Monday, August 27, 2018

When Decisions Get Made

Amanda Kaiser at her Smooth the Path blog gave me a good reminder this week about association membership dues notices.

The most interesting result from the member research on renewal notices is that these letters, emails, and phone calls do not serve to change most member’s minds about renewing. Instead, renewal notices merely remind them to renew. The decision to renew is made far ahead of the renewal period.

Her post makes the point that the time to engage a member comes long before the dues renewal is sent, and that attempts to persuade a member to renew with a bunch of marketing materials send with the dues notice are often wasted. In most cases, the decision to renew or not renew has already been made.

One of the reasons this hit home for me is that I was recently the member in exactly this situation.

There was a new organization starting up in one of the spaces my association operates. I joined, thinking I could better understand that marketplace, advocate for my industry within it, and connect members of my association to resources and partnerships that could help them navigate these waters.

I participated in the webinars put on by the new organization. I talked with their staff about what I wanted to achieve and what part I could see myself playing. I attended their annual conference and networked with as many people as I could.

And at the end of that, about four months ahead of when the annual renewal notice was going to be sent, I decided that this organization was not for me. Like the image I found to accompany this post, I had spent eight months increasing my knowledge about the organization's value proposition, and now was the best time to decide, because looking forward, all I saw was decreasing benefit or increasing loss. The connections I was looking for were not there, or were in such short supply that I would have to expend tremendously more time, money, and energy to find them and make them work for me and my association.

So, I checked out. I stopped reading their newsletters and stopped signing up for their webinars. My decision had been made. It was four months before they were going to send me a renewal invoice, but I wasn't going to pay it when it arrived.

But importantly, here's what I didn't do. I didn't call the organization and tell them I had made this decision. As far as they knew, I was one of their most engaged new members. Look at my track record of participation! The fact that I hadn't found enough value was unknown to them. So, when the renewal notice came, and I did tell them I would be dropping my membership, they were understandably surprised.

This same dynamic plays out in every association. The only thing unique about my experience was that I was the unsatisfied member, not the association desperate to keep them.

+ + +

This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Image Source


  1. I need to see more data on this, not just more anecdotes.