If you manually manage your memberships utilizing spreadsheets and sending renewal letters by mail it makes sense to have a fixed renewal date. I’ve done it before and can remember the long evenings of volunteers, pizza delivery and stuffing envelopes. However, with the help of software to manage renewals there are fewer benefits and more disadvantages to having a fixed anniversary date.
Potential Financial Loss
Many organizations will either prorate their membership for new members or give a discount after a particular date. This is done so that new members who will be getting less than the 12 month membership with their first payment won’t feel cheated.
Mathematically, unless you have a 100% renewal rate, your revenue will suffer. This is because on average your new members pay less than 1 year of membership when signing up. When you have a rolling renewal date members can join at any time of the year, pay the full annual payment and get a full year’s membership.
Potential Loss of Members
Some organizations will choose not to prorate or give any discount for members joining after the annual renewal date. This often leads to potential members putting off joining so they are not paying full price for less than a year’s membership. Depending on how far they are from your annual renewal date they may end up getting involved with another organization instead and never joining yours.
Potentially Frustrated Members
As we all know a software program is not the same as a human. It will follow the rules exactly the way you set them. This can get really complex when you consider members who join part way through the year or upgrade their memberships partway through the year.
If a member joins the day before you discount new members, they will pay the full price. If they speak to another member who joined the next day and received a discount it may lead to them getting upset and feeling cheated. However, if you have rolling renewal dates the member will pay the same amount and receive the same length of membership no matter which day they join.
How to Utilize Software to Make Rolling Renewals Manageable
Membership management software provides many features to make it easy for you to manage rolling renewals. The most important is automated renewal and past due reminders. These can be set to automatically go out to your members to remind them of upcoming renewals and also let them know when they’re past due. You can customize the text so it highlights all the great benefits your members enjoy.
Another tool is the ability to quickly locate past due members. Let’s face it, some members may just require a more personal touch. I have found that if a member receives four emails without renewing it’s time to give them a call. Membership software makes it easy to pull up members that are past due a certain amount of time and export their contact info for calls or mailings. You could easily make this a quarterly task so it doesn’t take over your life.
Utilizing these tools will keep both administrators and members happy with the join and renewal process.