A new member’s first interaction with an association can make a lasting impression. There are a variety of different ways that you can onboard your members. It is important to personalize your member initiation to the particular needs of the new member based on what their expectations are. Every member relationship should begin with communication of some sort, and a period of learning about one another. From these conversations you can create a customized plan for providing maximum return on investment for the new member. This initial phase is when your association should make a positive impression and create a foundation baseline for the relationship going forward.

New members begin to form opinions about your association the minute they join. Therefore, it is important to make sure their initial experience enrolling is clear and concise. An association representative should welcome new members into the association and clearly outline benefits of membership. Association staff should be available for questions via email and phone for members, new and long-standing.

In addition to the initial conversation the new member will have with association staff, there are some key tasks involved in new member onboarding.

Welcome Email

Make sure that your new member receives some form of communication from your association as soon as the application is received in your inbox. Don’t let them think that their application is sitting somewhere in cyberspace. The first email should make them feel welcome and valued. The email should thank them for becoming a member of the association and define the member benefits they will receive. There should be a brief outline describing:

  • The organization’s values, vision and mission
  • The governance of the association
  • How to get started
  • Who they are able to contact should they have questions
  • What to expect from the association
  • Directions to links and membership resources
  • An association calendar to inform of annual events
  • Information regarding communications they can expect to receive and through which medium.

For more on communicating with members, read my colleagues’ articles Communicating Information to New Association Members and Creating Two-Way Communication Opportunities.

Let Them Do the Talking

There are different methods of creating two-way conversation opportunities with association members. These are two that have proven to work:

Member Survey

Once your new member is informed of your association’s mission, vision, values and objectives, it’s a good idea to find out what they need in terms of membership goals. Sending out a survey is a great way to learn about your new members, which in turn gives you insight into what they need to feel valued.

Face-to-Face Conversations

Having face-to-face conversations where possible also allows your members the opportunity to talk to you about their association membership concerns, interests, and praises. Talking in person creates a unique opportunity to have many members gather and bounce ideas regarding member needs. Follow up with those members within a week to show them the value of your conversation and answer any of the questions they had. Proving that feedback is valued creates a feeling of appreciation for the members from the start.

Don’t Leave them Hanging

Once you have made your member feel welcome it is time to keep the contact going. Making your member feel like they are important is as simple as picking up the phone and asking their opinions on ease of use of the member website including the login process, the search engine. Here you can also inquire about the general communication they are receiving from the association. A member needs to feel that the association is not just taking a member’s money and leaving them to their own devices.

In many cases you will need to hold their hand and walk them through their first steps to get them familiar with all that the association has to offer. Make sure you are removing any technical challenges and do your best to deliver immediate value. After a few months, ask new members to customize their communication preferences by selecting newsletters relevant to their interests. Invite them to use the member portal to complete their profile and add additional data that will help to customize their experience with the association. This information will also help on the back end for association member data and reporting.

Proving that all members are appreciated and welcomed into the association will help to set a tone of “member first” priorities. A happy membership leads to increased retention, increased member recruitment with ultimately creates more revenue for the association to use to achieve further goals.