Six Ways to Fine-Tune Family Membership Benefits to Increase Retention

Family memberships are common at most clubs, but what is difficult is maintaining those memberships through the lifetime of each family. However, you can take certain steps to keep those families long-term.

Offering family memberships is a no-brainer for most clubs. Maintaining these memberships long-term can prove to be more difficult. Families' needs and wants constantly evolve as their children grow, and club operators must be tuned in to how they can best accommodate different ages and lifestyle stages. Here are six things you can do to fine-tune your family memberships. 

1. Design your facility with family needs in mind. Place your child care area near your club's front entrance for ease of access. Inside the kids' center, create separate zones for different age groups and activities. Certain club features can help you better serve multiple populations, including families. For example, aquatics elements, such as zero depth entry and warm water pools, are attractive to both families and individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Assisted changing rooms are a good investment for the convenience of families and those requiring caregiver services.

2. Offer first-rate child care. Maintain an attractive, clean and orderly child care space staffed with mature, energetic team members. It is always worth the extra payroll to hire skilled and experienced care providers who can build relationships with kids and parents. Structured activities, even in the smallest of spaces, get high marks from parents. If Mom or Dad feel any remorse about leaving their children with you while they work out, they won't remain members for long.

3. Provide significant value. What does it mean to have a family membership at your club? Why is it worth the additional cost? The benefits to having a family membership must be clear at a glance. At my club, we offer an array of perks for family memberships. Basic privileges include free Kids Zone child care seven days a week and family time hours after school and on weekends for younger members to enjoy club amenities otherwise reserved for adults. Family members also enjoy free entry to programs and events that individual members and non-members pay for their children to attend, such as Kids Night Out, waterpark events and karate classes. In addition, family members receive significant discounts for our summer camp, after-school and year-round preschool programs.

4. Review your club's rules and regulations. What is the rationale behind your current policies? Do they keep the members' needs front of mind? Consider your child care area. For example:

  • Do you require reservations?
  • Are team members permitted to change diapers?
  • Do you allow snacks?
  • At what age can children begin attending?
  • How long can children be left in your care?
  • Do your child care hours complement your group class schedule and your local school day?
  • Do you offer care on weekends?

Brainstorm with your team what a member might put on a wish list, and see how your practices stack up. You may find that with a little research and creativity, you can loosen restrictive procedures.

5. Uncover age gaps. Examine your attrition data. Do families tend to downgrade their memberships or leave you altogether when their children reach a certain age? Create an activity matrix that plots your club's programs and services as they correspond to different ages. You may find that your club has robust programming for younger children and teens but not enough to keep upper elementary and middle school students engaged. Tweens can be a difficult age range for traditional clubs to serve. They are too old for child care but too young to work out unsupervised. Developing a few key ongoing programs, such as a competitive swim team, a dance academy or a martial arts program, can help cement your relationship with them. And, as in the previous example about child care policies, revisit your fitness floor policies. Do you allow tweens to work out with their parents in appropriate areas of the club? If you are hesitant to do so, consider this: the value to membership that a generous policy creates will far outweigh the occasional misuse you may need to address.

6. Make it easy for Mom and Dad. Connect parents and kids with all of your services seamlessly. Create an in-club "shuttle" service where team members collect children from your child care center and escort them to other programs, such as swim lessons. This attractive add-on feature is a win-win. Parents love the convenience and appreciate knowing that they can enjoy an uninterrupted workout while their children have the opportunity to be active and learn new skills. For the club, member satisfaction and increased participation in ancillary programs will show up on the bottom line.

Family memberships that provide the most value offer benefits spanning three main categories:

  • Fun for the family—activities that can be enjoyed together
  • Fun for the child—independent opportunities for fitness and recreation
  • Fun for parents—guilt-free "me time"

Add convenience, flexibility and friendly service in a meticulously clean environment and you will seal the deal.


Christine Thalwitz is vice president of marketing at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers. She has 25 years of experience as a club professional and almost as many years of experience as a mom. She can be reached at

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