by Becca Lahr
Let’s put our research hats on and be curious together for a second.
Try thinking back on the last couple of years. Think about the former members of your chapter who have decided to leave. What do you think they would say if they were asked WHY they left?
Finances? Time Commitment? Grades Slipping?
You might be surprised to find out that those are not the top 3 reasons that our members leave their organizations. The top 3 reasons that our members leave are:
- Lack of connection
- Misaligned expectations
Why is it that members of our organizations are feeling this? It’s because once we convince potential members to become members of our process, our systems stop.
You might have meticulous and well thought out growth systems that include relationship building and relationship management with our potential members. You might put all of your effort into telling potential members: “We are your people! Join us!” But when it comes down to their membership experience, we tell them that their experience is what THEY make of it.
Here’s the thing: growth does not come without retention. We cannot expect to continue growing our organizations if our systems end when they join the chapter. What if instead of leaving our members responsible for their own membership experience, we begin to systemize retention in the same way that we systemize growth in our recruitment processes?
If you are still on board, which I hope you are, your next question is probably… “How do we begin to systemize retention in our chapter?”
Let’s utilize the strategies we already have in place for our growth systems:
Plan, plan, plan!
Don’t wait until the last minute to plan for retention! Start early each term and build an engaging retention plan that prioritizes connection and includes all of the things we promise potential members! Variety is your best friend! Plan engaging sisterhood, brotherhood, siblinghood events, academic focused study sessions, and even groups assigned to each executive board officer so that members have a direct line to leadership and feel heard.
Build and Manage Relationships
When we finally move our potential members through D-C-B-A to an A+, we don’t stop building relationships! Reframe how your chapter can utilize DCBA for chapter members to ensure they are building and maintaining relationships in the chapter. Is a chapter member a D (just a name on your roster)? Or as they move from new member to lifetime member, are we continuing to move them from D -> C -> B -> A and helping them build deep meaningful connections in the chapter?
Although chapter retention is a group effort, having a dedicated officer in the chapter who oversees member retention and engagement will help with the establishment of a system. When we designate an officer (VP of Membership, Sisterhood/Brotherhood/Siblinghood Chair, creating a new position, etc.) to monitor retention in the chapter, we are better able to develop and implement a repeatable and optimized system for retention in the chapter that can be passed on for years to come.
One of my biggest life mottos is “work smarter, not harder” and if we can apply this to membership retention in our chapters, we are more likely to be successful.
By developing a system to manage retention, we are better able to help our members build connections, align their expectations and avoid discord or drama so we are able to keep every member of our chapter.
Because, at the end of the day, we cannot have growth without retention. As you all continue finding your people, I want you to be able to keep them as well.