Membership Churn

What is membership churn?

Membership churn is how many members leave a membership-based website, community, business, or organization, usually measured by subscription cancellations or lapses. It is the opposite of membership retention, which is the measure of how many members keep their memberships active.

Membership churn is a good way to gauge how valuable members find the network, content, and opportunities a membership-based online service, website, or community is offering.

Most membership-based websites will have some degree of churn, which is to be expected: The average membership churn rate for a subscription site is around 6.7% annually. However, it costs far more to gain a new customer than to keep one, so a low churn rate goes hand-in-hand with healthy growth.

Voluntary churn takes place when a member makes the choice to cancel and leave, which can be offset by finding out ways to deliver value to members they see as missing; for example, by delivering more regular exclusive content or by finding new ways to spark connections among members, like through live Q&As with community leaders. Involuntary churn takes place when members leave a site because of an unintentional loss of access. When GDPR data privacy and protection restrictions took effect, for example, some European members of U.S.-based communities or platforms might have lost access to subscription-based publications that hadn’t yet become compliant with it.

What is a membership churn rate?

A membership churn rate is the pace at which members are leaving an online platform over time.

Membership churn rate is critical to any membership model because without members, nothing works. Ultimately, keeping an eye on churn rate allows a brand, business, or individual to find ways to create value for members and encourage them to stay engaged.

How do you calculate membership churn?

To calculate membership churn rate, you just need to know a couple of key numbers to work it out. Pick a starting and ending date for your comparison (for example, over a calendar year), then simply take the number of members who left the service during a given period, then divide it by the total number of members at the start of the period.

One example: Say you started the year with 800 members and you ended with 750. During the year, you gained 200 members and lost 250, for a net loss of 50. After dividing 50 by 800, you get a churn rate of 6.25%.