It goes without saying that associations do not exist without members. Keeping membership numbers high and getting dues payments in on time is one of the most important aspects of association management. Member dues are a main income source for most associations, so perfecting the collection process by making it as smooth as possible for them (and you) is critically important.
Regardless of the association management software or program you use, it pays to learn the system as it is something that will be repeated, without exception, year after year. It’s important to keep the process consistent, not only to ensure efficiency and fluidity for yourself, but also to keep it seamless for your members.
The entire renewal period will last two to three months. No matter how carefully you plan your process, there will always be hiccups. Creating a timeline will help you to stay on track should anything come up unexpectedly. There are three stages to the membership renewal process: Pre-Invoice, Invoice to Due Date, and Due Date to Termination.
Pre-Invoice: Laying the groundwork
Even before that first invoice is posted, it is imperative that you lay the appropriate groundwork. This will take place approximately one month prior to invoicing. First and foremost, this process includes taking a membership “inventory”. Depending on how the association is structured, there could be various membership levels and costs associated at each level. It is at this time that you need to double check that all members are properly accounted for.
Have all member dues been calculated correctly? Is the status up to date for each member? Accuracy of recordkeeping throughout the year becomes essential during renewal time. Keeping accurate and reliable records throughout the year will make your renewal season flow much smoother.
Anticipate what questions might arise from the members, and try to address them in the distributed Notice of Renewal. It is a good idea to include a message from the association Chair or CEO with the Notice of Renewal. This message should include an update on the activities of the association and an alert to any fee changes as well reasons for that fee change.
Create your schedule for reminders and follow ups. Make sure all possible forms of communication are covered to ensure renewal. This includes: electronic (e-mail), mail, and by telephone. When creating the schedule, use realistic time constraints. For example, phone calls may take up more time than you predicted so leave a bit of wiggle room.
Invoice to Due Date: Time to Launch
Ideally, and if prepared for adequately, this will be the easiest portion of the renewal process. If the association collects dues online via credit card or PayPal, the majority of members will pay their dues themselves and there is little work on the administrative end. However, for those who opt to pay by cheque, organization is key. Make sure you have processes in place to accommodate the increased need for cheque processing and the management and organization of that work flow.
This is also the time when you will be managing membership status changes. If your association allows for “on-leave” status most of these applications will arrive during renewal time.
A small portion of time must also be dedicated to fielding questions from the notice and about the association in general.
Due Date to Termination: Time to Wrap Up
Once the due date has passed and depending on the association policy, late fees may be applied to any outstanding invoices. Before applying the late fees, it’s a good idea to give another phone call to members as a reminder.
The termination notices that were prepared ahead of time must now be updated to represent the outstanding members. Make sure that the language used in the termination notice is non-threatening, as you’re not trying to intimidate the member, just get them moving and encourage payment.
Stick to your plan and the renewal process will go smoothly. Make note of any areas that could be improved upon next year to ensure increased efficiency with each renewal and think about how you might improve ongoing record-keeping to ensure a cleaner database next renewal season.