4 Tips to Cultivate Long-Term Association Member Retention

Associations recruit members by promoting the power of joining a community designed to connect industry professionals with common interests. Once members join, it’s up to your association to steward member engagement and demonstrate the advantages of your community.

Cultivating engagement is a delicate balance between creating more growth opportunities, communicating with members, and stewarding relationships with them. We’ve gathered 4 tips and tools to help you cultivate long-term member retention for your association.


1: Invest in Membership Management Software

Managing an association requires immense organization and attention to detail. With membership management software, your association can streamline administrative tasks, marketing, and membership management.

According to Fonteva’s guide for membership management software, associations should look for tools that align with their organization’s retention goals. Here are some features to look for when choosing technology to help with member retention:

  • Member profiles can give you insight into individual members’ engagement, by storing data about member attendance, event registration, e-learning courses, and communication engagement. Members can also add their industry interests and personal information to their profiles through a member portal.
  • Automatic member renewals can help you reduce membership turnover that can occur from individuals forgetting to pay their dues. Sending reminders weekly in the month leading up to membership renewal can help remind members their credit cards will be charged or give members enough time to pay their dues before expiration.
  • Payment processing can help with timely membership dues collection, registrations, refunds, and e-store purchases. With built-in processing, your association can stay on top of dues and expenses.
  • Analytics and reporting features can help associations evaluate successful programs and areas of improvement for better member experiences. It can also help you find patterns in member interests and involvement to better plan membership events.

Look for features that can help you keep track of and improve member interactions and experiences. Along with refining member management, membership software can provide data to inform your plans for meetings, events, and educational courses. 


2: Offer E-Learning 

When members join your association, they are excited to join a community of their industry peers, grow their understanding of the field, and gain valuable insights. To keep members engaged you can offer training, educational courses, and certificate programs.

E-learning is a popular program members can use to grow their industry skills and stay relevant in their field. Depending on your association’s industry focus, there are different types of e-learning courses available for the best interactive learning experiences.

Use e-learning courses to cultivate membership and enhance your association’s membership value by implementing different styles of courses such as:

  • Project based learning teaches members new skills through graded or simulated work. For example, members of a web development association could learn a new coding language through assignment modules. 
  • Discussion based courses focus on member understanding by having them reflect on course materials via conversations with fellow members. For example, a medical association could use discussion-based courses to review and discuss new research in the field. 
  • Collaborative work gives members the opportunity to work alongside their peers and network at the same time. This type of e-learning combines both of the above styles, as members can discuss new topics among peers and build projects together.

You can incorporate gamification into your e-learning by offering digital badges or certificates of completion to further entice members. Education opportunities can improve member experiences when they provide skills or training that members are able to incorporate into their everyday work and careers.


3: Host Events 

Hosting events is one of the best ways to steward long-term members. Association events truly immerse members into the community and introduce them to their peers. As our technology continues to evolve, it’s easier than ever to host a blend of association events from in-person to hybrid to virtual events. Shifting some events or aspects of events online can also help open up availability to members who may not have the time, financial means, or health to travel.

Here are some ways to incorporate different types of events to increase member participation:

  • In-person events are useful for multi-day conferences and long panel discussions. You can break up conference sessions with networking breaks and luncheons to foster community relationships.
  • Virtual events allow for accessible meeting spaces. Host networking events online by opening with an icebreaker activity or happy hour to make the online platform more casual. Your association can even send ice breaker or happy hour items like cooking kits or drink mixers.
  • Hybrid events are a great way to open capacity and attract new members to events. Online offerings make these events more accessible to members who can’t travel due to health or budget restraints or can only join for a limited time. You can also give members an exclusive link to share conference sessions with their peers to help with recruitment.

Before planning conferences or events, use your membership management software to assess popular industry topics and subject areas. You can then use this information to tailor event sessions, speakers, and panels to member interests. When your events are created with members in mind, they feel valued and will be more excited.

After your event, leverage digital badges to continue engaging members. Sharing badges on social media allows members to connect with each other and highlights a valuable takeaway from the event.


4: Request Regular Feedback 

As your member base grows, their expectations and wants will too. Include regular requests for feedback in your member communication cadences to ensure your association stays on track.

Incorporate feedback requests after events, along with your annual report, and after e-learning courses to improve your association offerings. Avoid leading questions like, “How good was your experience at the conference?” Instead, ask open ended or scaled answer questions, such as:

  • How would you rate your experience at this conference on a scale from 1-10?
  • What were your favorite and least favorite aspects of this event?
  • Would you recommend this e-learning course to a peer? Why or why not?
  • What would you like to see implemented in the association?
  • What would improve your member experience in the association? 

By asking members questions about their experiences, you gain invaluable information as well and make members feel appreciated and heard. Because members join to grow professionally, it’s important to ask how their experience in your organization has impacted them professionally

Asking for feedback is important, but it is even more important to use it to shape and refine your association and member experiences. Create cadences to read through feedback and plan how to build in member suggestions to your organization’s plans.

Association membership is an ever-evolving relationship between your organization and your members. Your organization will be able to cultivate long-term memberships if you continue to listen to members and adjust based on their needs. Members join because of the benefits your association can provide them, so remember to keep members at the center of the organization’s mission.

November 23, 2022

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