So you’ve just signed up three new members to your organization. Congratulations! Now how can you ensure that they all become active, long-term members rather than simply attending one or two events, and then disappearing? The first few months of any new member’s time with your association can be the key to their future retention.
On-boarding new members the right way
Survey them to see why they joined. Hopefully your membership application includes some questions about what the individual would like to achieve from his/her relationship with your group. Are they looking to network with fellow professionals? Do some hands-on volunteering? Do they love events and party planning? Or do they want to work behind the scenes? Find out how your members would most like to be involved and then be sure to follow up with opportunities to do so!
Send a welcome packet. You may think that in this day and age, there is no need to create and mail printed materials anymore when everything can be done digitally. Online communications are efficient and inexpensive, but there is still value in handing out or mailing a welcome packet to new members. Many people still love to receive mail and enjoy having a tangible handbook to keep as a reference. It needn’t be anything elaborate or expensive. An attractive pamphlet with information about your board, contact information, statistics, achievements, rules and so on will suffice.
Assign a buddy. A new member will feel more connected to your organization if they can chat with at least one or two other members before attending their first meeting. Shy types will particularly appreciate knowing that there will be someone to welcome them and introduce them to others. Be sure to spread this duty out amongst a variety of individuals so that there isn’t one person trying to welcome and orient 20 new members at a given meeting and answer all their questions. If you can pair a new member with an existing member that shares some of their same interests and goals, that’s even better. Younger members will especially appreciate meeting other people their own age, so try to match applicants to members close to their own age if you can.
Related article: How to Grow Your Young Professional Membership
Invite them to any social media pages, groups or online discussion forums that you have created. Encourage new members to introduce themselves in your online groups and post any questions or thoughts they may have. Be sure that you have someone assigned to manage these online gathering places to ensure that discussions stay respectful and that all questions asked receive a thoughtful reply.
Give them some swag. A logo t-shirt, hat, bumper sticker or tote that new members can show off with pride gives them extra buy-in and a feeling of belonging. Plus which, it becomes a conversation piece that they can use to interest other potential new members!
Ask for suggestions. A new member enters your organization with a fresh set of eyes and interests. Take advantage of their unique perspective and ask whether they have any thoughts about projects or goals that might be a good fit for your association. They may have some creative ideas. If they present some doable suggestions, offer to present it at your next meeting for discussion if they attend. Feeling like they are contributing and helping to set new organizational goals is a surefire way to draw members closer.
Have some special “new member” events periodically. Being a new member can sometimes be a bit intimidating. Showing up to an event where everyone seems to already know each other may be daunting for newbies. If you attract more than 3 or 4 new members over the course of several months, it may be worthwhile to host a special “new members” welcome event. Recruit a few of your most enthusiastic members to host the event and leave plenty of time for questions and getting to know each other.
Welcome them in social media and/or your newsletter. Who doesn’t love to see their name and face in print? Make it a point to introduce your new members with a photo (if you have one) on your social media platforms, or give them a shout out in your newsletter, and encourage other members to welcome them.
Offer plenty of opportunities to get involved and socialize. If your new members feel like they are contributing and begin to develop friendships within the membership of your association, they will be far more likely to stay as a member for the long term. Be sure to create plenty of in-person events, volunteer opportunities and other activities that keep your members connected and engaged.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. The main thing to remember is to communicate with all your members frequently, respond to feedback and questions and be open to suggestions. Engaging and welcoming new members is an ongoing process, but it will pay off in increased retention!