A lot of time and money can be spent on attracting new members to your association. Once a new member has been sourced and approved, it is important that they are given a good first impression of the association to ensure their ongoing membership. As association managers, we can sometimes take for granted how overwhelming joining a new association can be. There is a tsunami of new information and processes that the new member may be exposed to all at once. It is therefore crucial to deliver this information in a clear and concise way so as to not overwhelm the new member. When providing the new member with information it is essential to look at what and how. What information is given to new members right off the bat and How that information is delivered.
As association managers, we can learn a lot by fostering good relationships with members and including them in the orientation process. In order to determine what information is helpful to a new member it is a good idea to get existing members involved. Members of an association’s board of directors or committees can offer input as they have been through the new member process and know what was helpful to them, what wasn’t, and what they wished they had received. For each of the associations that we manage, existing members have helped us determine what should be included in a new member package.
A typical new member package for one of our associations would include the following documents:
1. Log in information for the member section of the association website – this includes how a member can update their profile and how membership dues can be paid online.
2. Membership requirements specific to the association – this can include continuing education points or association participation standards that are required in order to maintain membership with the association.
3. Legal documents – some associations may have ethical codes, standards of practice or insurance requirements that new members need to be informed of immediately.
4. Background information on the association – the new member has probably seen this throughout the joining process however it can be helpful to give the new member a reminder on how the association came to be and what its goals are today.
5. Member benefits information – new members need to be aware of all of the benefits associated with their membership. This may include discounts, access to online or printed publications, etc.
Now that we have covered the What, we can look at How this information is delivered to the new member. The information package should be sent by the association in the format most appropriate for its members.
Some associations are still paper-based and prefer to send things by mail whereas others have embraced a more modern method and send things online. The associations that we manage tend to favour this method but still send copies of some documents by mail so that members have a hard copy.
Once the information has been received by the new member it is important that they know that the association staff is available to help with any additional questions that they may have as they begin their venture as active members. It is great to get existing members involved as they can be excellent resources for new members. One of our association clients has a mentorship program for this reason. A past president of the association is paired up with the new member and acts as their mentor while they get settled into the association. The mentor will meet with the new member as soon as they join and talk through the various processes and expectations that come with membership. The mentor is available to the new member for any questions and/or clarification. Sometimes a mentor can offer different insight than the office and it can also help foster a relationship with an existing member. Gaining an early sense of community with an association can help a new member realize added benefits early on in their membership.
What information is given to a new member and How it is delivered will vary based on the association. However, the goal remains the same – that a new member feels confident in their understanding of what the association stands for and what is involved in their membership.
If this information is clearly relayed to the new member and they have a positive first impression of the association they are more likely to stay on as members. This will save time and money and will help enhance the credibility of the association as a whole.