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Membership Management: 4 Top Ways to Maximize Engagement

Your members are more than a source of revenue for your association. Members who find value in your member community don’t keep their feelings a secret. They’re not shy about telling their friends and coworkers that they’re a member of your association. They share news about your association online and wear your branded merchandise with pride!

Engaged members become your association’s best ambassadors. No amount of advertising can equal the impact of testimony from a member who truly feels like they’ve found a place they belong.

That said, it’s important to think about boosting member engagement as the best way to set your recruitment strategy up for long-term success.¹

With an engaged member base, word about your association’s value will spread organically, supporting your greater recruitment efforts.

The next time you revisit your member recruitment strategy, consider these top four tips for maximizing member engagement as a long-term investment:

  1. Establish online member communities.
  2. Offer online learning opportunities.
  3. Host an in-person event.
  4. Promote philanthropy.

With these member engagement tips, you’ll be sure to retain the members you have and attract the new members you want!

And before you get started, make sure you have the right membership management software to help you put these strategies into place. Start with Fonteva’s ultimate buyer’s guide to association management software.²

Establish online member communities

The trick to achieving a sustainable, engaged member community is granting your members as much agency as possible. When you empower your members to take charge of their own level of engagement, they will focus on the elements of the community that are most rewarding to them.³

With the right association management software, it’s easy to set up opportunities for members to make the community their own. Namely, ensure that you’re using software that allows you to set up online member communities.

Communities hosted by your association management software create a virtual space for members to connect through their common interests, always finding new reasons to stick around and invite their colleagues.

When setting up online member communities, ensure that your members can:

  • Create and personalize new member groups.
  • Add other members to their groups.
  • Send messages to other group members.
  • Organize their own group events.

These communities serve as spaces where members can connect when they can’t meet in person. As such, online member communities are especially important for large associations with members located around the country or the world.

Even if your association meets once or a few times each year for a conference or local networking events, an online community is essential. This virtual space keeps conversations and engagement at the forefront in the months between meetings.

Plus, these online communities give your members a reason to log onto your software.

Once there, they encounter other ways to engage with your association. Read on to discover how to foster and target these other opportunities!

Offer online learning opportunities

Of course, providing the platform for member engagement is the most important first step to a strong member community.

But you can’t just rely on your members to drive engagement on their own. Instead, consider the opportunities your association has to provide value that your members can’t get from anywhere else.

For example, trade associations and professional societies, in particular, are uniquely situated to further their members’ education through eLearning!4

The educational resources you can provide to your members rely heavily on the amount of time your team has to put the program together. Even if your association doesn’t have an existing educational or certifying department, you can start small with one-off eLearning experiences and then work your way up to more sustainable programs.

If you want to provide opportunities for eLearning, consider:

  • Webinars. Invite your members to webinars on topics related to your association’s mission, then award points for every webinar attended. Collecting a certain number of points earns members a badge or membership level.
  • Online lectures. You can pre-record video lectures and accompanying educational materials, then automatically email certificates to those who complete your program. Make sure to include a way for attendees to submit questions and feedback.
  • Virtual classrooms. Add evaluations to your online lectures, and you have a virtual classroom! These evaluations can be automatically administered at certain points in the lectures, and you can require them to be passed before a student can move on.

The more well-known your online education program is, the more compelling it will be as a recruitment strategy. Be sure to display certifications, badges, or ribbons on your members’ public profiles, and advertise classes and webinars on your social media profiles.5

Host an in-person event

Online opportunities are great for bringing members together without requiring them to leave their homes or offices. But when it comes to a surefire method for boosting engagement, nothing comes close to an in-person membership event.

You might be considering a conference, a networking lunch, or even a lunch and learn series. Whatever you decide, make sure that your event management software solution can support the following essential features:

  • RegistrationYou might limit your event to just members, or you might want to provide different ticketing packages to some segments of members but not others. Ensure your event management solution is integrated with your CRM so the software can enforce permissions based on information in your member profiles. We recommend planning events in Salesforce to make this process easier!6
  • Membership SalesIf you limit the guest list to just members, some non-members may want to purchase a membership just so they can attend. Make sure that a non-member can purchase a membership and a ticket to your event during the same checkout process just by adding both to their online cart.
  • Add-onsWill you be hosting additional networking events? Will you be selling branded merchandise? Will you provide opportunities to buy meals ahead of time? Let your registrants choose these add-ons during the registration process to keep lines short when it comes time for the event to begin.
  • SponsorsEvents of all sizes present excellent opportunities to work with corporate partners. You need a way to keep track of your sponsors, especially the perks you plan to offer them in return for their sponsorship (e.g., their logos on your program or a set of free tickets to your event).7

You don’t even have to take the lead on planning your events! If your association’s members are spread over a wide geographic area that’s already divided into chapters, give these local chapters the agency to organize their own events online.

Promote Philanthropy

When your association looks for ways to encourage engagement by providing value, take a second to look out of the box.

Educational opportunities and networking events provide a specific kind of motivation for your members to actively participate in your community. They want to boost their professional standing, and you’re providing an opportunity to do so.

But more altruistic motivations encourage engagement in the same way! Philanthropy brings a group together in amazing ways.8

When your members have a common philanthropic cause to work toward, they will feel like a part of something greater than the association itself.

If you haven’t already established a philanthropic arm of your association, it’s time to bring a team together to discuss the cause you’re going to support. Some common starting points are:

  • A cause connected to your association’s mission. A teacher’s association could host a school supplies drive for their local elementary schools.
  • A cause supported by a local nonprofit. Small associations or large associations with lots of local chapters can partner with local nonprofits or large nonprofits with local chapters.
  • A cause that everyone can get behind. Any company can organize a charity walkathon to benefit cancer research.9
  • A cause your members tell you to care about. Send a survey to members through your association software solution, asking them to vote for a set list of causes or submit their own.

Especially for associations that haven’t delved into the word of philanthropy before, you’ll need to take some time to get familiar with the sector. Consider talking with other associations like yours to get an idea of how they organize their philanthropic efforts.

Philanthropy is a true team effort. Ask for volunteers from your member community to form a philanthropy board, along with members of your association’s administrative team.


When your members are truly engaged in your association, you’ll realize that they are the best recruitment strategy you could have!

If you want to learn more about member engagement or other topics discussed in this post, check out these helpful additional resources below:

  1. http://www.blueskyelearn.com/2018/03/3-strategies-to-recruit-members/
  2. https://associations.fonteva.com/association-management-software-guide/
  3. https://associations.fonteva.com/association-management-systems/
  4. http://www.blueskyelearn.com/2017/10/10-tips-zero-elearning-hero/
  5. https://www.salsalabs.com/blog/top-nonprofit-social-media-tools
  6. http://events.fonteva.com/salesforce-event-planning/
  7. http://www.blueskyelearn.com/2017/06/sponsorships-that-sell/
  8. http://www.blueskyelearn.com/2017/07/building-community-content/
  9. https://blog.fundly.com/fundraising-ideas-for-cancer/

 

About the Author

Jake-Fabbri-Headshot

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.

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