How To Improve Member Engagement: An Actionable Guide for Associations

As an organization, you should continually strive to pull in new members. However, membership retention is crucial to sustaining and growing your member base. A high retention rate reduces turnover and provides your association with steady income through regular dues or membership fees, keeping your association’s engine running.

Not only is it essential to recognize that your organization’s retention rate is critical to its long-term stability, but you must take the actionable steps that will boost member retention rates. That means focusing on membership engagement and participation throughout your entire organization.

NGOs, associations, and other types of organizations that have fostered an environment of solid member engagement have not only reaped the benefit of better member retention, but they’ve been able to leverage active organization members in attracting new members.

This article will help you improve your organization’s membership engagement skills to foster better membership retention and ensure membership renewal.

What do we mean by Member Engagement?

In the simplest terms, “member engagement” refers to your organization’s interaction with its members. Member engagement encompasses the conversations, the activities, and the processes that your existing members engage in with your organization and its team. It is an essential part of the member experience.

An engaged organization member participates in numerous organization-sponsored activities, like workshops and events. An engaged member could also be one who communicates with the organization regularly and provides consistent feedback. For example, members who open and respond to your organization’s emails are considered engaged members.

Both of these examples involve members who respond to the association, which creates better experiences not only for them but for your organization and the other members that benefit from the contributions they make. That’s what member engagement is all about.

What is the Importance of Member Engagement?

An active and engaged member base is the lifeblood of any organization. Engaged members will attend events, take advantage of your services, and keep your organization running. Your organization is not living up to its full potential without engaged members.

There are many benefits to keeping members engaged, including:

  • Better retention rates: If you want to grow your association, you’ll have to retain its current members. When you provide members with engaging new content, you give them reasons to renew their membership regularly.
  • Improved loyalty: When you engage your members, they are more apt to stick around in the long term. Organizations that create a personal connection with members build loyalty which breeds retention.
  • A boosted reputation: Organizations must offer their members a positive experience. The more engaged your membership base is, the more likely they are to discuss the association with those on the outside. That will help to improve your organization’s reputation, helping to market it more effectively.
  • A more valuable base: Your association’s most valuable marketing asset is its membership base. When your members are visibly engaged, it sends a message to potential members that the organization caters to people with whom they want to connect. That can increase your base overall.

Most association leaders recognize the importance of member engagement. However, few take the action necessary for improvement. It isn’t required in all cases that an organization hire a specific individual or dedicate an entire team specifically charged with improving member engagement. Still, there are steps that organizations can take that will make a difference.

Building an Effective Engagement Strategy

Although your member engagement strategy might look slightly different based upon your industry, the services you offer, and your unique membership base, all good membership engagement strategies feature the same core characteristics. This next section will address five steps your organization can take to better engage with its members.

Create membership personas.

It can be pretty challenging to design an engagement strategy that appeals to all members of your organization. That’s because, if your organization is like most others, your membership base is diverse, and your individual members likely have varying preferences and goals. Thankfully, there are many ways to target smaller segments of your base by creating member personas using engagement preferences, demographics, and member interests.

A membership persona is a fictional representation of members created from actual membership data. When you imagine members as specific people, you can more easily envision the targeted engagement opportunities to meet their goals.

If you want to create valuable personas, you should conduct the following research:

  • Track member activity: When you understand current member engagement levels, you can create personas that specifically target improved engagement. As an example, you could craft personas based on what engagement opportunities they’ve participated in and just how knowledgeable those members may be regarding ways to become more involved.
  • Conduct market research: Look to those outside your association to better understand common industry goals. The creation of effective personas will rely, to some degree, on speculation. When you dive deep into what other organizations offer their members, you can get a better sense of what your membership is searching for.
  • Create member profiles: Whenever new members join your association, create dedicated member profiles for each new member. In addition to tracking that member’s engagement history, the member profile can gather data about their interests and demographic information.

Most associations and organizations will create multiple member personas that reflect the broad range of their base. If, for example, a large swath of your member base is made up of younger professionals with not much experience in the industry, you’ll want to create a persona that targets that group. However, you won’t want that to be your only persona because it neglects the goals of members that have long-standing experience in the industry.

When you create multiple personas you can better determine where member needs and interests diverge and overlap and set up your engagement strategies in response.

Identify your organization’s value proposition.

We have already identified several benefits of increased member engagement. However, you should also consider what your membership base will gain from being part of the organization. Once you determine the value that your association offers to its members, you will be better able to create more targeted membership engagement opportunities delivering that value.

An organization’s value proposition consists of a concise statement summarizing a potential member’s benefits from joining. When an organization clearly states its value proposition, it can better differentiate itself from similar organizations. It can also be used as a marketing tool for your organization.

Your organization’s value proposition isn’t just helpful in drawing in new members, but it can also be used to engage current members. If your organization’s value proposition promises certain benefits to members, it should always look for new ways to offer activities and opportunities for members to reap those benefits. Be mindful that your organization’s value proposition must remain focused on what members stand to gain from your organization, not what the organization can gain from its members.

Define your organization’s incentives and benefits.

As soon as you’ve identified your organization’s value proposition, your next step is to begin outlining the specific benefits meeting promised values, and appealing to members’ goals and interests. Although your association’s benefits may vary based on its industry and purpose, you’ll likely find some success when you offer the following engagement incentives to your members:

  • Exclusive events: All of your organization’s event offerings should contribute to members’ goals. Although events that are dedicated to celebrating the organization or its fundraising efforts are essential, it is important to balance out your association’s calendar with conferences, presentations, and exclusive events offering value to your members.
  • Job opportunities: Although your organization can’t guarantee that members will land a new job, there are plenty of ways to provide opportunities for career improvement. That might include connecting members with industry leaders, providing access to career-enhancing workshops, and offering other types of networking opportunities.
  • Training programs: When your organization provides access to training programs, you give members a tangible reason to engage. It’s a bonus if you offer training programs that provide certifications or other credentials beneficial to your membership. To better establish the benefits of these training courses, define precisely which skills members can expect to gain from participating.
  • Helpful online resources: One of the best ways to encourage engagement is to provide your organization’s members with the exclusive content that they want and need, relevant to members’ goals and interests. That exclusive content can include articles and blog posts, online workshops, and expert talks. Regularly curating online resources and maintaining a content library accessible to existing and new members will undoubtedly boost member engagement.
  • Networking opportunities: As we mentioned before, your existing membership can be an incredible draw for potential new members. Talks, workshops, events, and other types of gatherings hosted by your organization give members the chance to interact and provide valuable networking opportunities.

Putting Your Membership Engagement Plan into Action

Membership engagement involves giving and taking. Your organization needs to do the hard work and put in the effort to engage members. However, for members to truly take advantage of your association’s value proposition, it will require their active participation.

When your organization offers its members various ways to become involved and engaged, they will be better able to reap the benefits of being active members. In turn, your organization can use those active members to entice new ones.

One of the best ways to hit the mark on every engagement point outlined in this article is through the use of personalized email newsletters for your organization, like the ones offered by rasa.io.

When you make personalized email newsletters part of your membership engagement strategy, you keep your members engaged and nurture your relationship with them in a more meaningful way. Ultimately, that will result in better membership retention.

Erica Salm Rench

Chief Operations Officer at rasa.io

Learn how you can build relationships and increase engagement with your audience through curated content.

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