5 Ways to Improve Your Student Member Engagement Right Now

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Associations that offer student memberships have the opportunity to capture new members at the start of their careers. According to Marketing General’s 2020 Membership Marketing Report, 51% of associations offer a student membership, but only 17% of those students on average convert to full memberships once they graduate.

If you are an association that is seeing these kinds of low conversion rates, it’s time to explore ways that you might recruit these potential long-term members. Here are a few tips for converting student members into lifetime members.

Avoid reverting to stereotypes

It can be tempting to paint younger generations with a broad brush and blame your low conversation rates on students themselves. Avoid this urge at all costs.

Sure, we’ve all heard the stereotypes: Millennials are self-absorbed. Gen Z is obsessed with social media. Those kinds of generalizations gloss over the fact that these generations include millions of people, each with their own stories and pain points.

Individuals graduating from college right now face a unique set of challenges when compared with generations before them, challenges that directly influence what they want and need from an association. Work to understand those challenges rather than dismiss them.

Talk to student members

The first step is talking (and listening) to your target audience. Don’t rely on assumptions. Do you have committees for students and young professionals? If so, seek feedback from them. Consider adding committees or forums where students and young professionals are represented if you don’t already have that in place. Just because someone doesn’t have a lot of experience doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable volunteer asset.

Consider customized membership options

Recent grads are likely to be in a different financial position and have different career goals than other members. Rather than the traditional one-size-fits-all membership model, consider offering options to potential members.

One solution is to offer tiered membership options for people at different stages in their career. Some associations are experimenting with “a la carte” membership options, where students transitioning into the workforce can select and pay only for the services they feel will be most useful to them.

Offer payment options

Many recent graduates are entering the workforce with college debt. Being mindful of that and offering them financial choices that account for that could make a big difference in converting student members. A monthly dues payment spread out over the year may be more manageable than paying it all in a single chunk.

There’s a reason subscription services like Netflix and Spotify offer a monthly payment plan. Think of how much more reasonable the cost of a monthly subscription service feels than it would if you had to pay for a whole year up front.

Evaluate your offerings

Take time to examine your association’s value proposition. Many new professionals are looking for mentorship and career development opportunities. Associations interested in converting more student members should increase their focus on these areas.

Think about what you could offer that would appeal to the needs of people entering the workforce. You might set up a mentor matching program. It’s a relatively light lift for association staff, and brings great benefit to members.

Also look at your learning programs to see if your courses and conference target early career professionals. Are you using platforms and formats that engage people who are used to a wide variety of options for learning? You may be able to incorporate tools like real-time learning opportunities, micro-learning or YouTube videos into your professional development portfolio. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

If your association offers a student membership (or is considering it) you would be well-served to increase your efforts toward converting those members. Student members may pay lower dues to start, but they are a prime opportunity for associations to build member loyalty and recruit lifelong members. Provide value to them as they begin their careers and they’ll stick with you for the long-term.

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