New association members join eager for personal connection, educational resources, and professional development. Imagine a new member—Member A— joins, attends events, recruits their peers to join, and eventually becomes so ingrained in your community that they try their hand in leadership and become a committee member. 

Now imagine new Member B joins, tries to attend events, but never feels fully invested, and eventually they lapse in membership. Which member ultimately generates more value for your community? Are you actively guiding your constituents through Member A’s path? 

As an association professional, you have the power to lead the way for your constituents, guiding them towards future engagement and even leadership within your organization, or towards churn through a lack of opportunities.

Follow along to learn how to steward leadership development:

From virtual event opportunities to ongoing communications, these strategies will set your organization up for success to cultivate emerging leaders among your base.

Foster community-building and networking

Association members are eager to feel a part of a community that enhances their networking opportunities. Cultivating community among your constituents is crucial to deepening their connection to your organization. 

Implement community building strategies, such as:

  • Organizing dedicated networking events
  • Leveraging an association management platform like Fonteva’s membership software to create a member directory and support online member groups 
  • Supporting the creation of member committees, with specific responsibilities and more active involvement in your association’s offerings

Cater to your members by providing a range of events to engage different professional interests. In-person or virtual networking events are crucial for stimulating conversation between members and fostering community. For a more personalized approach, lean on your association management platform to form online member groups to discuss topics that interest them.

Share personalized communications and invitations

A robust communication strategy is the backbone of member engagement. Consistent conversations and touchpoints with members can be a first step in learning what topics to address in more depth later on.

Actively listen to constituents when they mention they would prefer events, regular communication, or organization updates be presented in different formats. Association professionals can use constituent data to create a pipeline of engaging, personalized content tailored to each member’s goals, skills, and interests. This can also include whether networking and events are held in-person or virtually

The best way to retrieve feedback is to ask. Send your association members a survey requesting their feedback about their experiences in the organization, and they are sure to be impressed by your direct outreach. This allows you to show that you value their input, if they want to learn more about what offerings/programs are popular or not, and to identify individuals interested in deepening their engagement.

Incorporate these survey responses into your member directory so you can use this data to inform your communication strategy. For instance, you can build out more personalized communication cadences and program updates by creating an audience list of members who want to increase their engagement. 

Provide online learning opportunities

Online learning is an essential engagement strategy that allows organizations to support continued education and skill development, nurturing leadership within and beyond. By providing online educational resources, your association can become invaluable to your members’ professional growth. Constituents can gain insight into skills and topic areas that interest them, which naturally leads to engaging conversations in topic-based member groups. 

In our constantly evolving digital landscape, global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of working from home makes online learning accessibility more important than ever. Constituents are likely seeking opportunities to develop their time management, online communication, or even video presentation skills. As the world of digital work evolves, it is only natural to provide online learning for constituents to further improve their digital habits and online skills. 

You should offer a range of leadership development options, such as virtual panels, online classes, or in-person discussions. After your initial offerings, you can begin actively tracking how members engage with them. This will point you towards topic areas and event formats that are of interest to particular segments of your base, like young professionals, and help you uncover ways to offer them more value to drive additional engagement. 

Invite industry professionals to inspire young leaders

Inviting event guest speakers, such as leadership development professionals or industry experts, can make association events more enticing.These opportunities give members access to valuable leadership-building tools. In addition to hearing anecdotes about leadership in action, your members will be excited for the opportunities to participate in event activities alongside seasoned leaders. 

This can be especially helpful to provide insight to younger leaders about topics they want to learn more about, issues they’d like to advocate for, ways to incorporate leadership at work, or skills they want to hone—directing them back to your association for their professional development. 

Association professionals could also incorporate these resources from industry professionals into other outlets, such as uploading expert blog posts, on-demand webinars, and other content to their website. This gives members long-lasting leadership resources in a convenient digital format, complementing our era of remote work and learning. 

While not everyone can be a leader professionally, it is important to always steward leadership skills among your members. By cultivating new skills in every cohort of your member base, you’ll build a stable foundation for long-term growth and increased impact.