Association memberships are rewarding experiences and unique in the way that members pay dues in order to continue to be a part of the organization. That’s why it’s important that your association actively works hard to keep members coming back year after year, offering value through opportunities and events that can’t be found otherwise.
Whether your association is made up of professionals in the same field or alumni who went to the same university, member engagement should always be one of your top priorities. Engagement secures your association’s relevance and fuels healthy member retention.
It’s likely that you have developed a set member engagement strategy over the years. However, with advancements in technology and an online world saturated with experiences, it’s always a good idea to review the basics and see if there is any room for improvement. Using your association management software (AMS) system, you can leverage your tools to further engage your members and even encourage interaction with each other.
In this guide, we’ll be reviewing some member engagement basics and walking you through a couple of questions. Follow along from the top, or skip to the section that interests you most using the following table of contents:
- What is member engagement?
- Why is member engagement important?
- Association member engagement strategies.
Don’t let member engagement fall to the wayside. Brainstorm ways to not only keep members renewing each year, but attract new ones as well. Let’s get started!
What is member engagement?
You already know the work it takes to truly build a loyal member base. Once a member joins your association, you need to actively work to nurture member relationships. You’ll know when member engagement is successful when the actions you take and the experiences your association offers outweigh the value of membership dues.
However, not every association will define member engagement in the exact same way. Member engagement varies based on the type of association and your member’s preferences.
Defining member engagement
The way that a university association measures member engagement will look noticeably different than how a professional association will measure engagement. The former will typically look at event attendance, while the latter might refer to their learning management system (LMS) to gauge how often members take advantage of further education opportunities.
Since no two associations are the same, the way your association measures member engagement is unique as well. Think about what your long-term goals are, whether it’s to increase member retention or encourage community-building. These long term goals can be achieved through various member engagement efforts and strategies.
As you review what member engagement means to your association, take the time to gain insight into where your members are already active. To put it simply, consider the various experiences and engagement opportunities that your association offers and the platforms where your members already are. Using a data-driven approach, observe how your members engage with those experiences, including:
- Social media platforms.
- Email marketing.
- Live events.
- Learning opportunities.
Once you get a clear sense of what member engagement means to your association, you can then turn these engagements into measurable numbers. This can be done by setting, tracking, and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs).
Setting key performance indicators for member engagement
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are strategic business metrics that your association can set to measure your progress towards specific, quantifiable goals.
KPIs will help you and your staff measure the performance of your association based on key objectives. After defining what member engagement means to your association, you can then set KPIs to evaluate your success at reaching specific engagement targets.
Here are some examples of KPIs based on where your members may be currently active:
- Social media platforms. Consider measuring how often you gain and lose followers, level of post engagement, amount of profile tags or references, and which of your posts get the most attention.
- Email marketing. Consider measuring your email open and click-through rates, which members opted to receive your newsletter, and how often members respond to your correspondences.
- Live events. Consider measuring how many people registered, total attendance, how people found out about your event, the type of tickets people have bought, and more.
- Learning opportunities. Consider measuring metrics from your LMS system — which classes are most popular, how many members received accreditations, and how often members start courses but not finish.
Determining effective KPIs is an important part of measuring the success of your member engagement strategy. Seeing actual data metrics will help you make the best future decisions. For more examples of KPIs, read this article for guidance.
Why is member engagement important?
When most organizations think about member engagement, it’s easy to go straight to data and measure specific transactions. However, you have to look beyond the numbers and understand the meaningful experiences your association offers its members and the mutually beneficial value they provide.
Member engagement and retention: a key outcome
From a management point of view, prioritizing member engagement is crucial to promoting member retention. The more you engage your members, the more likely they will renew their memberships.
Focusing on member retention is generally more cost-effective than member acquisition, so building up a loyal member base will support the organization for the long run.
Consider what your association can offer that boosts the value delivered in exchange for membership dues. No one will pay to be a part of your organization without gaining something meaningful in return. Provide your members with opportunities and experiences that they will actually appreciate and motivate them to keep coming back. Keep in mind that positive member engagement results in a positive member relationship.
Member engagement and community-building
Member engagement doesn’t just help you develop better relationships with your members. It can also encourage members to interact and engage with each other. Often times, individuals join associations to meet others who are similar to them. This way, they can learn and grow with other like-minded people.
Your members should feel like they’re a part of a growing community, so consider basing your member engagement strategy around encouraging member networking and interaction:
- Host live events. Events are the best way to engage your members and encourage community-building. This is because they provide a space for members to interact face-to-face. For example, a conference allows members in the same industries or sectors to come together and talk about new innovations or improvements in their field.
- Provide an online member portal. While your association may have recurring in-person meetings and annual events, a growing membership requires an intuitive online member portal. This way, members can communicate with each other through forums and browse other profiles to get a better sense of their community.
Member engagement and non-dues revenue
Associations often aim to prioritize raising funds outside of the regular membership dues. If you’re looking to grow your non-dues revenue, increase member engagement in ways that offer additional experiences and still promote a positive relationship.
For example, event ticket sales are a great way to increase non-dues revenue. While tickets are an extra cost, events offer a rewarding experience that justifies the member’s purchase.
Other engaging ways to increase non-dues revenue include running fundraising campaigns and offering branded merchandise through an online store.
Association Member Engagement Strategies
Since every association is different, it’s difficult to pinpoint the best association member engagement strategy to follow. Depending on your ultimate goal and members’ preferences, your member engagement strategy will be built around your specific KPIs and data metrics.
However, there are a couple of common strategic moves that can help substantiate any member engagement strategy.
