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Member Engagement: A Guide + 12 Strategies to Win Loyalty

A member engagement strategy is key to building loyalty and strengthening your community. Learn how to increase member engagement in this detailed guide.

Whether you’re an association, a nonprofit, or a union, as long as you’re a membership-based organization, you’re constantly exploring new ways to bring new members through your door.

With all the effort you’re putting in, it’s only natural that you’d want them to stick around for many years to come. And to do this, you need a well-thought-out member engagement plan.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the basics and benefits of member engagement, and then walk through some proven strategies that you can start using today. Here’s what we’ll cover:

By keeping your members actively engaged with all your benefits, event offerings, and online resources, you can build a lively community that not only maintains but accelerates your success.

Watch a quick tour of the iMIS engagement management system to learn how your organization can boost its member engagement today.

Member Engagement: FAQs

Before you start strategizing the most effective ways to engage your member base, build a strong foundation for your team by reviewing the fundamentals:

What is member engagement?

Member engagement refers to the ongoing involvement and interactions that your organization has with its members, revealing how connected they feel to your benefits and offerings.

Highly engaged members actively attend your events, communicate with fellow members, and find value in your membership program. They’re much more likely to renew their membership on time and even refer your organization to other people in their network. Because of this, 45% of association executives consider enhancing member engagement a top concern for the year.

Why is member engagement important?

Member engagement is the backbone of any successful membership program. By developing compelling strategies for engaging members, your organization can:

  • Boost member retention. Members who are happy with the role your organization plays in their lives will renew their membership year after year. This means that you can reap the benefits of your acquisition efforts to the fullest extent.
  • Acquire more members. If a member enjoys being a part of your community, they’ll likely talk about it with their friends, family, and colleagues. As a result, they can enhance your reputation and bring even more prospective members to your organization.
  • Improve financial stability. By having members you can count on, you can develop reliable sources of revenue through membership dues and other contributions such as donations or event registrations.
  • Increase advocacy participation. If your organization engages in advocacy activities to influence policy changes related to your mission or members’ interests, having engaged members can amplify your results.

Ultimately, mastering member engagement allows you to nurture a close-knit community of members who are invested in your organization’s success, supportive of one another, and united in the pursuit of your collective goals.

How do you measure member engagement?

Since so many factors influence member engagement, there’s no single number that reveals how engaged your members are. Instead, you’ll need to take a closer look at the various ways members interact with your organization. For example, start with these areas:

Key areas for measuring member engagement, as discussed in more detail below.

  • Participation. How many members get involved in your organization’s activities and offerings? Consider metrics such as your event attendance, volunteer sign-ups, and learning course completions to see whether you’re drumming up enough interest among your members.
  • Digital Engagement. Assess your organization’s online touch points with members by looking at platform-specific metrics. For example, you might keep track of the number of likes, shares, and comments your posts receive on social media. Additionally, you might measure your email open rates and website’s page views.
  • Direct Feedback. Members can reveal a lot about how engaged they feel through surveys and feedback forms. By asking whether they’re satisfied with your current benefits, event planning, and other involvement opportunities, you can get new member engagement ideas on your radar and make improvements as needed.

Effective engagement will impact broader metrics such as your membership renewal rate and the number of referrals you receive. Taking a deep dive into the elements that affect those numbers will help you improve your strategies over time.

Download our free Membership Performance Benchmark Report to keep up with all the latest member engagement trends and best practices.

12 Tried-And-True Member Engagement Strategies

Engaging your members is an ongoing and dynamic journey. Your members’ needs and preferences will shift over time, and so will your organization’s resources. By constantly improving your strategies, you can stay ahead of what members are looking for.

Explore these top member engagement ideas for inspiration:

1. Create a thoughtful onboarding process.

A strong first impression can go a long way toward nurturing loyal, engaged members for your organization. As soon as someone joins your membership program, help them feel like a cherished part of your community. Impress them during the onboarding process by:

How to increase member engagement by improving your onboarding process, as described in more detail below.

  • Sharing a welcome kit. Send the new member a warm welcome email. Address them by their preferred name, thank them for joining, and highlight the benefits you’re excited to offer them. Include a kit with all of the basic resources they’ll need to get up and running, including a summary of your organization’s background, an event calendar, dues information, and a branded keychain or t-shirt.
  • Assigning a designated point of contact. For some members, it can feel overwhelming to join a large, bustling community for the first time. To ease their transition, assign them a staff member or volunteer to reach out to for any questions or support. Or, you can even pair them with a more experienced member who can serve as a mentor for their first year with your organization.
  • Helping them make connections. Many people join membership programs to connect with like-minded individuals who share similar interests, values, or professional goals. Consider hosting meet-and-greet sessions with new members, encouraging them to join your social media groups, and featuring them in your email newsletter to give them a chance to start building relationships with others in your community.

