Engaged and active members are the ones that stay with and contribute to your organization for years to come. Engagement is crucial for retention, and retaining members is more cost-effective than recruiting new ones. Dedicated and invested long-term members are also valuable for their institutional knowledge and experience. But keeping members engaged takes effort and most associations could benefits from taking more time to periodically assess their engagement efforts and recalibrate as needed.
Measuring Membership Engagement
You can’t determine whether your membership engagement is good or poor, improving or declining unless you have tracking mechanisms in place. Your total number of dues-paying members is an important metric, but just one. There are other analytics you should be checking regularly to see what they can tell you about membership engagement. You should be tracking:
· Event attendance
· Social media followers and social media engagement (likes, shares, comments, etc.)
· Activity on your jobs board
· Sign-ups for learning opportunities and webinars
· Page views on blogs, articles or newsletters
· Your email open and click-through rates (available with mass mailing tools like Mailchimp, SendGrid and Constant Contact)
· Donations (amounts and how many individuals gave) from benefits and fund drives
· Activity on any other communication tools you may use
Once you are tracking these various metrics, you will start to notice which events, social posts and topics interest your members the most.
It’s also a great idea to survey your membership from time to time to assess which membership perks are the biggest factors in their decision to renew, how they feel about organizational communication, ways they’d like to be more involved and more.
With this data in hand, use it and future reports to calculate the effectiveness of some of the following membership engagement techniques.
Ways to Engage Your Members
Host a variety of live events.
Regardless of how prevalent online meetings and Zoom conferences have become, there’s just no replacement for face-to-face meetings and in-person events when it comes to getting members engaged and excited about your association. Humans are social creatures and respond more warmly to an in-person appeal than one online. And many people join associations mostly for the opportunity to network and meet people. The types of live events you offer to members is key to building community and loyalty.
Remember when planning events to mix it up. Don’t offer the same types of events or meetings all the time. Take suggestions from members on the types of activities they’d like to go to. Consider mixing up the locations of meetings as well by moving the next meeting to a local brewery for instance. Make sure you have a good mix of educational, career building, networking and social events. These will be a major selling point for your organization.
Help your members network with each other outside of events.
Your members want to communicate directly with each other. This can be facilitated in a number of ways. One of the easiest is to create a private Facebook group for members. Some associations also use communication tools like Slack for fostering discussion. Large organizations may want to contract with a software company that will create an online portal where members can create profiles, view jobs and contact each other directly.
Revamp your online strategy.
Are you using your social media accounts effectively? Take stock of your online content calendar and whether you could be doing a better job involving members online. For more in-depth information on this topic, visit Engaging Your Members Online.
Treat your members as individuals.
Your membership is not a monolith. You will improve the response you get if you determine a few key facts about members and communicate with them appropriately. Keep a detailed member database so that you know who to contact when you need a specific type of volunteer or need to solicit donations. Find out how members prefer to be contacted (phone, mail, email or text). If there are any other divisions specific to your organization (like small donors versus large donors or professionals versus
hobbyists), be sure to track this. You will want to communicate with each group about the right topics and in a way that makes the most sense for that group.
Maintain an active jobs board.
Most association members rank career advancement and job leads as a top factor in their decision to join an association. Having an active jobs board is a must. Visit Managing a Job Board for Your Association for more information on this topic.
Make new members feel welcome and long-time members feel valued.
Offer new members a welcome package and partner them with a longer-term member to act as a mentor. But don’t forget to appreciate your loyal older members. Be sure to offer special recognition for members at 5 years, 10 years and so on.
In everything you do to engage members, variety and tracking are key. Try new types of events, new types of fundraisers, new types of speakers and online content. Track your attendance and online engagement. Use that information to refine your strategy and repeat. Need some assistance with improving your member engagement? Contact us at J&M Business Solutions to discuss how we can help you manage your association to greater success!