4 Key Considerations for Engaging Your Association’s Members

December 15, 2023 0 Comments

No matter what your association’s goals are, having a base of loyal, engaged supporters is one of the most important factors for success. To secure essential revenue, you’ll need to motivate members to renew their memberships, contribute to fundraisers, purchase branded merchandise, and attend conferences—all things that engaged members are more likely to do.

You can even meet goals like acquiring new members more easily when current members are dialed into your association. For example, members who are deeply engaged can be more likely to refer their friends and colleagues.

In this guide, we’ll explore four key considerations to keep in mind so your association can reap the benefits of engaged members:

  1. Use technology to personalize member experiences.
  2. Encourage member-driven content creation.
  3. Track the member lifecycle.
  4. Ask for feedback regularly.

First, we’ll explore how leveraging technology like association management software (AMS) streamlines member engagement and provides insights into your members’ preferences. Let’s get started!

1. Use technology to personalize member experiences.

Providing personalized experiences has become a standard, almost expected, practice among marketers. Message personalization is cited as the number one tactic used by email marketers to boost engagement. Why not apply the same principles to your association’s engagement strategy?

While impactful, gathering and analyzing member data to build these personalized experiences can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Here are a few tools you can leverage to facilitate the process:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: CRM platforms, such as Salesforce, make it possible to gather and manage all of your association’s data effectively. This data can reveal anything from a member’s alma mater to their preference for digital communications over mail. With this information, you can tailor communications and engagement opportunities to your members’ interests.
  • Generative artificial intelligence (AI): Generative AI systems train on large language models, and the use cases for AI-powered tools are expanding rapidly. Consider using these systems internally to analyze data and create custom member segments based on interests and preferences. For each segment, you can use AI to draft email marketing messages, social media posts, and optimized conference schedules. To better serve members, equip your website with AI-driven chatbots that provide on-demand, personalized support.
  • Advanced analytics platforms: Specialized analytics platforms reveal how and why members interact with your website, providing the insights you need to improve in the future. Google Analytics, for example, allows you to track your association’s website performance and analyze user behavior via metrics like website traffic, source of traffic, demographics, conversions, and more. Not only does this reveal who is visiting your website (and when), but it can also help you diagnose and improve any technical issues that impact website performance.
  • Personalized video engagement: Personalized video platforms are an emerging technology that empowers organizations to craft individualized videos for each member. This entails delivering a bespoke video message uniquely tailored to the recipient, aligning with their preferences and interests. The inherent personalized touch of these videos fosters heightened engagement, significantly contributing to improved retention and conversion rates. Remarkably, a substantial 93% of organizations that have incorporated personalized videos have reported a noteworthy uptick in conversion rates. And, given that 90% of customers express an affinity for personalization, leveraging personalized videos in your member engagement strategy is a no-brainer.

These platforms allow you to uncover essential information about members that you can build your engagement strategy around. By grounding your strategy in data, you’ll be able to create more engagement opportunities that resonate with your members.

2. Encourage member-driven content creation.

Encourage collaboration among your members, allowing them to get involved in creating different types of content on behalf of your association. When members have a hand in content creation, you can be sure that they will find it appealing and engaging.

Additionally, the process of creating content for fellow members could inspire them to explore your existing resources and identify ways to expand the association’s offerings. When sharing this opportunity with members, lay out examples of content they might create, such as:

  • Blog posts
  • Newsletter entries
  • Articles about industry-specific topics or updates
  • Video content, such as day-in-the-life videos or recorded software tutorials
  • Webinars
  • Educational courses
  • Infographics, whitepapers, presentations, or other visual media

If needed, provide a few basic content creation guidelines to steer members in the right direction (e.g., how to align with association standards and values). Remember that this initiative is meant to be collaborative, so be open to creative suggestions from members.

3. Track the member lifecycle.

The cycle that members follow as they navigate through stages like awareness, recruitment, and engagement make up the membership lifecycle. Analyze your data to categorize donors based on where they fall in this cycle. For example, you can use the date they joined to determine when you’ll need to send renewal reminders as well as how long they’ve been members.

This graphic depicts the member lifecycle, described in the text below.

According to Fonteva’s guide to member engagement, tailoring events and opportunities to a member’s position in the lifecycle is an effective way to motivate them to participate. Here are some ways to engage members at various stages of the cycle:

  • New members: Send them a welcome email series, create and share onboarding webinars, and assign them an experienced member as a mentor.
  • Current members: Offer advanced learning opportunities, allow them to guide educational courses, and extend leadership roles.
  • Members at risk of lapsing: Provide a customized value proposition, offer exclusive discounts, share member appreciation messages and benefits, and allow members to opt into auto-renewal.

Adapting your engagement opportunities to the member lifecycle is just another form of personalization. It’s critically important that the engagement opportunities you offer to members make sense given their interests, skill and knowledge levels, and experience with your association.

4. Ask for feedback regularly.

Have you ever made changes to your web design or rolled out a new webinar series and wondered what members think about it? The best way to know how members feel about changes, events, and your association in general is to simply ask them.

eCardWidget’s guide to member appreciation encourages associations to send surveys to members regularly, explaining that they “show members that you appreciate and respect their opinions.” In turn, feedback allows you to adjust existing engagement opportunities and add any that members suggest. Consider sending out tailored surveys for occasions like:

  • Membership renewals
  • Annual meetings, conferences, or other events
  • Membership services and benefits check-ins
  • Release of new eLearning resources or courses
  • Rollout of new policies or initiatives

You can also send out more general surveys every year or quarter to get a baseline understanding of what members think of your association. Additionally, keep survey questions as open-ended as possible and prompt members to elaborate on their answers.

Taking the time to develop a member engagement strategy will pay dividends to your association. After all, when your members are more engaged, they are also more likely to see value in your offerings, form meaningful relationships with other members, and feel a sense of loyalty that makes them want to renew year after year.