As an association leader, you know the importance of engaging your members. How you communicate with members and the opportunities you offer directly impact their experience with your organization and the chance that they’ll renew. With a dedicated and comprehensive engagement strategy, your member retention rate is much more likely to increase!
However, it’s likely that your more traditional engagements are on pause. As the global pandemic continues to keep many indoors and away from large in-person events, your regular member meetings and large conferences must either be postponed or pivoted to the online space.
Managing your members is no easy feat— it requires dedicated association management software as well as a strategic plan for engaging your constituents. The right tools and strategies can increase overall member satisfaction and encourage them to renew.
This guide will walk you through the best ways to engage your members, exploring both in-person and online methods. Keeping best practices for both circumstances in mind is crucial for when in-person and hybrid events become the norm again. Here’s what we will cover:
Effective member engagement will always be important if you want your association community to grow and thrive. Let’s begin!
The importance of association engagement
The reason many people join associations is to be a part of a community, expand their industry knowledge, and network with other experts in their field. Your engagement efforts should aim to meet those needs—after all, the value your association offers has to outweigh the cost of membership.
Sometimes, association leaders put too many of their resources into acquiring new members, and they don’t focus enough on engaging and retaining them afterwards. If those members do decide to leave, the time and effort into attracting them is ultimately wasted. If you can only focus on either recruitment or retention, it’s more cost-effective and beneficial to focus on the latter. However, that doesn’t mean you forget recruitment efforts altogether!
So, what exactly does association member engagement consist of? It should encompass your entire relationship with members, including each email you send, member responses, the opportunities you offer, and more. It should build the relationship between members and your association, as well as with each other.
In order to effectively engage members and constantly improve your methods, you need to track interactions with each member. The engagements you track and where you gather data differ from association to association.
According to this Fonteva article on member engagement strategies, you should “take the time to gain insight into where your members are already active.” For instance, consider the following popular ways to track data and compare it to your association:
Take a look at these metrics and note which ones elicit higher rates of member activity. It is reasonable to assume that on those channels where your members are particularly active, that they are receiving value from their membership, increasing their chances of renewal.
In-person engagement ideas
To flesh out your own association member engagement strategy, let’s explore some of the top ways you can interact and provide opportunities for members to meet and network with each other.
Person-to-person engagement is one of the best ways to deliver value to your members. After all, they joined your association in order to meet like-minded people and gain meaningful experiences. Facilitating in-person interactions is one of the most important roles of any association leader, and it’s up to you to brainstorm the opportunities you offer.
Here are some of the most common in-person member engagement ideas:
During 2020, the challenge has become that many of these events, with large numbers of people congregating together, are no longer possible. Depending on where you live, there might even be bans on how many people are allowed to gather in one place. In order to sustain your member engagements and continue to offer them value, consider your online efforts.
Online engagement ideas
As we get used to this new normal, association leaders have been ramping up their online member engagement tactics. From communicating with members through email to the online opportunities you offer, it’s crucial that you also come up with a dedicated digital engagement strategy.
Your online engagements will only be as good as the tools and software you use. It’s recommended that you invest in a comprehensive all-in-one system instead of depending on a piecemeal solution of independent tools. This way, your tools and their capabilities can expand and grow as your organization does. Plus, this will ensure all of your association engagement data is centralized in one place.
If you’re unsure of the online engagements you should be providing to your members, consider these suggestions:
One of the downsides of online engagements is that they lack the human connection found with face-to-face interactions. In order to connect with your members via digital means, remember to personalize all engagements and take their feedback into serious consideration. If a lot of them are looking to advance in a specific skill set, make sure you keep this in mind as you’re planning any future online courses.
Pivoting to a virtual event
If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that quickly pivoting a regular in-person engagement to the online space is not just a helpful suggestion, but sometimes a very necessary one.
You likely had to cancel or postpone some of your regular in-person events this year. Instead of losing out on a great opportunity and disappointing your excited participants, consider transitioning that experience to the virtual space.
If you find that you have an event or other in-person engagement in crisis and cannot host it, follow these tips to ensure that you’re able to successfully transition it to online:
Pivoting to a virtual event is not an easy feat, but it can be done with the right tools and preparations in mind. Remember to consider any technical complications that may come up, and provide your staff and association members with all the resources they’ll need. Make sure you test each tool beforehand!
As we get used to this new normal, keeping in mind both online and in-person engagement tactics will help position your association to provide a positive member experience. Technology will only continue to advance and expand, so the online engagement opportunities you offer will also grow in importance. Whether it’s for a purely virtual event or a hybrid one, make sure that your tools are capable and that you’re ready to track all engagements. Good luck!
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