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Are email notifications proving effective and timely for membership renewal?

Posted on October 7th, 2010 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

David R. Newman, OLLI at the University of Oregon, Asks OLLI:

What are your experiences regarding the use of email notification versus sending written notification via U.S. Mail to remind OLLI members that their membership is due to expire? Are email notifications proving effective and timely with membership renewal?

6 Responses to “Are email notifications proving effective and timely for membership renewal?”

  1. We aren’t using email notification specifically for renewal notification but do use it for other communication. Although we don’t have any hard data my gut feeling is that it works to some extent. Plus, it is so low cost and so easy to do it can’t hurt. I don’t think I would switch to email exclusively though as we know many members don’t have email and even the ones who do may not check them often or even ever.

    We print the renewal notofication on the catalog above the address. Again we don’t know how effective that is but its free.

  2. We use email notification as a follow-up to mailing our printed catalog each semester. A general email along the lines of, “If you haven’t registered for this fall’s events, don’t wait as some activities are filing up fast…” This usually generates a few “thanks for reminding me!” responses and I think it is effective in serving as a reminder.

    We regularly send out email announcements about events happening on campus that may interest our members, such as theatrical and musical performances, art exhibits, lectures, what’s for sale at the farm market–anything I think our members would enjoy–and they really seem to appreciate this. It’s another way of getting them engaged with our campus community.

  3. We have been emailing our newsletter, and other announcements, for over a year. We have just started using a service called “MailChimp” which generates terrific reports about how many of my members are opening the emails, how many are clicking on the link to actually read the newsletter. At first I was shocked at how few of my members were even opening my emails, until I learned that we are actually way above average (at least according to MailChimps statistics.) For instance, almost 50% of members opened the latest newsletter email, 24% clicked on the link. “Industry standards” are that only 14% open emails, and 3% click on links. I am snail mailing the newsletter to all the members who don’t have an email on file, and leave copies in the office for those who have trouble following links etc on line. You could experiment with a service like Mailchimp for your renewal announcements, see what the open rate is like.

  4. We have institued a new 3 step process that has had a big positive effect on our retention rate.
    Step 1: We have designed a note that fits in an email preview pane. It alerts the member that their membership is due to expire on a particular date. Bulleted points highlight upcoming course offerings and alternative learning opportunities, various methods for renewing and a “best is yet to come” come on. Step 2: If they do not renew after the first touch, we send a more detailed letter via post that also includes the various renewal methods. Step 3: If they haven’t renewed after the second touch, one of our members phones the member with a scripted interview inquiring their reasons for not renewing. What we find is that if we get to the 3rd step, the member’s telephone number is no longer valid or they have experienced life changes that affect their mobility or discretionary time (i.e. they are now caregiver for a loved one). In addition, some of our volunteers are contacting those who did not provide email addresses when they joined. They are asking if folks would now provide an email address to receive our communications. The volunteers report that they are having great success. We anticipate being able to greatly reduce the number and amount of mailings via USPS. This is a great topic!

  5. #5 by: Thom Clement

    Yes, the OLLI at George Mason University has found email notifications to be very effective for membership renewal, confirmation of course registration, and many other types of communication. Also, our online registration system will not allow a member to register for courses if his/her annual membership has expired.
    Thom Clement, Executive Director

  6. Membership is identical with course enrollment. So it doesn’t expire until the next opportunity for course enrollment. We announce each new enrollment period (3 X per year) via email to all recent members (those who have enrolled at any point in the past 2 years). There is bonus to being on the email list, i.e., to having been a recent member. They have priority enrollment whereby they can enroll before our print catalog is distributed to the general public by mail and in key venues. Most current members are very eager to get word of the opening of the enrollment period to get a jump on a spot in the more popular classes.

    Catalogs are mailed only to people who asked to be on the mailing list and to past members. We lack the funds for blind mailing. Between mail and depositing the catalogs in key venues, we distribute about 3,000 catalogs for each of our three annual sessions.

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