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3 Crucial Culture Investments for Higher Member Retention

By: Bryan Kelly 28 Mar 2017

3 Crucial Culture Investments For Higher Member Retention

Here, we take workplace employee retention strategies and apply them to associations.

If you were to take a guess, what is the cost to replace a salaried employee in a company?

The Society for Human Resource Management recently ran a study to find out the answer, and you may be shocked to learn that the average is 6-9 months of the employee’s salary. Might I add, this is on the conservative side compared to other estimates

One can make several other arguments for ensuring the happiness of employees and members, but looking at it purely from a financial perspective, it is extremely costly to have a high turnover.

When belts are tight and costs are being cut, expenses that go toward improving company culture are often justified as the first to go. However, for the above reason, employee retention is extremely crucial to the sustainability of an organization.The same can be said for your association. Having an asociation culture budget is key to the sustainability of your association.

It will always be less expensive to retain your members then to attract new ones.

There are many reasons that employees and members may leave, and the image below, outlines a few.

culture Investments for Member Retention

So, to combat turnover, what can you do?

The next question becomes, what do companies invest in for higher employee retention? What will improve company culture in a positive way? How do we apply this to associations for higher member retention?

You should invest in…

1) Professional Development

A culture of learning is extremely valuable and beneficial in multiple ways. For starters, learning is an engaging activity, and will increase job satisfaction.

Further, when companies spend money on their employees’ development, a company is communicating its loyalty, and they find that this is reciprocated.

So, invest in learning opportunities for your association  members. It adds value and satisfies your members.

Let’s also not forget the intention to apply this learning directly to their job, making the investment even more of a win/win.

If times are really tough: Create an online space where ebooks, documents and other learning materials can be shared. Invite your members to add to the collective body of knowledge by uploading resources that they find useful.This is a simple culture investment for higher member retention that can go a long way.

2) Team Activities

This one is tough to do right. You want to engage your members in a real life situation, but don't want it to be as awkward as birthday celebrations in the conference room where it is glaringly obvious that no one really wants to be there?.

So what do companies do to fix this? They ask their employees what they want to do. What types of activities would they be interested in? If it’s a dialogue from the start, people will feel more engaged in the process and thereby more likely to show up. Create a survey for your association that opens up the discussion. Distributing it through email or an online community makes it simple for you to distribute, and simple for members to engage with. From there, analyze the data, and plan accordingly.

If times are really tough: plan a simple networking lunch in the park. Taking people out of an office environment for an hour to chat outside with their association is a memorable event. You can even go brown bag style, where everyone brings their own lunches but you all eat together. That way there is a purpose to the congregation, but you are breaking bread together nevertheless.

3) Check-Ins with "The Boss"

There is an increasing awareness that annual employee reviews simply are not frequent enough touch points. After all, when it comes to performance, no one likes a surprise.

That’s why organizations often meet one-on-one with their bosses several times throughout the year, to best learn how the work relationship can be improved (in both directions). Associations can learn from this by having a community manager that reaches out to members individually to chat.

Whether this is in person, or through an online platform, engaging one-on-one is key.

Businesses find this personal interaction especially important if someone is not reaching their goals. As an association, you may want to focus on members who are not purchasing non-dues revenue products, or not attending meetings or conferences. Think about what resources could help them, but they may be ignoring.

If times are really tough: assuming you are so busy that you genuinely do not have the time for all of these check-ins in person, try building an online community so your community managers can reach out and not have to spend the time traveling.


If you’re looking for a pulse check, in a study conducted in 2013, the average turnover rate in the U.S. in the not-for-profit space was 15.3%. How does your association compare? 

If the members who left were your top engagers in the community, then it is an even greater sign that your member retention needs a boost. If you are willing to make culture investments for higher member retention, we truly beleive in the three areas above. By doing so you may hang on to the very people who make your association so great.


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If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also enjoy:

5 Actionable Tips for the Online Community Manager 

Fundraising Tips for your Association


Bryan Kelly

Written by Bryan Kelly

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