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From the moment a member steps into your facility, they are assessing if they want to be there. Like a machine – from staff, classes, and cleanliness to communication — each moving part of your facility plays a role in member retention. How well these parts work together determines how successful your machine is.

The most important part of any machine is the power source, and without the connection of staff, member retention will fall short. “Retention is increased through staff making meaningful relationships,” said Ronda Hamilton, the associate executive director for the Lionville Community YMCA in Exton, Pennsylvania. “The front desk greets members by name, recognize birthdays and converse about hobbies.”

The front desk staff at your facility are the first line of retention. Making employees aware will further enable them to understand their role.

“The staff at the member services desk develop relationships with people who are scanning in and out every day,” said Sharon Kostiner, the membership director at the JCC of Greater Buffalo in Getzville, New York. “A lot of it is developing personal relationships with members and making them feel like they’re part of a family, rather than a number scanning in.”

There are other strategies your facility can incorporate to make the member retention machine run. For example, a few times a year, the Buffalo J hosts a member appreciation week.

“One is usually in the summer, when we open our outdoor pool and allow members to bring guests for one week, and get them to join their family and friends with a membership,” said Kostiner.

Sometimes, retention can be as simple as asking members what they want, and then acting on the results. This is where building on communication skills comes into play. The way you seek information from members and communicate with them when they are not in your facility is just as necessary.

“We have a program called Listen360, a daily survey sent out to members with five questions,” said Hamilton. “We get it every morning, delivered with comments that are very useful in letting us know how we’re doing and what we need to be doing better.”

Both the Lionville Y and Buffalo J incorporate Constant Contact to send weekly emails promoting special events, vocalize closures and thank members.

Lastly, your member retention machine needs to be mobile and expand beyond the walls of your facility. The Lionville Y is located near a middle and high school, so they initiated a Youth and Government program where teens debate, discuss, and learn how to introduce a bill into government.

“Ask yourself, ‘What is the need and what are we hearing?’” emphasized Hamilton. “If we’re not providing something the right way, we need to find out what they want and implement it the right way.”

Brittany Howard

Brittany is the editor of Community Rec Magazine. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com.

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