Increase Member Engagement with These 4 Smart Strategies

Callie Hinman
June 5, 2019

Of course every association needs a good recruitment strategy. There’s no association without members, after all. But you can’t focus all of your energy on bringing new members onboard and then neglect the membership experience itself. If you do, your enrollment rates may be sky high but your renewal rates will be less than impressive.

Take a look at four ways you can make sure members are actively engaged in your association from day one.

Define “Engagement” for Your Association

You can’t successfully increase member engagement without first establishing what “engagement” means for your association. No other association has exactly the same members and mission as you do, so how you define engagement will be based on your unique audience and goals.

As a jumping off point, here are some general examples of engagement metrics you can track:

  • Website visits
  • Volunteer hours
  • Event attendance
  • Resource downloads
  • Listserv/Forum activity
  • Webinar registrations
  • Social media followers
  • Newsletter subscriptions

Once you have your target metrics nailed down, use your association management software (AMS) as well as event management, continuing education, and social media platforms to review historical data and set a baseline for each measurement. Then, send out a survey to your current members and ask them to share what they appreciate about the association and what they wish was different. The survey should be created in a way that your end results are measurable and/or quantifiable.

Their responses, along with the data from your AMS, will show you where to focus your efforts and help you set realistic performance goals.

Optimize Your Onboarding Process

By joining your association, a new member has demonstrated at least an initial commitment to the organization. And if you want her to stay committed, you have to show your appreciation from the start.

An effective way to start the relationship on a strong note is to create an automated onboarding workflow that sends a welcome email immediately after someone joins. The email should include links to new member FAQs and the association’s event calendar as well as contact information for both the local and national chapters. If your association is legislatively active, a link to your grassroots or legislative action page is useful.

Additionally, the sender address and email signature should belong to a real person the new member can identify with; don’t use something generic like When possible, be sure to incorporate the member’s name into the greeting and/or the email subject line.

Most importantly, it should be the start of a series of onboarding emails sent throughout the first month of membership that help the new member better understand the association and the full scope of benefits to which she now has access. It’s easier to maintain a high level of engagement from the beginning than to try to re-engage a less involved member later.

Design Your Website for Engagement

Your website is the digital hub for everything related to your association. It’s where prospective members go to learn more about the association and where current members head when they want to take advantage of all their membership has to offer.

Consequently, the user-friendliness and perceived value of your association’s website has a direct impact on member engagement. It shouldn’t be a struggle for a member to find the latest association news. Every member should be able to easily view the association’s calendar and/or register for an event. And the membership renewal process should be as straightforward as possible.

In addition, your website should be home to heaps of valuable content created and curated specifically for your audience. This includes downloadable guides, professional development tools, live and recorded webinars, continuing education resources, and articles about industry updates.

Communicate Regularly and on Multiple Channels

While your website is a great communication tool, members still have to actively seek out the information on their own. And if they don’t visit your site regularly, they may miss out on events, educational resources or special offers — i.e., the kinds of things that increase member engagement and renewals.

Make it easy for them to know exactly what’s going on with the association by regularly sending emails. Email is the most effective, direct way to broadcast important information to your members. Not only can you send association-wide news and updates to your entire distribution list but you can also segment your audience and deliver more targeted communications.

For example, if your association is hosting an event for women entrepreneurs, you can send an email specifically to the female members of your association. Or if you have a resource about early career development, you can distribute it only to members who are new to the field.

One of the major drawbacks of communicating via your website or email is they don’t allow members to have real-time conversations with your team. But social media does! Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter give your members a platform to provide valuable feedback as well as ask questions and share concerns. Offering the opportunity to be part of a dialogue is an excellent way to increase member engagement.

The associations with the most staying power are the ones that approach member engagement with the same enthusiasm as recruitment. If you start strong, set realistic goals, make the most of your website, and keep the lines of communication open, your member engagement levels will be through the roof.