Creating strong member engagement is a journey. It is not just a once-off task that associations can check off the list. It requires reliable and regular consideration and effort. And it starts at the very beginning of a member’s experience within the organization. For this reason, the onboarding process for new association members is a crucial period of time. Organizations need to make every effort to take the new member by the hand and integrate them into the community. Here are a few tips for ensuring that you get it right with each and every member you onboard:
1. Take It To The Next Level
When a new member is being onboarded they have certain expectations. They assume they will be invited to an upcoming event in order to get to know the community. They know that they will be sent an email with introductory information. They may even expect to get a personalized note from leadership or another community member welcoming them to the group.
However, the truth is that associations can do better than this. With the data available today on social media and the power that association management platforms provide, you can gain enough insight to take the onboarding process to the next level. You could identify specific interests that the new member has, find other association members who connect with that interest, and set up an informal coffee. You could offer discounted tickets to a favorite local sporting event. You could connect them with information that has nothing to do with the organization, but they would see as fun, interesting, or valuable. The possibilities are endless, but creating this type of experience is what encourages members to stick around.
2. Follow Up
You are busy. There is never enough time, enough members, or enough funding. Because of this, new members can often slip through the cracks. Don’t let this happen. You put effort into recruiting the member and that will all be for nothing if they don’t engage in the organization and eventually fail to renew.
You need to touch base with each new individual. This might be a quick email. It could be a simple survey. Ideally, it will be a phone call. And this should take place around the three-month mark. You can answer any questions and find out what they want and how they feel they could better be served by the association. In short, you need to keep track of how happy your new members are or, if they are unhappy, pinpoint ways to address the problem.
3. Provide A Next Step
New members have energy. They are interested in the association and the benefits they will gain from joining it. The problem that most new members face, though, is confusion. They aren’t totally sure of how the organization works or what comes next. So instead of asking a new member if they have questions or just providing them with a bulk of information, you should direct them to specific actions that they can take. Give them a few options, but don’t overwhelm them. Initially, invite them to an upcoming event and suggest that they do something specific with the online portal, such as create their profile.
4. Set Something Up
You need to remember that it’s not easy to be a new member. It can be overwhelming and uncomfortable to walk into a large event and not know anyone. This is why many new members may not show up to events. You can prevent these absences and eventual disengagement by being intentional with new members and trying to create situations that are welcoming. There are three great methods for achieving this:
- Encourage new members to bring a plus one. Make it clear that the plus one does not need to be a significant other, although it could be. Suggest that the plus one could be a colleague who might also be interested in the association—this creates an additional bonus of recruitment.
- Set up a brief new members reception before the event starts. Develop the event in a way that includes activities or tables that encourage discussion and conversation.
- Appoint an association ambassador to each new member. Let the new member know that as soon as they arrive at the event, there will be someone who shows them around and introduces them to others in the association.
5. Don’t Make Assumptions About Communication
Not all new members have the same preference when it comes to the preferred method of communication. Some will want to talk on the phone. Others will just want an email. And then there are a few that would like to meet with someone in person. You need to know these preferences. Therefore, communication proclivities need to be asked about at the beginning of the onboarding process. Find out how often members want to be sent information and how they would like to receive it. There are two other good rules of thumb to follow when it comes to communication:
- Allow members to opt out of certain types of communication. This will not only allow them to not feel overwhelmed by emails and updates from you, it will also enable you to understand what certain members care about and see if any members are beginning to become disengaged.
- Inform new members about important information that is coming up and when it will be sent to them.
6. Prioritizing The Customer Experience
Onboarding new members is something you will do regularly and will continue to do for as long as the organization exists. That is why it needs to be considered a system and a process. It needs to be designed, perfected, and continually reviewed and enhanced. It should never appear to your members that you are scrambling. Many of the aspects of onboarding should be automated. And there needs to be a balance.
The onboarding experience should not be treated as an information dump, where you simply send new members all documents, links, and information in one go. It is a journey where information slowly trickles out, with the most important information prioritized at the beginning. You won’t get the experience perfect in your first design, but as you continue to form it, you’ll see the onboarding experience become better and better.