Your Organization Needs a Cancellation Policy Today

December 10, 2020

By Taryn Hefner

Taryn runs Marketing at Join It and is a lover of all things data! You can frequently find her experimenting in the kitchen, absorbed in a book, or brushing up on her Python coding skills.

View other posts by Taryn

When you’re first setting up a membership program, you might focus on the most pressing or even “fun” things first. These might be things like deciding how your tiered membership structure will look, planning your first event, and inviting members to join. While writing a cancellation policy might not exactly be at the top of your to-do list, it’s an important part of running a membership organization. 

Protection for the Organization 

Deters Benefits Abuse: Say you collect dues on the first of the month, but someone signs up on the fifteenth. If they get immediate access to your content or benefits like discounts at local stores, they can cancel before their billing date and never be charged, even though they still access members-only services. While offering prorated billing can help with this, a reasonable cancellation policy can add an extra layer of protection. 

Prevents Revenue Loss: Things happen! People lose jobs, kids get sick, cars break down, and none of those things will happen at a convenient time. While it’s perfectly reasonable to have a refund policy in place for exceptional circumstances, a cancellation policy that’s clear and easily accessible can help assuage any concerns about revenue loss, especially for smaller organizations. 

Built-In Vetting Process 

A cancellation policy may deter someone who is only mildly interested in your group and who may not actually participate in online discussions or events… and that’s okay! Your goal should be to add to your group with people who genuinely want to be there and who will encourage the group to thrive! 

Protection for Members 

This is an excellent time to remember that your cancellation policies shouldn’t be punishing your members for things that happen outside of their control (weather, car trouble, billing issues, etc.) These policies exist to protect both parties. 

There are some people out there who use deceitful tactics in combination with membership management. Some organizers might create an event or resource for “later release” and then cancel everything once they’ve garnered all the entrance fees or membership dues. A comprehensive cancellation policy and refund policy will protect members from this sort of behavior. If you’re considering signing up, read the cancellation and refund policy first! 

Consider Your Events 

If you have in-person events, or virtual events with limited capacity, consider what this policy will look like for reservations. Maybe you’ll need just 24 hours’ notice to offer that opening to another attendee… or perhaps you’ll need seven days. It’s up to you! 

So what does a “good” cancellation policy look like? 

  • Establishes Timeframes: “Members can obtain a full refund upon cancellation within 48 hours of sign up.”
  • Available to All Members: Your cancellation policy should be available on your website and emailed or posted to members in their welcome package. 
  • Clear Consequences: “Members who cancel within the first ten days of the billing cycle receive 60% refund, members who cancel within the first 20 days of billing cycle receive 30% refund, members who cancel within the last ten days of the billing cycle receive no refund.”
  • Offers Consequences for the Organization: Consequences for cancellations should be balanced! Remember, this policy isn’t to punish your members but protect both sides from unforeseen circumstances. For example, if your organization or venue must cancel an event within seven days, you can offer a 50% refund of the event ticket price; within 24 hours, provide a full refund of the event ticket price. 
  • Easy to Understand: Most of all, your cancellation policy should be easy to understand for the majority of your users. Avoid any unnecessary jargon, slang, or abbreviations. The clearer your messaging, the better. 

All in all, cancellation policies aim to protect both organizations and members! Having a policy that is easy to understand, easy to access, and holds both parties accountable can save both you and your members’ future headaches. 

Looking to get started with your own membership organization? Try Join It’s 14-day free trial and get started with just a few clicks.