Over the course of our unfolding pandemic, many association programs have faced various levels of member attrition. At this point, simply retaining members has become a central concern for some associations. However, to set your organization up for success and continued growth, your association needs to do far more than simply retain casual participants s.

It’s time to look towards the future of your membership program and begin cultivating leaders within your membership base. From brand ambassadors to committee members, these individuals will stick with your program for the long haul and actively work to enrich and improve your association.

So, with the pandemic evolving and our new post-pandemic normal somewhere on the horizon, how can you begin to plan for the future of your association programs? In this brief guide, we will go over a few key engagement strategies to begin nurturing the growth of your members into association leaders:

To survive, your association needs members. But to thrive, you must encourage the growth of members into far more active roles within your organization. With these association best practices and engagement techniques, your organization can turn its regular members into leaders and ambassadors for your brand.

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Personalized Communications

Strong communication is the cornerstone of an effective member engagement strategy. Whether your members have just finished the process of joining or are preparing to join your board of directors or another key committee, your association should be ready to send out personalized messages to guide them through each phase of the member journey.

Start off the membership experience with the right first impression—create a welcome email stream for new members. This should leverage the data members provided during the membership application process to address them by name, share opportunities they may be interested in, and outline next steps and opportunities that their new membership has granted them access to.

An intuitive membership platform software can help to streamline these communications. These systems can automatically send association updates, relevant news, and personalized events and program invitations across multiple channels of communication.

Sending members the right messaging becomes even more important as they begin to build an engagement history. Be mindful to track critical metrics such as their event attendance, e-learning progress, and participation in member communities. This will help you to segment your members, conference attendees, or certificants by their skills and interests, and send them relevant opportunities that will increase their involvement in your organization.

Continue these communications and high levels of engagement as members grow the ranks of your organization and become more involved. For example, according to AccuData’s article on digital marketing, continuous communication and personalized engagement are essential to ensuring the longterm support of your constituents. Newsletters, email blasts, and regular, personalized messaging will help carry members into the next phase of their engagement with the association.

Even when your members have attained the highest levels of involvement with your organization, you must carry the momentum of their engagement with communication. From nonprofit memberships to professional associations, all membership programs should leverage their communications to make their members feel welcomed, valued, and informed through every stage of their journey.

Networking and Member Communities

If you want your members to become more involved in your organization, they need a place to set down roots and begin forming long-lasting relationships. This is where member communities become a critical resource.

According to this Fonteva guide to association management systems, the right AMS solution will allow you to create microsites, a member directory, and special membership groups right in your own membership platform. With the help of these tools, your members will be able to drive their own engagements, organize events, and facilitate their own communications.

This not only brings a huge boost to your members’ association involvement, but it could also improve the success of your events and services.

Member groups give your members a powerful platform where they can collaborate to create events that they find personally meaningful and interesting. With the help of your members, you could begin increasing your virtual event engagement or curating valuable e-learning opportunities you might have overlooked.

On top of that, these communities are a stepping stone for future, higher levels of involvement in your program. Membership communities and committees give members a sense of investment and responsibility within your organization. This nurtures leadership qualities among your constituents and gets them to start thinking about ways that they can contribute to your shared success.

E-learning and Skill Development

E-learning and skill courses are an especially effective way to increase member retention and engagement. These courses will not only incentivize members to stick with your organization to benefit from such valuable resources, but they will also nurture important skills in your future association leaders.

If your membership program is already based around a specific industry or profession, such as an association for financial professionals, then you should create courses that focus on new developments in that field. You could even create more general courses on professional best practices, such as how to pivot to virtual work and maintain productivity despite at-home distractions.

Additionally, you should also be sure to curate custom courses that get members involved in specific opportunities within your association, such as a training guide for boosting brand awareness or an onboarding course for member committee leaders.

Pay attention to your members’ engagement history and important personal demographics to identify members who would benefit the most from these services. For example, younger members, such as students and recent graduates, are a critical demographic for e-learning opportunities. These members are undergoing an important educational transition, and this provides the perfect time for your association to step in with professional development and continuing education resources.

Whatever topic you may choose for your courses or whatever demographic you focus on, make sure that these services aren’t just useful, but actively engaging. To increase the engagement potential of your virtual materials and offerings, implement gamification principles into your programming. Widgets and rewards such as prizes, pinnable certificates, and digital badges will motivate your members to complete their courses, continue their education through your membership program, and steadily rise in their involvement with your association.

While some of your members may always prefer to remain more casually involved, others have the potential to be made into leaders, ambassadors, and collaborators for your association. The key is to take advantage of the potential within every one of your members and use intuitive, personalized stewardship plans to guide their engagements with your association.

With these insights, your association can start cultivating the learning, growth, and development of more of your members into leaders and advocates of your organization.

About the Author

Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer, Fonteva
With over two decades of experience marketing association technology, Fonteva CMO Jake Fabbri has developed a deep understanding of the unique needs of associations and the challenges technology can solve. Jake’s marketing expertise has been honed by demonstrated excellence in the areas of lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.

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