Membership180 was started almost 4 years ago to help Associations and Chambers grow their membership sustainability through a new version of an old program…the dreaded Membership Campaign.  While we still work with organizations hosting campaigns across North America in a dramatically different way, we’ve since branched out to offer staff development work, facilitation of Board retreats and speaking engagements that help your members market themselves better and sell more effectively.  But the number one question I get asked FAR more than any other is simply this:  How do I know if my Chamber or Association is READY for growth?

So let’s dig in!  Here are my top three questions I ask prospective clients to see if they’re ready to take on a significant project, whether it be a third-party-facilitated membership campaign or an “in-house” sort of “do-it-yourself” campaign…or something completely different.

  1. What is your penetration rate? In other words, what percentage of businesses in your footprint are already members?  If you’re in a small community (Chambers) or industry (Associations), the possibility exists that you already have an overwhelming majority of your potential members “locked up”.  For organizations with 75% penetration rates and higher, it may be difficult to see the ROI in an extended program like a campaign or membership drive.  I routinely suggest that those organizations focus on delivering championship level customer service and support, and to work hard on shoring up member engagement.  For those under 30%, there may be a SIGNIFICANT rationale for a targeted effort to bring folks in.


  1. What is your overall retention rate? If you have a retention rate at or above the 85% range, we can reasonably assume you’re doing some things right and the new members you bring on are going to be satisfied with the services you offer.  As long as your overall retention rate is over 80% and your penetration rate points to the viability of a concerted effort, I’d say you’re ALMOST there!  We just need to check one last box before we decide if you’re ready to increase your membership by 8-12% or more in a matter of weeks.


  1. What is your 1st year retention rate? This question answers a few others automatically.  I want to know if your affairs are in order, if your Board of Directors is squared away and playing an active role, if your staff is solid and if your pricing model works.  While knowing your first year retention rate might not tell me EVERYTHING I want to know, it certainly points me towards the information.  If your first year retention rate is below 65%, I typically recommend an Engagement Workshop to really focus on getting that number up before we worry about adding a ton of new members, regardless of what the other numbers say.  There’s no benefit to bringing members in only to lose them the next year.  In fact, it’s quite detrimental to the long-term success of your organization.


So there you have it!  I’d love to hear from YOU.  What are YOUR organizations’ penetration rate, overall retention rate and first-year retention rate?  Does every person on your staff know these numbers?  I’d strongly recommend you make sure they do!  We can’t manage what we don’t measure, right?  Let’s keep these three numbers top-of-mind within our Chambers and Associations and see where it takes us.

Until next time!