3 Membership Benefits Every Member Will Appreciate

Think back to the goals your association set at the beginning of the year. Maybe you wanted to boost revenue by creating a line of custom merchandise, or perhaps you wanted to focus more on fundraising for causes your members care about. Or, maybe your goals are related to boosting long-term member retention.

A high retention rate is key to ensuring your organization has consistent revenue, a positive reputation in your industry, and valuable industry connections. While maintaining or increasing retention can be far from simple, there is one piece of the retention puzzle to zero in on if you’re looking to improve your results: member engagement.

Providing value to your members through exclusive membership benefits is an effective way to acquire, engage, and retain them. In this guide, we’ll explore three top benefits your association should offer:

  1. Networking Events
  2. Professional Development Opportunities
  3. Members-Only Discounts

Many people are drawn to join a professional association to further their careers and become connected with other successful professionals. Let’s start by walking through how your association can make this a reality with networking events.

1. Networking Events

Often, networking empowers people to secure the roles they want, earn promotions, and more. It’s a way to meet and establish relationships with people who could one day be your employers, colleagues, or business partners. For example, if you’re interviewing for a job and have someone at the company willing to vouch for you, you’re more likely to be remembered, get a follow-up, and even win the role.

Studies show that nearly 80% of people think that networking plays a key role in their career progression, with 41% of professionals indicating that they’d like to attend more networking events to expand their connections. Why not appeal to this desire through your association’s benefits?

Here are a few tips that will help you put on productive networking events:

  • Hold events frequently. Decide on a routine schedule to follow when holding these events, whether they’ll occur bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly. While the frequency of the events should consider your association’s budget and other resources, make sure you are also meeting members’ preferences. If members want regular events but you don’t have the budget for monthly in-person meetings, consider offering virtual networking hours instead.
  • Offer various formats. While more casual, unstructured networking events like a happy hour can be effective, they may not appeal to each and every member. To keep these opportunities fresh and attract a variety of members, make sure to offer diverse formats. One month you could hold a roundtable discussion where attendees introduce themselves and talk about a new study, while the next month you could organize a workshop to develop new skills.
  • Plan social and volunteer events. Organize fun events like bowling, attending a baseball game, or doing an escape room so members can build relationships with one another outside the context of meetings and conferences. To give back to a good cause, consider setting up volunteer days where members can work together to further a nonprofit’s work.
  • Link to a member directory. Using a member directory, attendees can learn more about their peers’ achievements, digital badges or certifications, professional experience, and even personal details like their location. Additionally, they can access contact information to make reaching out after events easier.

Your association should also offer ways for attendees to give post-event feedback. By regularly collecting feedback, your organization can keep better tabs on how members feel about the events and improve for the future.

2. Professional Development Opportunities

Offering your members professional development opportunities will help them hone their existing skills and learn new ones, making them more valuable in the job market. Because paying for courses, certifications, and workshops can be costly, offering them as a membership benefit will add more value to your membership program.

Here are a few things you’ll need to develop or improve your professional development opportunities:

  • Digital badges. As we explain in this detailed article, digital badges offer associations and trainers a meaningful way to recognize their stakeholders’ certifications, awards, and other continuing education experiences in a format that can be readily shared online. You can offer these badges as an incentive to complete educational courses. Once members earn a badge, they can easily display it through your member directory or on professional networking sites like LinkedIn to show their qualifications.
  • High-quality, interactive courses. It’s paramount that your courses deliver on the promises you make to members, so make sure they are authoritative, engaging, and high-quality. If your organization has the resources available, create interactive learning experiences by infusing multimedia elements into your courses. Consider having weekly meetings or a discussion forum available for learners to talk about the material and ask questions.
  • A robust AMS. Your association management tool should help you easily manage these professional development opportunities. Look for an AMS that has a learning management system (LMS) that can host and organize all of your courses to streamline the process for learners.

Your association should strive to keep these opportunities varied and aligned with both industry demands and members’ interests. Poll members often and perform industry research to inform your offerings.

3. Members-Only Discounts

While networking events and professional development opportunities should be your core benefits, it can help to add low-lift, smaller benefits to sweeten the deal even more. Exclusive discounts can differentiate your association and make potential members think, “Wow!”

These discounts should never be your association’s primary selling point, but they make for an easy-to-advertise, extra incentive when recruiting new members (because who doesn’t want to save money?). Offer an extra discount on products and services like:

  • Merchandise
  • Educational courses
  • Conference or event tickets
  • Local retailers or restaurants (if your association has a relationship with local business owners)

Evaluate your budget to determine which kinds of discounts you can offer. Aim to strike a balance between protecting your margins and offering attractive savings.

Use association management technology to facilitate the rollout of this benefit. Your AMS will need to have an eCommerce store you can use to sell items like merchandise or tickets. Test out the discounts feature to ensure it will fit your needs before promoting this benefit.

Take a look at your association’s current benefits and ask, “Are these offerings valuable, and will they engage our members?” If not, it’s time to revamp your strategy by creating new benefits that will help you attract new members, engage and retain current ones, and show that your association has offerings that justify membership dues and exceed expectations.

September 22, 2023

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