Use Members’ Reasons for Leaving to Keep Them from Going

Updated: Apr. 6, 2020  |  Categories: Membership  

Use Members’ Reasons for Leaving to Keep Them from Going

It’s the inevitability of chapter life. Members join and members leave. Learn why they leave and make changes based on that knowledge, and you could find members staying, or even returning, choosing chapter membership over some of their competing priorities.

Are those who leave retiring, moving out of the area, or changing industries? Or are they’re leaving because of something you may not recognize as an issue, like the location of your monthly meetings, your inability to take credit card payments at a meeting or online, or even the person’s feeling of being volunforced into a position.  

Unhappy members have an impact that goes far beyond the member himself. There’s recent research that shows:

  • Negative interactions spread to twice as many people as positive ones.
  • Ninety six percent of unhappy customers won’t tell you, but they will tell 9 to 15 people. Thirteen percent of people will tell 20 people about their dissatisfaction.
  • It can be up to seven times more expensive to get a new customer than to keep the one you have.
  • It takes about 12 good experiences to make up for one bad one.


How can you find out why they left?

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." --Warren Buffett

Make the time to ask. Since the person is no longer a member, they’re more likely to answer your questions honestly.

Surveys and interviews can be powerful ways to gather the information you need to act on. Try:

  1. Sending an electronic survey to those who’ve left. This is a method that doesn’t typically take a lot of time or effort. Include both closed and open survey Closed questions, like “Would you still refer people to our chapter?” will give you some direction but not the reasons behind the answer. Open questions will provide additional details, as these are questions that can’t answered with a yes or no, such as “What was missing from your membership?” or “Tell me about your experiences as a member. What do you wish we would have done differently?”


  1. Follow up on those details you want to learn more about. Ask survey respondents to include their name and contact information. Where you want more details or clarification, have a board member follow up with a phone call. Perhaps the member mentioned they felt ignored by the board when they attended monthly meetings. This is something you would definitely like to learn more about, to make the changes that keep it from happening again. Have the board member make it clear you value what they’ve told you, that you’ll evaluate it, and if you make a change based on what they’ve said, you’ll follow up and let them know.

What can you do with what you learn?

Knowing where you went wrong, or where you failed in the eyes of a member, gives you the information you need to make changes that can:

  • keep members from leaving
  • bring in new members
  • Bring back some of those who left.


Consider giving returning members incentives like free admission to your parent organization’s national conference or a discount on their membership renewal. Since returning members may feel more valued than when they left, ask them to tell their story and include that in your member communications.

Losing a member can be painful and emotional, but a person’s exit doesn’t need to be a loss that leads to the exit of other members. Members will leave, but if you understand why they’re going, you can address the causes and make changes that keep more of your current members satisfied and around for the long-term and bring back some of those who who’ve gone elsewhere.

Message – find out what you did wrong, why they left, and how you can improve so you keep more of your current members.

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