Make the Most of Membership Schemes During Closures

Any time you have a period of unplanned closure there’s going to be a lot of additional pressure - financial and otherwise - on your organisation, and you’re going to want to encourage your customers to support you as much as they can. During such a time, you might want to consider how to continue to engage with your members, and what implication this closure has on your membership schemes (see below for how we’re defining memberships here).

Before making any long lasting decisions about if or how you might amend your membership scheme(s), however, it’s worth thinking hard about the short, mid and long term impacts, both on your cash flow and on the relationships with your members.

In this article we’re going to offer some best practice suggestions to consider before making any changes, as well as Spektrix tools you can use to help implement the decisions you settle upon. We're going to make suggestions that correspond to various membership scenarios, including:

What’s a membership?
There are lots of different potential meanings to the word membership, and depending on your organisation’s structures and requirements the functionality in Spektrix can be implemented in different ways. For the purpose of this article we’re assuming a membership to be a giving scheme which may include payments for goods, services, benefits and/or charitable donations, which a customer pays for according to an agreed time period. We’re not going to cover memberships used as flex passes or for recurring donations.

Why are members important right now?
It’s worth bearing in mind that even for 100% benefit-based memberships (and of course for those which are part/wholly donation schemes), the majority of your members signed up because they have an affinity with your organisation and (normally) attend regularly. These are the people that are your most loyal supporters, and now is likely a time to embrace their goodwill and rally their support.

Many customers will want to continue supporting the organisations they love, and may be happy to maintain their support for you in order to help ensure that your organisation continues to exist into the future.

Bearing that in mind, take a look at the following suggestions we've made for addressing memberships in these scenarios.

Current members in the middle of their membership

For existing members, it makes sense to focus on engagement and keeping in touch, to show your members how much you value them and how important they are, to reward them for their loyalty and hopefully encourage them to plan for renewing their memberships. Here are some suggestions to think about for these members.

Adapting benefits
How can you adapt your membership benefits during this period? For example, if members usually get discounts on tickets, is there other access you can give them? Exclusive video content on a private youtube link, for instance, or exclusive email content?

Contacting members
Is it worth contacting members to thank them for their continued support, check in on their wellbeing, and reiterate that you need that support more now than ever? This could be a great way to build on your members’ relationships with your organisation, rather than framing any communications as you owing them any form of compensation.

Extending renewal periods
Consider extending members’ renewal periods so that anyone who wants to support you by renewing early is able to do so - this way your members can show you that they want to continue with their support, while helping with cash flow too.

For more information on how to amend your membership setup have a look at this article.

Extending membership periods
You might consider extending your current membership periods, so that existing members can enjoy their benefits for longer. Whether you want to do this as default (i.e. for everyone) or just for individual members, we would recommend that you plan carefully for what you want to do and why:

  • What’s the reasoning for doing this?
    • Is it helpful to push back renewals to a time when you could really do with the income?
    • Is there a risk that you will give the impression that membership is transactional rather than relationship-focused? Or the impression that you’re not in need of support at this time?
  • Do you know how long you would be extending it for? What if things change and you need to extend it again?

If you decide you do need reissue any memberships to extend their validity, you’ll need to return and/or reissue each customer’s membership, then override the end date of the new one.

Existing members due for renewal

When considering customers whose memberships are due for renewal during the period of closure, the focus should be on finding ways of encouraging retention. You want to make renewing memberships easy and worth your customers’ while - here are some things to think about:

Renewing as normal
You might just want to ask customers to renew ‘as normal’ when their expiry comes around. If taking this approach, however, take care over checking your standard renewal communications (especially any automated ones):

  • Make sure you’re mindful of the situation and don’t speak with the wrong message about benefits your members might not get for a while
  • Review these messages to make sure they’re still communicating the right tone

For more information on where to update automated renewal communications, see this article.

Extending Grace Periods
Alternatively, consider whether it’s worth extending Grace Periods (how long after the membership expires that customers can renew at the renewal price) for the time you’re shut. Using Grace Periods you can also give your members more of a chance to use their benefits on future bookings even once their membership has expired, which is particularly valuable if some of the performances that they had used their benefits on have since been cancelled.

You might want to set up an Auto Tag to help with this. Here’s how to create an Auto Tag to look for members currently in their Grace Period:

  • Use a Purchasing segment
  • From the Memberships metric wrapper use the In Grace Period criteria
  • Make sure you tick the check box

You can then use this to power member-specific benefits such as Offers or Priority Booking periods) even while their memberships have technically expired.

NOTE: once the membership is renewed in the Grace Period, the start date will backdate to what it would have been if it had been a direct renewal. For example, if a membership’s expiry date is the 1st March and it has a Grace Period of 30 days, it can be renewed any time up until the end of March - whatever date it’s renewed, however, the start date will be backdated to the 2nd March.

Temporarily extending membership periods
Another option could be to temporarily offer extended memberships, lengthening the normal membership period by a set number of months. For example, if you normally offer a standard 12 month membership, consider extending it to 15 months for the same price.

The benefit of extending new memberships rather than current memberships is that you can make the most of people’s direct support during this period and see that renewal income upfront, helping your own cashflow. Rather than delaying renewals - which might see the impact of the timing lessen - you can tap into your customers’ interest and enthusiasm straight away, and not risk people’s own finances or levels of engagement dropping.

NOTE: you could consider combining the last two options - extending both Grace Periods for existing memberships and membership periods for new ones.

New or lapsed members

It’s worth thinking about not just retaining existing members, but also attracting new members or encouraging lapsed members to rejoin. A period of closure could be a great time for you to be thinking about expanding your members base - you may well still have advance shows on sale that new members could apply their benefits to, for example. In addition, this is a good time to capitalise upon a feeling of goodwill amongst audiences and any regular bookers who might want to actively help you through a crisis.

You might want to consider using email automation tools to help with your recruitment campaign - you can find more information here about the tools available, but a few suggestions might be:

  • Schedule Customer Lists to lapsed members to see whether they would like to renew now for an extended period of membership as your organisation pushes through these uncertain times
  • Using dotdigital programs to reach out to people who have donated during the closure, thanking them for their support, and letting them know that they can stay up to date with your organisation by opting to receive fundraising emails. Once they do, you can include them in a follow up membership campaign
  • Adding dynamic content into your emails to thank members for their continued support, or to upsell membership to customers who meet certain criteria

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In summary, we believe that members of arts and cultural organisations like yours want to actively support the organisations they care about and help them to succeed. Now more than ever, there is an opportunity to ask for help from your communities!

If you have any questions about what we covered here, or would like to discuss anything in more detail, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Spektrix Support team.

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