An active, dynamic membership program is beneficial to everyone at your association. From earning more at events and providing professional skill-building opportunities to creating a community of like-minded individuals, an engaged membership is a sign of a healthy association.
Improving your membership program is an ongoing process, and even programs that currently see success can benefit from experimenting with new ways to provide their members additional value. For associations looking to grow, leveling up their current membership program is the key to improving current member engagement and attracting new members.
To help your association grow and create more value for members, this guide will explore four ways you can enhance your membership program.
The more you can tailor your outreach to each member, the more likely they will be to engage with your association. After all, if you reliably share content and opportunities that align with a member’s interests, they’ll come to look forward to your messages and be excited whenever you appear in their inbox.
Personalizing your messaging starts by having sophisticated membership management tools. For growing associations, consider a flexible cloud-based system like Salesforce. Fionta’s guide to Salesforce for associations explains that while Salesforce is not exclusively an AMS, its high level of customization and range of functionalities make it a reliable platform for many associations.
With your AMS, be sure to:
- Create membership segments. Start personalizing your communication strategy by first categorizing members into meaningful groups. These segments may be based on how long they’ve been a member, interests they’ve expressed in the past, their overall engagement level, or any other factors relevant to your outreach. Customizable AMS solutions like Salesforce allow you to create tags, letting you create and designate members as belonging to any segment you can think of.
- Track members’ engagement history. When a member participates in an event, comments on one of your social media posts, or interacts with your association in any other way, make a note of it. Then, when messaging them, use these past interactions to decide what opportunities to highlight. You can even reference their past participation in these messages, such as thanking them for attending your last event when inviting them to an upcoming one.
- Maintain consistency. If possible, have the same member of your team reach out to the same members every time you communicate with them. This will create a sense of consistency and encourage members to associate your organization with a specific friendly face.
Outside of sharing engagement opportunities, you can use personalization for other types of messages using member data. For example, when sharing stories about your association’s impact, you might create member segments based on their engagement and tell different stories based on their interests. For those looking to advance their skills, you might emphasize how many accreditations you’ve given out that year, while those who have shown interest in your social good initiatives might instead receive a story about a recent partnership with a local nonprofit.
Encourage member generated content.
Continually creating new content for your members requires a significant investment of time and resources. While designing high-quality opportunities and content should remain a priority, you can expand your association’s offerings dramatically by encouraging user-generated content.
User-generated content is content that your members make and share with each other as part of their participation in your association, such as holding ongoing conversations on social media-fueled entirely by members’ comments.
Whether members are writing articles or answering each others’ questions, you can encourage their contributions by creating online spaces for them to congregate and discuss their shared interests. Tools like Salesforce Experience Cloud can be especially useful here, as it allows you to design a custom online space and integrate it with your CRM to sync important data points about member engagement.
When accepting user-generated content, be conscious that your association will have less control over how your organization is represented. You can help differentiate content created by members and that created by your staff by ensuring your association has a thorough brand guide.
Kwala’s guide to nonprofit branding explains how all organizations, including associations, benefit from clear branding, especially when reaching out to professional sponsors. If you expect partners and sponsors are likely to see your user-generated content, consider your moderation policies and how they can be enforced to allow creative freedom for members and maintain your association’s positive public image.
Experiment with new offerings.
You can provide your current members with additional value and attract new ones by expanding your association’s offerings. This might be a new course format, additional annual events, highly researched reports about ongoing events in your field, or anything else that might interest your members.
To ensure your new content is successful, make sure to:
- Conduct market research. Before investing in a new type of content, research what your members are likely to respond well to. Conduct market research by surveying your current members and analyzing trends in competitors’ offerings. If you have a target audience you want to recruit, take note of demographic information when collecting responses to ensure you’re collecting useful data.
- Highlight new content. When you roll out a new offering, accompany it with a marketing push to let members know it exists. This might include a highlight at the top of your newsletter, a banner on your website, a post on social media, and a promotional email specifically sharing your new content.
- Track engagement. In the first months of introducing new content or opportunities, carefully track how members respond to it. To get the most reliable data possible, consider taking steps to clean your data prior to your rollout. This will make identifying and organizing new information far easier.
To better track data about your new online offerings, consider integrating your website and AMS. Doing so can prevent data from becoming siloed in either system, providing more immediate feedback about members’ engagement. You can also showcase data in your AMS on your website, which can be useful for opportunities such as event sign-ups so you can show members how many tickets are left as they get purchased in real time.
Form new community partnerships.
You can provide your members with more opportunities by partnering with other organizations in your field or local community. For example, in a reciprocal partnership, you can provide your members with access to another organization’s resources, and in exchange, their customers, clients, or members will have access to some of your association’s services. Plus, you can promote your association to them as well, potentially expanding your membership base.
First, consider what types of organizations your members would like to see your association partnered with. This might include partnering with several smaller associations that offer similar benefits to expand members’ networking opportunities or joining forces with a nonprofit to promote advocacy initiatives.
When beginning a new partnership, ensure you emphasize the benefits of doing so for the other organization. This may be access to your content, exposure to a new audience, or the general benefits of pooling resources to host larger events and create more costly content for both organizations’ communities to enjoy.
You can ensure your partnerships will be long-lasting by continuing to keep open communication with the partner and your members. For instance, you may receive feedback from your members about how one of your partner’s offerings could be improved. When you communicate this input respectfully to the partner, you can help them grow and satisfy your members at the same time.
Finding new ways to engage your members is essential for your association’s growth. Leverage your technology to learn more about members to ensure your new offerings are tailored to their interests and will provide them with the value they look forward to from your association.