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When it comes to membership engagement, there are lots of things you can do, but I recently ran some data that now has me convinced there’s one most important thing you can start doing that will increase your retention rates: make sure new members have their first engagement within 24 hours of joining.

If you do that, you’ll increase their odds of still being a member in a year by four. Specifically, I ran data on 128,000 randomly selected members of YMCA’s across the country. I looked at only two things: the length of time between joining and the first card scan, and whether or not they were still members one year later.

What we found was startling, but makes sense: Members are most excited about getting started when they join, not when you have time to do an orientation with them.

I equate it to whenever I get excited about something I want to buy on the Internet. Often, by the time it comes in the mail, I’m over it. I used to do that with books I would order from Amazon. Now, when I want to read a book, I buy it, it’s delivered to my iPad, and I can be reading within seconds of the purchase.

People come to your organization to join. Why can’t we be set up to get them started at the point of purchase? Members need to leave after that first visit feeling they have begun their health journey. If we can figure out how to deliver that experience, I know we will see major gains in member engagement and retention.

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