After three or six months, check in with your new members. Share a short survey asking them about their onboarding experience, whether there are any improvements they’d like to see, and how you can continue to support them in their journey with your organization.

2. Segment your members.

Your members may all have a common interest in your organization and its purpose, but they’re far from identical. When communicating with and recommending opportunities to your members, ensure that you appeal to their individual needs and preferences. Try segmenting your member base by shared characteristics such as:

  • Location. Promote local events and meet-ups only to members who live in the area. For all other members, you can mention if there’s a virtual attendance option and point them to how they can participate remotely.
  • Interests. Share specific workshops, volunteer opportunities, and updates that you know your members will be interested in. For example, if you know many members are interested in developing their leadership skills, let these individuals know that you’ve just launched a mentorship program and encourage them to sign up as mentors.
  • Communication preferences. Some members may prefer to receive physical mail while others might enjoy interacting with your organization on social media. Tailor your communications to reach members in the channels they’re most likely to respond to.

Let’s say you’re a professional marketing association looking to improve its member engagement. Using your association management software (AMS), you could segment members based on their specific interests within marketing, such as email marketing, social media marketing, or content marketing. By sending each group educational resources, webinars, and workshop invitations related to their marketing area of interest, you can increase the chances they’ll respond to your offerings.

3. Engage members through multiple channels.

Your members have a lot to keep them busy in their personal and professional lives. Therefore, it’s essential to maintain frequent communication with them to keep your organization at the top of their minds. 41% of associations don’t have an ongoing communication program for new members, but those that do report seeing increased member acquisition and renewals.

Provide members opportunities to engage with you on multiple channels, such as:

  • Email. Send regular newsletters, membership updates, renewal reminders, and surveys.
  • Social media. Create social media groups, post shareable content, and engage in one-on-one conversations with members.
  • Your website. Provide educational resources, member directories, and discussion forums for members to interact with.

Lean into the strengths of each channel for maximum engagement. For instance, social media can have a broad reach, making it ideal for promoting your membership benefits and upcoming events to both existing and prospective members. Your website, however, can house longer, more in-depth types of content such as blog articles and research papers.

4. Send member engagement surveys.

Your organization’s relationship with its members is mutually beneficial. You provide them with networking, educational resources, and other personal or professional development opportunities in exchange for their membership dues and additional contributions.

Check in with your members frequently to ensure that they’re satisfied with their experience. You can send surveys related to your:

  • Overall membership program
  • Event planning
  • Communication methods
  • Volunteer opportunities

While it may not be possible to implement every suggestion you receive from members, use their feedback to identify the most important areas to improve upon. When you make these adjustments, update your members accordingly so they know that you’re actually listening to their input.

5. Plan engaging events throughout the year.

Events provide your members with something to look forward to, whether it’s an annual conference or a more casual networking session. Spruce up your organization’s calendar with a diverse range of types and formats, so your members are bound to find an event they’d like to attend.

Some of the most popular events for engaging your members include:

  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Panel discussions
  • Member appreciation parties
  • Networking happy hours

Include a good mix of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events throughout the year to give members a chance to participate no matter where they’re located or how tight their schedules are.

6. Provide volunteer opportunities.

According to Mayo Health Clinic System, volunteering can reduce stress and decrease the risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety, and general illness. Plus, it can open up opportunities to make new social connections and develop new skills.

Keep your members engaged by sharing plenty of volunteering roles that they can find fulfillment in, such as:

  • Serving as a mentor.
  • Running educational workshops.
  • Organizing events.
  • Creating blog posts or graphic design resources.

Set up a dedicated page on your website detailing all of the open roles you have and contact information for additional questions. This way, members have everything they need to get involved right at their fingertips.

7. Improve your member benefits.

Having a compelling range of benefits can catch the interest of new members, keep your existing members engaged, and even convince lapsed members to rejoin. If your member engagement needs a boost, assess your current benefits and consider incorporating ideas such as:

Member benefits ideas to increase member engagement, as explained in more detail below.

  • Job boards
  • Mentorship programs
  • e-Learning courses and certifications
  • Members-only publications
  • Industry-related deals and discounts

To pinpoint the most appealing benefits for your members, look at what similar organizations offer or simply ask your members directly.

Download our free Membership Performance Benchmark Report to keep up with all the latest member engagement trends and best practices.

8. Launch a referral program.

With a referral program, you can engage members by having them recommend your organization to other people in their networks in exchange for a reward or incentive. For example, you might offer:

  • Membership renewal discounts
  • Gift cards
  • Free event tickets
  • Branded merchandise

Explain the referral program details on your website, email newsletter, and member portal to inform your members of the opportunity. By promoting your organization, your existing members will feel more invested in your organization’s success, and referred members will automatically have someone they can connect with in your community.

