By Kelly Fanelli


How To Grow Chamber Membership: Balancing Recruitment and Renewals

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kelly Fanelli



This is the seventh post in the guest blog series by Kelly Fanelli, the Membership Director at the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Need to catch up? Start from the beginning.)


Your Chamber must retain its valuable members and recruit new ones.  Both tasks are critical, but how do you balance the two?  What comes first?  Today’s post will highlight ways to prioritize your activities, improve your retention rate, bring back dropped members and recruit wisely.         

There is only ONE way to grow a Chamber

The way to grow a Chamber is through retention.  You can recruit new members all day long, but if you don’t keep them, your Chamber will never grow.


retention iconPart 1: Retention

Your first step is to take stock of where you are.

If your retention numbers are not good, you need to address that immediately.  You’ll still need to meet whatever goals you have established for new members, but you’re in an emergency situation and you can’t afford to ignore it.

Here are my tips for improving retention:

1) Determine why members are leaving.

Contact members who have dropped over the past year with a BRIEF survey:   

  1. Why did you join the Chamber?
  2. What benefits, programs, activities did you use?
  3. What could the Chamber do to make you consider rejoining?
  4. May we contact you with some updated membership information?

Use the information from question 3 and create a plan to re-engage dropped members.  An incentive to rejoin and a powerful call to action will be needed.  If they answer “yes” to question 4, you have their permission to contact them.  Don’t do it without that.

2) Provide programming that boosts renewals

Chamber programs need to include a variety of time schedules and interests.  Committees, networking events, education seminars and communications need to be structured to target a specific member profile.

  • Executive-level programming - Offer leadership positions on boards and in executive networking forums. Be the conduit that connects these leaders to one another.    
  • Young professional groups - Support emerging business leaders and groom them for future leadership roles.  Professional development and peer interaction are priorities for these members and Chambers are in a unique position to provide both.  
  • Sales seminars, social media presentations and best-practice business strategy sessions - Provide educational programming that speaks to specific members’ needs. 

Give your members the ability to select the types of communications coming out of your Chamber.  Don’t send them information they are not interested in!

3) Keep members engaged

Chamber programming must engage your members within the first couple of months, or you will lose them when it’s time to renew. Keep them involved through regular “touches”. 

  • Highlight new members. Use traditional mediums like publications, newsletters, maps and websites. Digital and social media outlets are also critical in demonstrating an immediate benefit of membership. Showcase new members on your Chamber’s Facebook page and engage them through LinkedIn.
  • Don’t make the mistake of assuming your members will attend events.  Remind them that the chamber website, publications, newsletters and social media are also working for them. 
  • Create a timeline for their first year of membership with regular touch points. A welcome call from an Ambassador gives your new member a chance to connect right away with a fellow member.  A “how are we doing” touch from a Chamber staff member at three months will give you a chance to address any issues your member is having within the first quarter of their membership.  You should have at least one more touch a couple of months before their renewal to follow up and ensure that the renewal is on track. 
  • Make sure members get a thorough understanding of everything your Chamber offers. Don’t just leave it to a letter or email.  Host an event designed specifically for this.  We call ours a Business Builder.

fa-star Kelly Fanelli 101

I include an invitation to an upcoming Business Builder event in invoices.  It’s an overview of all of our programming, with hints on how to get the most out of membership. If they come, we almost always get the renewal.

recruitment iconPart 2: Recruitment

Now that you’ve gotten renewals under control, it’s time to turn to recruitment. 

It’s true, there’s no such thing as a bad new member, but some are stronger than others. If you first strategize to recruit new members that are financially stable, your chances of renewals are proportionately higher.

Here are 2 ways to recruit wisely:

Economic Drivers

Many communities are fortunate to have industries that continuously provide jobs and business opportunities.  It may be technology, manufacturing, health care or hospitality.  Develop a strong presence for these members, give them leadership positions and listen carefully to their needs.  Without their support, your Chamber will lack credibility and authority. 

Emerging Trends

Be on the lookout for new industry trends in your area.  What new businesses are appearing and how can you support them?  Stay on the cutting edge of business growth and you will be a trailblazer and innovator.  Chambers need to remain relevant, with a keen understanding of the requirements of emerging industries and the ability to fill them.

fa-star Kelly Fanelli 101

Find champions in both economic drivers and emerging business categories and ask them to facilitate introductions for you.  You’ll go further faster with their endorsements and testimonials!     


Your Turn

Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to recruit wisely, create programming that retains members and find the balance to do both, I’m ready for your ideas!  What’s worked well in your Chamber?


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