We say “thanks” to the person handing us our receipt at the grocery store, or to the kind soul who held the door when we had our arms full. It’s an in-the-moment, easy and appropriate thing to say to acknowledge an act.

However, “thank you” is so much more than a gesture. It’s a direct path to your own health and happiness, say countless research studies. But what about your community members? Happiness could lead to greater satisfaction with affiliation, and we all know what that means: retention

The constant objective of a community is to satisfy constituents so that they renew, right? We spend hours pouring over retention reports and devising tactics that will make it easier for them to renew. We remind team members that retention begins on day one, and that everyone is part of the retention equation. We look for ways to deliver “value” so when the time comes to renew, the individual believes it’s worth it. 

What if we just said, “Thank you?”

Not just the perfunctory “thanks for being a member/subscriber/donor” at the end of a letter asking for something. A real “thank you.” With no strings attached, no request, no gotcha.

After all, is there a more important “act” to acknowledge than when someone chooses to affiliate with you? 

How are your “thank yous” received by your audience?

What’s your organization’s “thank you” reputation? Are there strings attached?

Alumni associations offer a perfect example of thank yous with strings attached. Every “Thanks” comes with an ask for more support for the endowment fund. Sanctioning organizations are gatekeepers to participation (a “tax” to compete, some say), so a “thank you for your membership” can seem a little like the ticket-taker at the movie theater – you can’t enter without paying a fee. “Thanks” from an advocacy organization is recognition that there is a threat that has to be confronted. “Thank you” from an insurance company can come across as, “Whew! Thank you for not succumbing to the heavy marketing pressure from the competition.”

Reputations are built on actions.

If every “thanks” comes with an ask, you’re training your audience to be suspicious of a thank you — and suspicious of you. 

If all you are to an enthusiast is a gatekeeper, you have little hope of retaining them after they stop doing whatever they do after they pass through your gate. If everything from you is about beating back the “anti,” when the threat dissipates, why should someone renew?

What happens if you just thank your audience members with no strings attached? 

What if you thanked your community members and stopped there? Not a “thanks, because of you we can …” or “thanks, now you have permission to …” 

Just “Thanks.” 

Remember how you felt when you said “thank you.” Now think about how you feel when someone thanks you. You feel appreciated. Seen. Recognized. You might even feel like returning the favor, or be pre-disposed to thank someone else because gratitude is contagious.

Grateful audience members are a treasure. Not one to be buried and forgotten about, but one to be celebrated and shared. 

It’s ok to be strategic about your expressions of gratitude. Expressions of appreciation prior to the renewal series beginning have been proven to lift renewal rates by a meaningful number (enough to more than justify the cost). Where else can you apply that power of persuasion? Prior to announcing a new benefit, an event, an upgrade campaign? Make THANK YOU part of your tactical marketing plan.

The best time to show gratitude is when times are rough.

People who connected with you (and renewed) during uncertain times deserve all the gratitude you can muster. This is a “glass-half-full” time if there ever was one. Celebrate and delight the ones that hung in there, don’t mourn the ones who left, or those who resisted your persuasive invitations to join.

Look around. There is a good chance you’ll see something to be grateful about. Why keep that to yourself? Remember: It’s ok to stop at “Thanks” – you don’t need to over-explain.

  • “Our records indicate you called member service today. Thank you!”
  • “Thanks for logging in to the website today.”
  • “Thanks for being a member of the community!”
  • “Thanks for everything you do to make this a great community!”
  • “Thanks for listening in on today’s webinar.”
  • “Thanks for ordering a t-shirt.”

At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, if you start looking for a reason to say “Thank you” to your colleagues, members, or the person who holds the door when your arms are full, you’ll find yourself a little happier. Isn’t that a great way to end a day? And maybe this small act will play a part in that person deciding to renew.

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