Lost Members This Year? Here Are 3 Fixes for Associations

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Lost Members This Year? Here Are 3 Fixes for Associations

Studies show that association membership is on the rise, a welcome change after rates fell dramatically during the pandemic. Thanks to positive market changes, members’ finances seem to be in a better place, which allows them to continue paying dues. However, there are a few factors that could be harming member engagement, retention, and overall growth.

Specifically, associations are struggling to communicate the value of membership, and many display a lack of innovation. Consequently, when it’s time for members to renew, they might think that the cost of the membership outweighs the benefits or opt to try a different association. 

In this guide, we’ll walk through how you can use your association management software (AMS ) to implement strategies that help you add value to your memberships, communicate more effectively, and offer innovative experiences.

1. Make your events more engaging.

Events are a great way for your association to boost engagement, secure additional revenue, motivate members to actively participate, and inspire them to build their professional networks. It’s easy to highlight the value that events add to your offerings, and you can add obvious member perks like discounts or early registration. To help members get the most out of your events, make them as engaging as possible, whether you’re hosting your annual conference or a fundraising event.

Spread the word about the event and encourage your members to participate with strategies like:

  • Pre-event Q&As and resources. During your pre-event Q&A, members can ask questions about how to register for the event, what activities or sessions will occur, and any other questions they have. Share resources like brochures or flyers that explain all the logistical details of the event, include a list of speakers, and note anything members need to do to prepare. These preparations will get members excited about the event and proactively solve any obstacles standing between them and attending the event.

  • Prizes, rewards, and gamification. Offer incentives to motivate your members to attend or participate. For example, you could give free conference t-shirts to members who register by a certain date. Gamification refers to applying elements of gameplay (e.g., scoring points) to non-game scenarios. For example, during a fundraiser, you might track fundraising progress on a leaderboard and reward the top three fundraisers at your event.

  • Networking activities. Encourage inter-member networking with happy hours, group lunches and dinners, and fun community-building events. For example, if your conference takes place in Los Angeles, you might book a Hollywood bus tour for attendees. Allowing members to connect will prevent them from feeling lost among the larger group of attendees, creating opportunities for more personal connections and engagement. 

Another way to engage members is with interactive, hands-on learning experiences. They’ll sharpen their skills and get practice while learning from top experts. 

For example, the American Marketing Association often holds training events and workshops to help members upskill. During its Digital Marketing Bootcamp, attendees learn the basics in a foundation workshop, apply new knowledge during spring sessions, and collaborate with other attendees to exchange ideas and feedback.

2. Experiment with innovative ideas. 

Innovating means stepping outside of your association’s comfort zone. In other words, your association will need to change the way it operates, whether that means investing in new technology, launching a new program, or giving members more opportunities to contribute.

Here are a few tips that can help you find some great ideas and start innovating:

  • Take inspiration from other associations. Look around to see what innovative ideas your peers are using to engage members. For example, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) created the Realtor Property Resource (RPR) for its members. The data and analytics platform compiles information about properties, demographics, and marketing trends, and gives members access to important data on one comprehensive platform.

  • Embrace technology. Leverage AI for associations to provide personalized member experiences that would have been nearly impossible a few years ago. With AI, you can automatically segment members based on their interests and provide chatbot assistance on your website. Or, you could use the tool to aggregate helpful content and create resource libraries—there are plenty of possibilities.

  • Promote collaborative projects. Encourage your members to collaborate by accepting the content they create and motivating them to form member-led committees. Feature guest blog posts about niche topics or industry updates written by your members. Additionally, members can form specialized committees that research or conduct activities on behalf of the association (e.g., a healthcare association might have a committee that researches laws and best practices related to data security and patient privacy).

  • Seek external partnerships. Partnerships with other organizations can expand your offerings without significant costs. These partnerships could be as simple as promoting a vendor relevant to your field in exchange for discounted rates for members (e.g., a graphic design association partnering with Adobe). Or, your organization might ally with a similar association to provide larger events, pool resource libraries, and share expertise.

When you’re getting started, stick to implementing one new idea or project at a time. Not only will this keep association leaders’ stress to a minimum, but you’ll also be able to accurately track the impact of each idea. For example, if you launch a mentorship program and see an increase in engagement and renewals, you’ll know that the idea was effective.

3. Refine your communication strategies.

The performance of every campaign carried out by your organization can be linked back to your communication strategies. To retain more members, revisit your marketing efforts to determine whether you’re sharing well-timed, relevant messages with the right audiences.

With these helpful techniques, you can revitalize your communication strategies: 

  • Personalization and segmentation. Segment your members based on characteristics like their location, engagement history, and demographics. Use this data to greet them by name and make recommendations that align with their interests. Fonteva’s member engagement guide also recommends implementing targeted ads that “reconnect with users who have previously engaged with your website” by prompting them to take actions tailored to their interests.

  • Renewal letters. Each year, members decide whether they’ll pay their dues or allow their membership to lapse; this time is critical for your association. Fundraising Letters recommends sending a renewal letter that tells them how valuable they are to your association, reminds them of the perks you offer, and highlights renewal incentives (e.g., a discount for renewing early).

  • Surveys and thank you messages. Make sure that your members feel thoroughly acknowledged and appreciated by your program by sending out thank you letters and surveys after they attend an event or submit dues. Feedback surveys give members a chance to voice their opinions and provide suggestions for future programming. Your messages of gratitude recognize their support and encourage continued giving. 

If you need additional help implementing any of these engagement techniques, consider investing in an association management system. An AMS will streamline operations across your various communication strategies, from dues renewal alerts and event reminders to thank-you messages.  

Market trends point to increased membership growth and retention. These strategies will help you take advantage of this momentum so you can level up your recruitment efforts and limit member attrition. If you stay dedicated to innovation and clear, personalized communication, you’ll develop deep relationships with your members, and your association’s value will speak for itself.

About the Author

Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer, Fonteva

With over two decades of experience marketing association technology, Fonteva CMO Jake Fabbri has developed a deep understanding of the unique needs of associations and the challenges technology can solve. Jake’s marketing expertise has been honed by demonstrated excellence in the areas of lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.

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