How to retain members in the cost of living crisis

How to retain members in the cost of living crisis

The current financial climate is making it particularly difficult for some membership organisations to attract and retain members. With so many of us cutting backs costs in as many areas as we can, memberships and other subscription-based commitments are often the first things people consider cancelling.

In this blog, we’re going to explore how delivering and communicating member value are critical ways to combat this challenge and some valuable ways to build up strong member loyalty.

But first, let’s look at two prominent challenges to member engagement and retention at the moment.


Spending habits have changed in the last year and people have and will continue to look at all of the different ways they can cut back on their monthly spending to alleviate the pressure of the cost of living crisis. Perceived non-essential outgoings are the first to be cut back, which is where memberships and other subscription-based commitments tend to sit. Current research figures reflect this too.

Research from Lloyds Bank last year demonstrated that 1.2 million subscription payments had been cancelled in the last six months. A YouGov poll from December 2022, also found that almost 10% of adults in Great Britain (approx. 5.1 million people) have been forced to make cutbacks to gym memberships and almost 20% have been forced to make cutbacks on digital television subscriptions due to the cost of living crisis. More traditional membership subscriptions have also been impacted.


If you work for a membership organisation or association, you will know too well the need to increase membership fees in the current climate. While this is often a necessary measure, it’s a difficult message to get across to a member base that’s already contending with rising prices elsewhere. How do you stop members disengaging?


The perks your members get as an added bonus of subscribing to your organisation or association are key ingredients in the glue that will make your membership sticky. In addition to your core membership offering, there are many other benefits you could offer your members. The key is ensuring that they’re attractive, relevant and useful.

Shopping discounts are a hugely popular benefit in the member engagement space, and for good reason too. Not only are shopping discounts hugely relevant to people regardless of their age, interests or financial position, but the cost of living crisis has amplified the significance of being able to save money.

The real draw here is that by offering shopping discounts to your members, you’re giving them the opportunity to save back the cost of their membership, often more. That’s a truly powerful, tangible proposition that will not only attract new members but encourage individuals to renew their membership.


Loyal members are not always easy to come by, especially in this current climate, so those individuals that choose to stick with your organisation should be acknowledged and appreciated. There are a number of ways you can do this and of course it all comes down to the budget you’ve got available.

When members reach certain membership length milestones or renew their membership, you could do something as simple as sending them a “thank you” message. A personalised email, SMS or letter – whichever communication channel works best for your members – will demonstrate that their loyalty is appreciated. Beyond that, you could adopt gamification elements and award members with a physical or digital badge when they hit certain milestones.

If you’ve got the budget to do so, rewarding members is an effective way to drive loyalty and boost retention levels. For example, you could deliver reward points to members for them to spend on an item such as a voucher or physical gift. Alternatively, you could unlock enhanced benefits to members once they’ve been with you for a certain period of time to further enhance your value proposition.


You might know the full breakdown of what your members get, but do they? To attract and retain your members, you need to ensure that they have a clear picture of what they’re getting from their membership. This is where it’s crucial to not only have a Member Benefits Statement (MBS), but communicate it effectively.

How you decide to get that message across to your members will entirely depend on their personal preferences. Here are our three recommendations:

  1. Utilise a mix of channels
    This ensures that you don’t alienate specific sectors of your member base.
  2. Make it digestible
    Communicate your benefits in a simple, easy-to-understand way.
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
    Don’t just tell your members once, keep reminding them of what they’re getting.


What do your members get in exchange for sticking with your organisation? How strong is the membership value proposition? These are questions you need to consider as your members will be asking themselves the same questions.

Now is the time to look at the value your organisation provides and whether there’s an opportunity to give your members more.

Kevin Lake, our Membership Specialist, comments:

“Having worked with major membership organisations for over 20 years advising how to strengthen their member value proposition, I am always happy to have an exploratory conversation.

Currently, value is more key than ever and, as we have outlined, member expectations have moved on. But there are also other initiatives that we can help with very easily, such as incentivising the behaviours that you need, for example, rewarding your members for introducing new members.

Another example might be to enhance recognition for volunteering members which is key to so many associations. This tends to be appreciated most when volunteers might be feeling the pinch in their personal life and appreciate a little gratitude.”

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If you’d like to find out how we can help your organisation attract and retain members, get in touch at [email protected] and a member of the team will reach out.

Find out about our work with CSSC – a not-for-profit, membership organisation for over 150,000 colleagues from the civil service and public sector.



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