9. Build a strong digital presence.

In today’s technologically-centered world, people spend so much of their time online. Whether they’re scrolling through social media or browsing the internet, provide them with easy opportunities to connect with your organization. Start by making your website the best that it can be. Consider the following website improvements:

  • Ensure that all of your pages are mobile-responsive.
  • Create a clear navigation menu and structure.
  • Add alternative text to images and captions to videos.
  • Establish an active blog and educational resources section.

The Victorian Branch of the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) underwent a digital transformation to design an improved website that could engage its members in new ways:


As the video explains, the Victorian Branch of NECA built its website on the same platform as its CRM, iMIS. It created a single sign-on system that made it easy for visitors to find resources, learn about current advocacy efforts, find nearby events, and even sell products online.

10. Share tailored content.

According to the Association Engagement Index, only 20% of members completely agree that it’s easy to find content, information, programs, and services that match their personal interests. By creating highly personalized experiences for members, you can ensure that they continue to recognize the value of your membership program from one year to the next.

Use the information you’ve collected from your members, including their feedback, to identify their primary needs and wants. When members access their member portal, they should be presented with relevant volunteer opportunities, upcoming events, and educational courses based on their previous interactions with your organization.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to manually curate these recommendations and notifications for each member. With the right software on your side, you can seamlessly track member behavior and automate these tailored communications (more on this later).

11. Encourage member-generated content.

Chances are, your members aren’t only interested in consuming content that’s relevant to their interests and experiences. Many of them might be more than happy to create content and share their perspectives with their peers. To build a stronger sense of community and pride among your members, consider inviting them to contribute member-generated content such as:

  • Blog articles
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Photos or video clips
  • Recommendations or reviews

With a mobile app that integrates with your membership management software, you can encourage members to post their own content in a public news feed and interact with their peers whenever and wherever they’d like. Essentially, you’ll be able to create an active, exclusive social network for your members to discuss relevant topics and updates with like-minded individuals.

Member-generated content can help members feel more invested in your organization’s growth and success, leading to more participation in other activities such as your conferences or workshops. Plus, their real, diverse experiences can come across as more authentic and trustworthy to prospective members.

12. Nurture connections between members.

A successful membership program does not only depend on the strength of your organization’s relationships with its members. A member who feels like they’re part of a tight-knit, supportive community is much more likely to continue actively participating in your activities and offerings.

Help your members forge lasting connections by:

  • Hosting a variety of networking events.
  • Maintaining a mentorship program.
  • Creating special interest groups within your organization.
  • Providing a searchable member directory.
  • Facilitating discussions through online forums.

You can even gamify interactions by awarding badges to members when they join discussions, ask questions, participate in networking sessions, and more.

Watch a quick tour of the iMIS engagement management system to learn how your organization can boost its member engagement today.

How to Increase Member Engagement: Additional Tips

To get the most out of your member engagement strategies, keep the following tips in mind as you apply them:

  • Invest in a comprehensive membership management solution. Member engagement is a continuous process that requires time, thought, and energy. Fortunately, member management software can streamline your efforts with features such as automated member renewals, mobile engagement apps, real-time reporting, and more.
  • Make accessibility a priority. Ensure that all of your members can appreciate your member engagement strategies, regardless of their circumstances or abilities. Your online content should be screen reader-friendly, your in-person events should accommodate people who have mobility challenges, and your communications should have translation options.
  • Appreciate your members often. Your members play a vital role in your organization’s success, so let them know! Send prompt thank-you messages for renewals and donations, wish members a “happy birthday,” and host occasional appreciation events for everyone to gather together and celebrate the power of your community.

Even if a member decides not to renew, understand that there are some reasons out of your control, such as time or financial constraints. Take the opportunity to learn from their experience by sending them a survey and asking them to elaborate on what contributed to their decision.

iMIS: The Top Tool for Engaging Members

Member engagement is no simple feat, but the right tools can make all the difference in your success. With an engagement management system (EMS) like iMIS, your team can handle all of the following on a single platform:

The features of an engagement management system (EMS) like iMIS, as mentioned in the text below.

  • Fundraising
  • Hosting and managing events
  • Scoring member engagement
  • Providing personalized experiences through a public website and member portal
  • Running certification and educational programs
  • Advertising

The iMIS EMS is purpose-built to facilitate every aspect of your member engagement strategies, combining membership management, CMS, and CRM functionality all on one platform. Whether you’re looking to earn more non-dues revenue through an online store or open up new professional development opportunities for your members, iMIS comes with all the features you need to hit the ground running toward your goals.

Wrapping Up: Reaping the Benefits of Member Engagement

Member engagement is a key ingredient in the cycle between acquisition and retention. As you add new strategies to your approach, review metrics such as event attendance and social media engagement to assess your results. Make improvements over time, stay on top of your members’ needs, and you’ll build a thriving community you can rely on year after year.

To learn more about tools that can streamline member engagement for your organization, check out these additional resources:

 Click through to learn how you can streamline your member engagement strategies with the iMIS engagement management system.


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