Member engagement surveys
It’s good practice to always establish a direct line between you and your members. This way, you have a reliable communication channel and platform to gauge how your members are feeling.
Whether it’s delivered through a social media platform, mobile events app, or email marketing tool, regularly send surveys and polls to your members. This way, you can gain a more direct understanding of your members’ needs and preferences.
When is the best time to send out surveys and polls? Consider these approaches:
- After events. This is when the event is most prominent in your members’ eyes, so it’s a great time to get feedback on how your event went and what can be improved.
- With membership renewal reminders. As members are deciding whether or not to renew, it makes sense to also get some feedback from them. If members decide to leave the association, ask them to reveal why!
- At the end of the year. When the holidays begin to wrap up, this is a great time to get members to reflect on the year and what your association has offered them.
Segmentation of members by interests
To better engage your members, it can be beneficial to segment them based on their interests. This way, you gain a better understanding of which members respond best to different member engagement tactics.
For example, you can start customizing content to resonate with certain segments of your members. Younger members may be more receptive to one type of message, while another version appeals to older members.
Improve your communication strategies
People get bombarded with emails and messages every day, so don’t bog down their inboxes with unnecessary content. As you’re developing your member engagement strategies, consider ways that you can improve your communication strategies.
For starters, let members choose their preferred mode of communication and aim to deliver messages in a way that they’re most likely to respond to. To do so, you can explore previous engagement data to determine which channels a particular member responds best to or take a more proactive approach by simply asking them for their preferences.
For example, one group of members might indicate that they like to be contacted through direct mail, while others tend to favor digital strategies. When you communicate with each individual in the way they prefer, they’re more likely to respond positively.
Additionally, segment your members and tailor each message based on their particular preferences and engagement histories. This can be done by customizing existing templates to more personally address each recipient.
One of the most appealing factors of joining an association is the events. In-person meetings provide significant value, as they reinforce to members that they’re a part of a real community. There’s little loyalty or emotion involved when all of the other members you “meet” are just photos on a screen.
In addition to serving as a strategy for boosting member engagement, events offer learning and networking opportunities that might not be found elsewhere. Remember that what your association offers should outweigh the costs of the membership dues, so actively consider ways to make your event stand out.
Make new members feel welcome, and old members feel valued
Your member engagement strategy should start on day one. As soon as a member joins your association, focus on engaging with them. Send a welcome package containing relevant association information, as well as instructions to access the online portal and information on any upcoming events. It’s important to immediately communicate the value of engaging with your robust member community.
However, don’t forget about those who have stayed loyal to you. Tenured members should still feel valued, as their contribution and engagement is still vital to your association. Maintain positive member engagement by continuously communicating your appreciation for their membership.
Offer many ways to engage
Avoid focusing on only one method of member engagement. While it’s wise to have a goal for your association to work toward, don’t let other engagement opportunities fall to the wayside. We’ll be discussing both digital and in-person member engagement strategies.
Here are some digital member engagement opportunities:
- Online member portal. Provide a space for members to connect with others in their community.
- Community message board. Members can actively engage with each other through forums, collaborate on files, and comment on each other’s ideas.
- Learning management system. With an effective LMS, you can offer online courses and classes for members to further their education and gain certifications.
However, don’t forget about the value of face-to-face engagements. Consider these in-person member engagement opportunities:
- Events. Host conferences, presentations, and more to engage your members in-person. This way, they can actively interact with each other throughout the event.
- Learning opportunities. Offer in-person classes and learning events for members to further their education.
- Meetings. Often times, your association will have committees and subsections. Encourage them to meet in-person on a daily basis so that they can accomplish objectives in an efficient manner.
Make it easier with an association management system
Relying on software solutions has become more of a necessity than a suggestion, especially as your association continues to grow. After all, how can you effectively engage your members when you and your staff are bogged down by daily internal processes like sending dues reminder emails?
Fonteva has worked with associations for over a decade and strives to reduce the burden of association management and member engagement. As an all-in-one platform, Fonteva’s association management system gives you and your team access to:
- Online member profiles. Engage your constituents online by providing a public member directory. This gives members a chance to get to know each other and even interact on an online message board. Members can also edit their own profiles and update any inaccuracies.
- Member database. An intuitive CRM system makes it easy to personalize member communication. Fonteva is also 100% native to Salesforce, which means that your member profiles will be fully fleshed out and regularly updated with engagement metrics from event attendance, payment preference, and more!
- Event planning and management. Fonteva’s AMS includes event management tools, so there is no need to look for a third party point solution. You can easily host an event microsite, create a mobile event app, and manage all of your key event personnel on one streamlined platform!
- Continuing education opportunities. People join associations to stay up-to-date on best practices and innovations in their field. With Fonteva, you can offer certifications, learning events, online courses, and more.
Fonteva’s AMS also helps you and your team visualize past data to improve for the future. With flexible reporting tools, you can easily see which member engagement strategies are working and which need to be tweaked.
Actively engaging your members is an ongoing journey, but certain strategies can simplify the process. Consider your association’s overarching goals and areas where your members are already actively engaging. With reliable association management software, you can easily compile reports to understand these goals and form measurable KPIs to take appropriate action.
Check out these additional resources for more information on how to elevate your association and engage your members:
- Association Management Software: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide. Looking to invest in new software? This buyer’s guide can point you in the right direction.
- Association Management Systems: 7 Tips for Strong Community. Learn how to amplify your member community with these top tips.
- Top Salesforce Partners for Profitable Events. Does your association depend on Salesforce? Check out these top partners to help with your association’s events.