Similar to how nonprofit organizations implement donor retention strategies, associations work to keep members renewing each year.
They’re not only “members” in the sense that they get discounts or a subscription ― it’s about belonging. Your members are everyone involved with your organization, all parts of a greater whole.
No association is the same, so there isn’t one universal strategy that will maximize your association membership. However, most associations know that it’s more cost-effective to invest in member retention efforts than member acquisition.
Members seek a careful balance between the association anticipating their needs and giving them independence. Use your association management tools to maintain this balance for your members by:
- Creating a dedicated association website.
- Providing a space for online community-building.
- Personalizing communications for each member.
- Hosting events that members value.
The more targeted and curated your member engagement efforts are, the better experience your members will have. Let’s dive in!
Creating a dedicated association website.
Just like a nonprofit’s webpage, there are certain essentials that your association website requires to meet basic needs. Similar to how donors seek an online donation form, think about the end targets of users on your website. Why did they come to your website?
Your website is likely the first place that people visit to learn more about your association. Therefore, it’s important to create space for general association details and the benefits you offer. Consider if the user wants to:
- Join the association. Incorporate clear pathways where a person can become a member.
- Contact the association. Include a navigation menu so that newcomers know how to access the “Contact Us” page in case they want to reach out.
- Check out upcoming events. Offer an event calendar that lays out future opportunities and a place to register for upcoming events.
- Engage with other members. A member portal encourages community-building. We’ll dive into more details on this later!
According to Morweb, your best bet is to look into website builders that are meant for associations. This way, you can set up your pages and offer online engagements that specifically cater to a member-based organization.
Providing a space for online community building.
As your association gets larger, active online member engagement ensures that your membership stays unified. Companies benefit from a truly connected office, and this mindset is applicable to your association membership.
An accessible member portal is a great way to encourage online community-building, as well as help new members acclimate to the online community. This allows members to:
- Get an initial sense of other members. Members can easily navigate a directory full of names, relevant details, and even photos.
- Communicate with other members. Offer online message boards and forums. On top of creating a discussion space, this also provides a reliable source of feedback to improve the member experience.
- Control their initial impression. Provide members with self-service tools so that they can edit their own profiles and make changes based on new developments and accreditations.
- Advance in their field. Many associations will invest in learning management systems (LMS) to offer educational courses, either online or in-person.
Members should have a place to connect besides recurring meetings and larger events. An online space facilitates member engagement and improves the overall experience. Check out Fonteva’s guide to measuring member engagement for more strategies.
Personalizing communication for each member.
If you want to offer an unparalleled member experience, consider ways to personalize each member’s journey based on their preferences. Making the effort to individualize your outreach will elevate the entire membership experience.
Make sure that your member database is a core component of your AMS. This way, you can easily incorporate member data into your emails, such as names and membership levels.
Additionally, segment your recipients to create more targeted content and eliminate unnecessary emails flooding your members’ inbox. Segment your members based on:
- Communications preference.
- Membership status.
- Event attendance.
- Payment preferences.
Taking the time to optimize your members’ communications helps your constituents feel valued within your organization. The more they feel valued, the more likely they are to renew their membership.
Hosting events that members want.
Although providing an enhanced online experience is key to maximizing association membership, they can’t replace holding in-person events. These live experiences provide value to the community and are a great way to attract attendees beyond your members.
It’s important to pick an event that you know will resonate with your members. Send surveys to your members or peruse online forums to get a better understanding of events that might be of interest.
Furthermore, consider investing in comprehensive event management software. This way, you can oversee processes and customize your event. Here are a few things to focus on:
- Ask the right questions. Format your questions based on specific activities and eliminate any unnecessary information.
- Create the perfect event schedule. Manage all of your vendors, speakers, and sponsor information in one convenient place.
- Provide a secure payment process. Ensure that your event registration also incorporates a secure payment processor.
Use an AMS solution with event management capabilities so that your event data can be woven into your member profiles. Even better, invest in tools that are native to each other. For example, Salesforce is a popular CRM with a long list of native tools and integration partners.
Many people join associations to meet others in the same field or with similar interests. Make sure to prioritize both online and offline opportunities to encourage community building. Good luck!
Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.