Improving communities through sport

Membership Retention Strategies for Recreation Centers


Guest post written by Jen Silvers, Account Executive, The SF Companies. 

When you hear the words “membership retention” the first thought that comes to mind is that it costs less to keep a member than it does to get a new one. But how much effort are you really putting into retention vs. getting new members? How much time and budget are you allocating to marketing to your current members?  What marketing strategies are focused on your current members?  Engaging with your members is imperative to retainment.  Making your members feel as if they are part of something, a member of the family, makes them want to stay.  Connecting your members to each other, to the staff, to the facility is critical as well. Connection leads to commitment.  The more connected your members feel, the more likely they are going to stay with you for years to come. 

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What does engagement look like? Tips for Recreation Center Membership Retention

Engagement is everything from your front desk staff using a member’s name when they check in to members liking your social media posts. Your facility needs to play an important role in your members’ lives. Consider the following membership retention tips at your recreation center:


Some clichés become cliché because they are true. You never get a second chance to make a first impression is one of them. The first interactions members have with your facility will set the tone for the rest of their interactions. The best way to control these encounters and make them good ones is to create an onboarding process that makes them feel important and part of something that’s worth the investment of their time and money. It doesn’t have to be a long process; it just has to connect them to a larger community of members and show the benefits of participating at your recreation center.

Cross Promotion

Cross promoting programs and services to your current membership base is key to keeping your members engaged and updated on what benefits are available to them.  Do the parents that have kids enrolled in swim lessons know about the upcoming soccer league? If not, you are missing out on a group of people that are already bought into what you are doing as a facility. Get them more engaged by talking to them about other programs their kids might be interested in. 

Events and Group Activities

Part of the reason why your members join your facility is to connect with others. While they may share the same space for workouts, the time to meet and build bonds is minimal. One tactic that separates good recreation centers from great ones is opportunities to meet other members. It doesn’t have to be membership social, although they’re important. Events that bring people who have shared interests or who are in similar stages of life is the most effective way to build community. Silver Sneaker groups, Mommy and Me classes and other activities go a long way to enrich the lives of your members and should be a primary part of your programming.

Getting Feedback

It’s often the case that, unless prompted, members will not let you know how they feel about your venue. Unless they have strong positive or negative feelings. You’ll likely hear from those members. But what about members who aren’t coming to your recreation center?  In my experience, the number one reason for people to leave the gym is “Not Using the Facility.”  That is our fault as recreation center. We didn’t understand their needs and didn’t work to meet them. One solution is to actively seek feedback from members in the form of surveys. Periodic check-ins are critical to understand the job that you are doing and to know the adjustments that need to be made to ensure that your facility remains relevant. Tips for getting members to fill out surveys include, making them easy to fill out by placing them in areas/channels that they frequent, including email, social media, and at the front of the recreation center. Also consider incentives for filling out surveys.

Customer service and having an amazing experience will always be the keys to increasing your membership retention.  If you can find a way to truly engage the member, connect them to another person, and allow for their experience to meet their needs, membership retention will grow exponentially.

At the SF Companies, we have the experience and subject matter expertise to guide you through all components of recreation center management, including building and retaining a strong membership base. If you’re looking for a turnkey solution that helps your recreation center reach operational efficiency and its highest level of success, contact us today at 727-384-3845.

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