It’s tax season, time to look back over the past year and assess how things have gone and where things are headed. You can take advantage of this time to make changes for a better year ahead. With a firm sense of where you stand, it’s the ideal time to determine what changes need to be made and how they will affect your bottom line.

Your membership program can also benefit from a thorough assessment that you can use to inform planning for the future. You don’t have to stick with the way “things have always been done,” or how they “should be done” based on goals that may not be informed by actual data-driven assumptions.

Everyone is looking for a better year ahead—take a step back and assess where your program has been so you’re in the best position to pursue where you’d like your program to go.

Membership is partly a science of managing perceptions—how members perceive the value of their membership and how your organization perceives the value of members. Check in on these perceptions (and keep them in check!) with these three critical components of a program assessment:

Dive into the Data. Look for trends in your program through a comprehensive file analysis. When does acquisition spike? When do most members lapse? Do your retention rates fluctuate in a cyclical pattern? At what rate are members making additional gifts to your organization? Understanding the personality and behavior of your membership file is critical to understanding your members and determining the next best steps for managing the program.

Talk to your Members. Do you really know what motivates your members? What benefits do they value most? What benefits could they do without? How do they feel about the mission of your organization? A member survey can help you to better understand member attributes and perceptions, ultimately highlighting areas that are successful and/or need more attention.

Get the Inside Scoop. A membership program is only as good as the resources behind it. Staff interviews may be the hardest part of a thorough program assessment (everyone is busy), but it’s very important. It’s especially vital to reach staff across all levels of the organization. Assess what role membership plays throughout the organization so you can uncover weaknesses and opportunities for improving member stewardship across all services and through internal and external communications.

Sometimes it takes an outside view to see things objectively and bring the perspective that can help lift a program out of a rut. S&W partners with nonprofits to conduct comprehensive membership program assessments that culminate in a practical, usable “road map” for strategic realignment and growth—one that fits the unique needs and resources of each organization.

If you’re planning any changes to your membership program (prices, benefits, etc.), or if you simply feel it’s time to take a step back, we encourage you to use a due diligence approach as the right step forward.