What you need to know about timing membership renewals


Membership renewals are a key concern for many membership organisations. You need to ensure that the renewal process is as smooth as it can be, including that the timing is right.

Our business development team noticed that they have many conversations with membership organisations that run annual renewals in January. Having seen advice against this, for example in The Perfect Membership Scheme, we wondered how common it is for organisations to start their annual membership at the beginning of the year.

We researched the most common renewal dates for 100+ UK-wide membership organisations with an annual fixed renewal date. The organisations were picked using a random selection process.

40% of the organisations have their renewal date in January, making it the most common month for renewals – against popular advice.

Why are renewals in January so bad?

January is infamous as a month of holding back. We used Google Trends to research if this is reflected in what people are searching for in relation to membership. We found that the 65% more searches are made for ‘Cancel my membership’ in January than the annual average.

In our research the phrase ‘Cancel my membership’ can be paired with other words, for example the name of a specific membership organisation. We can conclude that a larger number of people are actively looking to cancel their membership in January.

Additionally, The Perfect Membership Scheme highlights that renewal notices for January do not mix well with Christmas cards in December. Even if a number of members go on to renew in January it might still damage your brand to ask for money at a bad time.

What does a good renewal strategy look like?

Tailored to your members

Listen to your members and think about any special circumstances that apply to your membership organisation so you can fit your renewal process around that.

For example, International Research Society for Public Management (IRSPM) renews membership just after their conference in April. In this way renewals take place when member engagement is at its peak.

Fits with general trends

If no special circumstances apply you can consider what time of the year people in general are less likely to cancel – when researching Google Trends we found that March, May, and August are the months when the least people search for ‘Cancel my membership’.

There might be other general trends you want to consider. Taking the example of IRSPM again – their audience of academics is in general busier around the start of the academic the year so it makes sense to not place renewals close to that.

Makes it easy with automation

If you have good internal reasons to keep renewals in January you can consider making it easier for members to stay by automating the process. While your members still can cancel, automation by card or direct debit may prevent a dropout from engaged members who just are busy or feel a little lethargic after the festive season.

To stick with best practice you will of course need to give your members plenty of notice before the automated renewal is coming up.

It is also good to question if an annual fixed renewal date is the best renewal strategy in the first place. There is a wider consumer trend for monthly subscriptions – think of Netflix for example. Moving to monthly subscriptions might make renewal easier both for you and your members.

If you want to learn more about updating your renewal process get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help.

By Anna Bjorkman, Marketing Manager at VeryConnect

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