The Future of Association Membership Retention Programs

Membership Retention StrategiesThe future of association and organization membership retention programs is based on game theory. That’s right, playing games with your members will become the fundamental membership retention method of the next 25 years

Gone are the days when arduous certificated programs alone will motivate members to remain. Gone are the days when a sense of duty is enough to stay. Gone are the days when automatic engagement is anticipated.

The future of association membership retention is through small activities that engage the membership. Like the merit badges of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, short-duration, fundamental, focused efforts will earn rewards. The beauty of Scouting is that there are practically a gazillion badges to earn and umpteen different ways to do them. How many merit badges do you offer?


Why Game Theory?

Let’s look at your membership demographics. What is their history? Your youngest members grew up on gaming consoles. For Gen Y’ers and Millennials, it was a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and an Xbox/Playstation/Nintendo on every TV.

Other members have taken up plows at Farmville, been decked out in bling in Bejeweled, or flung fowl at green pigs through Angry Birds.

People like playing games. People like easy. People like rewards. It’s really that simple. Why doesn’t your membership retention strategy involve game play?


We have a certification program. Isn’t that good enough?

Organizational certifications are important and worthwhile. But they also take time and (sometimes huge) effort to earn. In a world where few have enough time, resources, or drive to work toward big certificated programs, we have the opportunity to engage members on a more focused, incremental, and meaningful level.

I’m not arguing for the abolition of advanced organizational certifications. Quite the opposite. They certainly have a place. If you are the industry recognized leader in that type of program, by all means, keep it going. What I’m saying is that we need some incremental, easy to do rewards between membership levels of Fledgling and Grand Pooh-Bah.


Engagement Means Retention

As we know, the key to membership retention is engagement. Perform a study of your members and measure their engagement with your organization. You will probably see a correlation to member engagement and longevity. However, there is probably a drop off point. Those members who are highly engaged might be getting burned out. There is a happy medium with active engagement, but not too much.


How Do We Build Engagement?

Look at the rise of games like Castleville, World of Warcraft, and Empire Avenue. They are designed for easy, incremental play over time. As you complete more actions through the game, you earn rewards.

Like games, reward members for specific organizational exchanges. Get them to Like your Facebook page.  Tweet a promo of your upcoming conference. Let members earn “points” redeemable for “stuff”. Yes, “stuff” is a technical term.

These interactions start the cycle of engagement. The more engaged they are, the longer they’ll stay. If you build it, they may come. But if you engage them, they will stay.



How are you rewarding your members?


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Todd Brockdorf
Better than Average Guy
#1 Best-Selling Author, Speaker, Thought Leader
[email protected]

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