There are many reasons why your association numbers might be dwindling: low engagement, lack of offerings, or lack of renewal interest are just a few of them. But if you trace your decreasing numbers back to the start, you might find that the root cause of declining membership starts with onboarding.
What does your association’s onboarding process currently look like? For most associations, new member onboarding may consist of a welcome email. For others, it may resemble a packet with documentation explaining what they should expect as a member. Whatever your current process might be, it’s worth it to reexamine your entire member nurturing program to ensure that they don’t drop off before renewal season arrives – and that they stick around for many more years to come.
What is Association Membership Onboarding?
Association member onboarding is essentially a process or plan that will help your new members assimilate in the easiest possible way. Simply taking their dues and leaving them to navigate the ins and outs of the association is the fastest way to get someone to leave – so let’s look at what will make them stay.
Goals for your new association member onboarding process
- Be transparent about what they are getting when they join
- State the value of their membership up front
- Consistently reach out and establish a relationship
- Help them network by offering introductions
- Make it as easy as possible for them to participate
When it comes to revamping your new association member onboarding process, here are some things to consider:
Remove any obstacles
The best thing about a welcome packet or an email is that it removes the initial awkwardness of having the new member reach out to you about what they should do next. But the responsibility to integrate a new member doesn’t lie with them, it’s solely your responsibility to guide them through the next couple of steps until they are able to function within the association unassisted. For example, your welcome packet should include technical information such as:
- When membership payments are due
- How renewals work
- Association events and conferences
- Any membership model variations
- Benefits of their membership
- Include any notable members along with contact details
Make yourself available
If you have a solid welcome packet or email, that’s a great start. However, don’t disappear after sending them such important information. Most new members will have questions, and they expect to get answers (after all, they are paying). What’s more, is that constant communication is key to building a relationship. If a member finds it difficult to make a valuable connection, it becomes harder to motivate them to stick around.
Always provide your contact information so members know how to reach you. You could even make yourself available to your members by setting up an introductory phone call. While this works for some associations, you can always encourage communication via email or SMS depending on what you’re more comfortable with. Staying in touch on social media is also a good option.
If you choose to go with email communication, then it’s recommended to set up multiple campaigns, especially if there is an upcoming event that you think aligns with their interests.
Segment your communication
Speaking of interests, not all of your members will be interested in attending the same event. The good thing about this is that you will be able to segment your outreach to only the members who are interested in specific events, meaning your attendees will be more engaged and likely to connect with other like-minded people.
In addition to interest-specific events, it’s always a good idea to set up new members events. Your newest association members will most likely have the same questions, and these events are a great way to get people in similar situations started off on the right foot.
Ask for feedback
Feedback is so important for improving existing methods and offerings. If your new welcome process didn’t work out as well as you’d hope, you can identify what’s not working and still have time to make changes before it’s time for your members to renew.
Six months in is an ideal time to collect feedback, because it allows your members to get used to the way your association works, as well as establish connections. However, don’t feel that you only have to ask for feedback once, as you can also get feedback right after your initial onboarding process and after events.
One way to do this would be through an online poll or survey. Another way is more traditional, and that’s by asking your members to mail in their opinions. No matter how you collect it, feedback will help you refine your processes and identify what motivates your members so you can continue to develop ways to engage them.
Examples of onboarding methods and engagement strategies
- Welcome email/packet
- A webinar
- A walkthrough video or virtual tour
- Email campaigns
- SMS alerts (if permitted)
- Scheduled phone calls and check-ins
- Feedback surveys or polls
- Segmented events/new member meet-ups
Now that you have a good idea of how to switch up your onboarding process, what new member onboarding tips do you have for associations looking to boost their membership?
eBallot has worked with many associations to run their member surveys and votes. If you’re interested in learning how we can help associations like yours make decisions regarding your onboarding practices or membership retention strategies, check out our Who We Help page.