reach out to those who did not renew. Sometimes that personal touch can make all the difference. They may have just forgotten or the invoice might still be in their accounting department. Perhaps they have changed employers and you need to track them down for a more recent address. This investment can go a long way in keeping your members.

Just as your organization works to provide a culture and environment that employees enjoy working in, so must you create an environment within your chapter to ensure engagement and increase retention of SHRM members in your chapter. For additional resources on retention and recruitment, check out the Volunteer Leaders’ Resource Center at



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