How a membership community boasts a 96% retention rate with 3,000+ members

Casey Hill

Joan Garry set out with a simple mission: help more non-profits, big or small, succeed in spreading their social good. 

In 2012, she launched her blog, that started as a sort of Dear Abby for non-profits leaders. Subscribers would pose questions and she would help share insights and provide guidance. 

Fast forward to today and that blog has over 50,000 subscribers and gets over 125,000 unique monthly visitors. Joan now does coaching, consulting, speaking, and runs a membership community for non-profits.

That community, The Non-Profit Leadership Lab, has become a focal point from which Joan is able to amplify her impact. When people join the membership, Joan notes, “They come for the content but they stay for the community”.

It’s when talking about her incredibly active, robust, and fast-growing membership community where she tells me something that blows me away; her community with 3,000+ members has a 96.4% annual membership retention rate.

That is the best membership retention rate at any sort of scale I have ever seen. I mean, Netflix, which is a staple of most US households only has a 91% retention rate! I asked her what her secret was.

Joan told me about her personal video emails.

How Joan Garry is using video emails to retain 96% of her members

Joan and her team are passionate about genuinely making a difference for their members and they spend the time to really get to know them on a human level. They know when members have big milestone events, like they get a big grant, or a kid goes off to college, or they make a big new hire.

They also know about their members' hurdles, from loss of loved ones to professional challenges. Joan and her team invest time into building real relationships and that stands at the cornerstone of their success as an organization.

Here is an example of a video from Joan to a member:

Joan sends only about 15 or so videos a week and each one is done with considerable care and attention. The stats behind Joan’s videos are some of the highest I have seen from any Bonjoro customer.

She is averaging 86% open rates and 98% watch through rates! I think when you watch the video above you can see why.

Below are a few principles around why her videos are so impactful.

Joan's top 3 principles for recording personal videos

Principle #1: Authenticity

When a company takes the time to really get to know you, and your family and big important events in your life, that is different. It’s something you might expect from your church, but your online membership you are a part of? That is special.

Joan’s videos are personal, deep and powerful in their delivery. If you can record a video and make the listener feel like they are there with you, having a face to face conversation, then you have won. 

Principle #2: Community Oriented

People want to feel like they are part of the tribe. They want to feel like when they join a group they are more than just a number or a dollar sign. Joan is masterful at bringing people in and making them feel valued because, no surprise, she genuinely cares about her members so as she says, “This is not work, I look forward to doing it”.

Joan tells me, “We create intimacy in a large group with book clubs, self care zoom rooms, and we have a team of experts who spend time in our private Facebook group who answer all questions the same day.”

Principle #3: Conversational

If you watch any video from Joan you will tell it’s the furthest thing from scripted you can get. She jokes with them, shows emotion with them, relates to them. It’s like a conversation and Joan uses Bonjoro to give access to herself at the times when her customers need it the most.

The biggest takeaway someone reading this case study can pull from this point is… just be yourself. Be human. If your kid walks by, or your dog barks, it’s okay! If you get lost in a trail of thought… It’s okay! Personal video is at it’s most impactful when you stop worrying about the lighting, the set-up, the angles and you just relate to someone on a human level. 

Because I know all of you are hankering for another Joan video example… I got you covered:

This was the members response…

Joan's blueprint for deep personalisation

Okay, Okay. I can hear some of the readers saying, “This is awesome, but how does she learn all these personal details?!” She learns those details by design, not by accident. 

Joan told me, “We have a full-time Director of Member Experience and two community managers who cheer members on and direct them to the right content. We also gather info when they join about their other social media platforms and follow them there.” When a customer has a big milestone, the community managers gather info on it and pass it to Joan to make a personal connection. 

So the answer is she invests in learning about her members and curating the experience.

Before people say, “I don’t have the time or money to do that!”, remember that this investment on her part is a huge reason why she can maintain that 96% retention! Those rates are connected to the fact that she provides not only great content but a deeply personal experience and sense of community. 

While video and Joan’s personal outreaches are a critical cog in the business, the overall ethos of Joan’s brand is tied up in many other things as well. She shows customer care by hosting book club meetings and self-care Zoom sessions and other events like this to make her members realize that this is more than just a class, this is a community of like-minded people. 

Joan’s investment in learning about her members and making them feel at home is a masterclass in how to build customer advocacy and superfans. Even if you don’t have the ability to bring on community managers, start by just putting in a little extra time. Invest in learning a little more about your customers; try and host events that you think will be beneficial, look to become involved, and to add value through the human side of your business. 

As Simon Sinek says, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. If you have a strong mission and cause behind the work you do, that will show when you record videos for your customers. 

Your own blueprint for customer retention

OK, so we've seen how Joan does things so well. But what can you learn from her approach?

We've put together a simple blueprint you can use to retain more of your own members. Here it is.

Step 1: Use Context

While having sincere, personal relationships with customers is something you can’t “growth hack” your way into, there are systems you can put into place to help.

For instance, with Bonjoro’s custom attributes you can grab any custom fields information straight from your CRM/ESP (We have over a dozen CRM/ESP native integrations). Joan, for instance, uses ActiveCampaign, and any information she has on the member’s background, title, business, or even questions they answered when joining the group she can have pop right up in her Bonjoro task, giving her immediate context.

Step 2: Take more time

One of the primary concerns I hear from people considering video messaging is the time it takes to record them. Many times people want to figure out how they can use tools like Bonjoro at scale right away.

While I understand that inclination (and Bonjoro does have embeddable videos that can be used at scale) I hope that seeing some of Joan’s videos above has inspired you to slow down and take the time to really craft high-quality videos. You would be amazed at what an extra 1-2 minutes of browsing their website and gathering a little more knowledge can do for the ROI of your Bonjoros. 

Step 3: Make it about them

Real relationships take time. Plain and simple. If you want to build relationships with your customers, community, and fans you have to get your mindset of out “sales” mode and craft messaging that is meant to simply add value, express gratitude, or educate. Each time you construct a message, keep this lens in mind.

For instance, a poor Bonjoro message might have you saying,

“Hey Carl, just wanted to reach out and let you know we have an upcoming webinar next Friday! Hope to see you there!”

It’s not adding value, expressing gratitude, or educating.

Instead, a message that says,

“Hey Carl, just wanted to reach out and let you know about an exciting upcoming webinar this Friday we are hosting on how to build industry partnerships. We are going to have a leading industry expert on as a guest speaker, and she will be talking specifically about how to build initial connections in the environmental/conservation space, and I know with your team focused around land preservation that topic is likely directly applicable. Also, when writing about your company pain points, I remember you noting that sponsorships/corporate partnerships were a weak point you wanted to shore up. Should really be a perfect fit. Let me know if you can make it. “

In this message, you educate them on exactly what is being covered while also providing value through showing you did your personal research to know this was a tailored fit for them. 

Get a Free 14 day trial of Bonjoro, and delight your own members with personal videos

If you've been inspired by Joan's story, why not try personal video yourself. Who knows how many more members will stick for the long term!

Get a free 14 day trial of Bonjoro right here.


Learn more about Joan at and learn more about Joan's community for leaders of small nonprofits at

About the author
Casey Hill
Growth Manager
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