COVID-19 has made 2020 a really hard year for associations—especially those who are paying attention to their membership data. According to Cafe America, 67.9% of nonprofits have seen a decline in contributions with 97.4% expecting to see further declines over the next 12 months due to the impacts of this worldwide pandemic. 

Still, there is a silver lining to the devastating impacts of the coronavirus on association membership. 

COVID-19 is Membership Loss on Speed

When I work with associations to create in-depth data reviews to create retention strategies, one of the things I focus on is making sure that we have a year-long period where we can see members who were retained as well as those who were lost. 

Although this year I’ve seen a lot of losses when I’m doing these data reviews, I’ve noticed that they are the same kinds of behaviors that members were taking before COVID-19. Although they are leaving faster this year, they are leaving for the exact same reasons. 

What does this mean for you? 

This is a perfect time to set up a predictive data model for the upcoming year because the members who have left during COVID-19 were probably going to leave anyway. 

Even though the numbers seem higher, the behaviors that members are taking before they leave are the same as in previous years—they’re just more clearly defined. 

Let’s take a look at what we can learn from an example.

Case Study: Association Losing Members Due to Fewer CEUs During the Pandemic

In this case study, a membership association is unable to provide many of the in-person CEUs that it usually did in prior years. 

Here, we can see that the average number of CEUs completed by those who were retained were around 81 (the line where the purple meets the green) while the average for those lost was 62. 

In the second graph, the number “0” indicates that the member was retained while the number “1” shows that they left the organization. Along the y-axis, we see how many CEUs the member took over the course of the year, with the members broken into 10 equal segments.

On the left, of the members that were retained, 65% of them completed CEUs. On the right, as we get closer to “1” along the x-axis, fewer and fewer members have completed even one. 

Clearly, there is a huge correlation between the number of courses that were taken and whether the member left. And although there are other metrics that showed a lack of interest in the association (few logins to website, few comments on blog posts, etc.), this is a clear metric that we suggested the association focus on. 

Using the Data to Create COVID-19 Targeted Messaging

So we know why (or at least part of why) the members are leaving. What do we do now? 

This case study is a perfect example of why now is a great time to dive deeper into your member data. Members completing fewers CEUs isn’t just predictive of the coronavirus pandemic. It is likely one of the key predictors for this association, even when things are going well. 

But because we know that it is a major predictor now, we can tailor the marketing messages to connect better with members and give us a better chance to retain them. 

When we develop an action strategy for an association like this, we help define the people who are making up this potential area for better retention. People who have been unable to complete CEUs during COVID-19 might include: 

  • Those without reliable internet access (or who feel uncomfortable using online learning)
  • First responders who may not have time to complete online learning
  • Members with limited budget or who have lost wages due to coronavirus
  • Parents of children being homeschooled or who can’t find childcare

Of course, you know your membership best, so your expertise is crucial to know which of these messages will land with the most members. But it can help guide you in the right direction as to how to best connect with members who are on the verge of leaving your association. 

The Takeaway for Associations Losing Members During COVID-19

Yes, things are hard right now. But you can make the best of it by leveraging your data and developing smarter marketing through predictive analytics. 

At Tasio, we work with associations every day who are dealing with massive losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and help them create strategies for keeping more members with fewer marketing dollars. 

If you want to learn more about our DIY method for creating member loss predictions that really work, download the Tasio Association Retention Playbook: The 5-Step DIY Membership Retention Strategy and Workbook.