A roadmap for membership renewal

Morris Hargreaves McIntyre
3 min readMar 29, 2021

Guy Turton, Director, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre

Photo by Mike Cassidy on Unsplash

Springtime is a critical season for many cultural and heritage attractions, particularly those with outdoor and family offers.

Packed with public holidays, daffodils and new beginnings, it’s usually among the most densely visited periods of the whole year.

A critical time for renewals

For many organisations, it’s also the most important season for membership recruitment and — crucially — retention. Many attractions re-open their doors after winter and members discover all over again how much they love the place.

But, for the second year running, audience access during this critical period will be significantly suppressed by Covid-19.

For some attractions, membership renewals took a big hit in 2020. Now in 2021, after a full 12 months of extremely limited visits with no certain end in sight, how many hitherto loyal members are assessing whether or not to continue their support?

And how can membership organisations persuade them to stay?

Check your proposition

Let me introduce you to MHM’s Membership Proposition Map. This is a tool we employ on membership projects to get laser focus on the key components of the offer.

We populate the map using four axes; how these interact reveals six proposition dimensions. But there’s an easy way to use the map in-house: gather your team together and reflect on the six questions below. Then plot each aspect of your offer on the map. This will help to clarify the renewal ‘recipe’ you are all working towards.

The MHM Membership Proposition Map. Six squares with four quadrants in each to plot your offer against. The squares are entitled Relationship; Customisation; Relevance; Exchange; Delivery; and Value for Money.
The MHM Membership Proposition Map

1. What relationship do we promise?

Are we speaking to members as a client or a patron? Is the offer a transaction or a relationship?

2. How customisable is the product?

Is this a standardised off-the-peg product or is it flexible? How personal or generic are the benefits we’re offering?

3. Where is the relevance?

How critical is our membership to the lives of our members for the next year, and long into the future?

4. What exchange do we expect?

Reflecting our relationship, what do we expect of members? Is this a mutual commitment? Are they involved in some way? Or are they simply a purchaser?

5. (How) do we deliver?

Do we use segmented communications that demonstrate we’re offering a tailored service, or are we offering a ‘one-size-fits-all’ product?

6. Are we value for money?

Reflecting on the benefits, relationship and product we provide, is our membership proposition pitched at the right price for lapsing members?

Navigating your Proposition Map

Compare your offer

Once you’ve located your own proposition on the map, try finding your competitors’. You will almost certainly share some characteristics, but what stands you apart? How stark are the differences?

Check your offer aligns with your members’ needs

As all amateur cooks know, a great recipe doesn’t always make for a great cake. How much more effective could we be if we had our members’ perspective?

For example, whilst we might think we’re offering ‘No Brainer’ value, members might see it as ‘Limited’; we might think our relationship is a ‘Patron’ but they feel more like a ‘Client’, etc.

Member insight can reveal the misalignment between your ambition and the member experience, as well as the member preference. Addressing these gaps will reinforce your members’ loyalty to you.

Of course, on its own, the Proposition Map isn’t going to reverse falling membership rates. But it is a pretty good starting point to ensure your offer and communications are in harmony with your members’ motivations.

To see the impact of membership alignment see:

How the Glyndebourne Opera bridged its youth membership gap;

The London Library’s hugely successful (and brave) new membership strategy;

Tyne & Wear Archive and Museum’s innovative community membership scheme in the North East of England.

If you need help, ask for it

You may be confident to do this kind of research yourself, but if you’d like a no-strings consultation with me or my colleagues about aligning your membership scheme, we’d be more than happy to talk.

Please get in touch at membership@mhminsight.com.



Morris Hargreaves McIntyre

Strategy & insight consultants for charities, culture and heritage organizations of all sizes. Vision-led, insight-driven, audience-focused.