Lapsed Members Can’t Be Re-Engaged With Digital Tools Alone

Every membership organization has the same problem: a tricky 20% of membership that’s a headache to engage, but too valuable to ignore. Using digital tools are important, but not enough to win back your lapsed members. Keep reading to learn some useful re-engagement strategies.

Lapsed members can be switched back on – but in the attention economy, caution is needed. Lean too heavily on tech, or borrow too heavily from consumer marketing tactics. As a result, you risk becoming perceived as noise.

Member organisations require a distinct approach: empowered by tech, but rooted in the human, deeply personal values which motivate people to remain subscribed.

Market with caution

Above all, offline engagement is vitally important for member organisations.

For instance, English Heritage enjoyed a +10% growth in membership over 10 years, attributed to encouraging members to participate in surveys, excavations and research.

One organiser on a community dig said,

…volunteers felt a real sense of comradery, where the usual divisions we experience in our society (based on age, socio-economic status, competence and knowledge) disappeared.

Revealingly, these “divisions” – age and status – are better known to marketers as demographics.

Also, this highlights the need for a different perspective. Yes, organisations should lean on digital channels. One American study ranked email as the most effective re-engagement method.

But digital tools are nothing without a human understanding of what motivates your own particular member base.

Digital touchpoints

The most successful organisations are now using intelligent data management to gather this insight.

Sarah Corney of CIPD, speaking on the Memberwise blog, explains how her organisation has replaced generic member personas with ‘rich, data-driven “value groups”’ that ‘reflect a real distinct difference in what these members are looking for’.

The more touchpoints you measure, the better-quality data you’re able to collect.

10:10 Climate Action’s case

10:10 Climate Action, kitted out their website with ‘personalised tools where users can enter information to find out, for instance, if their area has energy-saving LED streetlamps, making the issue personal to them.’

The next challenge of re-engagement is to ensure this insight trickles down to every step of your interaction with members.

The human touch


The human touch underpins Tangent’s success with the Labour Party. We run Labour’s membership operations and contact centre. Also, the data gathered there, alongside digital touchpoints, helps us understand members in a more human way. So, this allows their communications to be much more personal and relevant to party members on an individual level.

Similar gains can be made at a smaller scale.

Even highly affordable, pure-play digital re-engagement campaigns can be conducted in a more human way.

The American Association for Respiratory Care took the simple step of asking members why they weren’t renewing. They learned that the renewal system was difficult to navigate, acted, and told members when they’d fixed the problem.

They also adopted a softly-softly approach to re-engagement messaging: waiting a few months past the renewal date to issue reminders and linking through not to a renewal page, but an online learning centre, to remind lapsed members of the value of membership.

Back to square one

To quote The Global Engagement Index (a study into member engagement):

‘Customers want your stuff…members expect things’.

Of course, ‘stuff’ is easily replicated. Dollar Shave Club can guarantee that a lapsed, so-called “member” has migrated to a competitor brand.

With an organisation, the dynamics are fundamentally altered.


Unions, charities and so on may have competitors. But the values that affect one’s motivation to stay joined up are highly personal, and not easily be copied.

Nor are they easily understood – so digital tools must never be considered the quick and easy solution.

Rather, they must be viewed as an opportunity to do more: to complement every other re-engagement channel and to understand better the uniquely human values of your organisational brand.


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