3 Ways to Connect and Engage Your Members Year-Round

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In a recent survey, 87% of association leaders considered member engagement to be an important performance indicator for their organization. Because engagement is essential for attracting and retaining members, you likely invest much of your time as an association leader toward strategizing the best ways to engage members. 

There are many factors that can impact engagement, from the communications your association sends to members to the topics you cover during monthly meetings. Events are one of the most effective ways to boost member engagement and motivate them to actively participate in your association’s activities. Typically, members attend events because they want to learn something new, listen to a keynote speaker, and connect with fellow members.

While highly effective, it isn’t realistic for most associations to rely solely on events to connect and engage with members. After all, events require extensive planning, budgeting, and marketing to run smoothly. Therefore, it’s important to create strategies that build member engagement between these events to maintain high engagement all year. 

In this guide, we’ll walk through how you can implement these strategies using your association management software to encourage members to connect with one another and take content creation into their own hands.

1. Request and feature user-generated content

Asking members to create their own content is a great way to give them more responsibility and ownership over the topics your association covers. This can also shift members from passive meeting participants to active ones who influence how and what your organization discusses.

Consider including member-generated content such as:

  • Member-generated videos. Members can create video tutorials, animate key infographics, put together recaps of your association’s activities and accomplishments, and record lectures. You can use these videos to supplement traditional meetings and presentations, highlight them during events, or upload them to your member portal.

  • Learning resources. If you have members who are passionate about a specific topic or knowledgeable about certain software programs, ask them to put together a resource for other members. For instance, they could create a detailed PDF with step-by-step instructions for creating a brochure on InDesign or a presentation walking through the benefits of using one program over another. These resources will allow them to share their in-depth expertise and experience with other members.

Accepting content created by your members ensures that you’ll cover topics they find useful and interesting. It also allows you to deliver content from people with a variety of backgrounds and lived experiences, elevating diverse perspectives and voices. This can also take some responsibility off of your association leaders’ shoulders when it comes to choosing topics and planning meetings.

2. Collect feedback

Consider sending out surveys to gather your members’ opinions about your association. This can help you better understand how to improve your strategies moving forward. By implementing their feedback into your programs, you’ll also show that you value what members think, which can encourage them to make more suggestions in the future.

According to Fonteva’s guide to member engagement, the best time to send out these surveys is after events, alongside membership renewal reminders, and at the end of the year. These surveys should include questions like:

  • How long have you been a member?
  • How often do you participate in meetings and events?
  • What kinds of events or offerings do you enjoy?
  • What topics or events would you like to see less of?
  • What is your preferred method of communication?
  • What can the association do to help you further your career?
  • Are there any suggestions you would like to make to improve the association?

Frequently sending out surveys allows you to center your members and prioritize improving their experiences with your association. Additionally, this can help you close any gaps between what your association provides and what your members expect to get out of their membership. When members feel satisfied with their experience, they’ll be more likely to renew their membership each year.

3. Encourage discussion

A sense of community and belonging is essential for retaining members for your association. To encourage members to build out a community within your association, it’s important to have members engage with one another, rather than only with association administrators, outside of meetings and scheduled events.

Consider setting up discussion forums that members can use to ask questions and discuss topics from events and meetings. You could create a few prompts to encourage people to share in these forums by asking something like “what is something new you learned from this presentation?” or “how will you apply something from this event to your career?” Then, other members can leave comments, answer questions, or expand on these points. These open discussions can also help members find peers who offer fresh perspectives they hadn’t considered.

A membership directory is a great resource for members who want to connect outside of association meetings and events to build deeper professional relationships. These databases contain important information about your members such as names, contact information, links to social media profiles, and photos. Because these directories list phone numbers and email addresses, they make it easy for members to tackle the first hurdle of introducing themselves and getting to know other members outside of your association’s events.

While events like virtual conferences, galas, and dinners will likely always be some of the most effective ways to get members to engage with your association, maintaining engagement after each event is just as important. Giving your members the chance to create their own content and resources, weigh in on how your association is doing, and connect with peers will keep them engaged in your association’s day-to-day activities and excited for your next event.

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