What Does “Member Engagement” Really Mean?

September 10, 2020

member engagement for associations

To association leaders, there are few things more valuable than a highly-engaged member base. Engaged members invest more time, money and attention into the association. This strengthens its credibility with sponsors and increases a member’s lifetime value. Poor member engagement, by contrast, undermines member retention, association revenue and appeal with sponsors.

However, assigning a concrete definition to member engagement can be challenging. Indicators of engagement vary between associations. Here, we’ll explore the definition of member engagement in greater depth, including how it can be increased and eventually leveraged. Armed with a deeper understanding of member engagement, you can take action to deploy the tools you need, and begin tracking meaningful engagement goals in your own association.

 

The Definition of Member Engagement 

Broadly speaking, member engagement can be defined as: The process of actively building, nurturing & managing relationships with all segments of your audience to increase membership volume, value and retention.

Furthermore, engagement can take shape in a number of ways.

Examples of member engagement include:

  • Attending association events & conferences
  • Networking with other members
  • Purchasing association merchandise
  • Referring or recruiting new members
  • Participating in an association committees
  • Using an association mobile app to:
    • Consume valuable content including videos and news feeds
    • Contribute and participate in live discussion forums
    • Interact with sponsors and members
    • Join and manage committees and small groups
    • Register for events
    • Get timely and relevant content pertaining to members interests
    • Make dues payments
    • Contribute valuable data from polls & surveys

 

Why Is Member Engagement Important? 

An abundance of studies show that member retention is strongly correlated with member engagement. In 2018, 37% of associations polled listed “lack of engagement” as the top reason for non-renewals. In 2019, 83% of alumni associations who reported year-over-year increases in member renewals had a tactical engagement plan in place. One study showed that associations with longstanding member engagement programs had 11% higher renewal rates than those without engagement programs. 

The importance of engagement also extends far beyond member-based associations. Parallels can be drawn with employee engagement in business and customer engagement in marketing. In all cases, it contributes to the vitality of an organization. To that point, companies with a highly engaged workforce outperform competitors by as much as 147%

 

How to Set Member Engagement Goals 

Because engagement KPIs (key performance indicators) can differ across associations, it’s important to pinpoint the specific KPIs you’ll need to track. To determine your member engagement KPIs, start by carefully examining the unique features of your organization. To take a more strategic approach to member engagement, consider presenting the following idea to your team: “When members aren’t doing XYZ, our association is not doing well. When they are doing XYZ, our association is thriving.” After you’ve developed an idea of your engagement indicators, set a realistic, numerical goal with a time frame to achieve it. 

Example member engagement goals include:

  • Increase event attendance by 30% over the next 3 months
  • Have 75% of members download the association’s mobile app within 1 year of launch
  • Drive 250 purchases of branded merchandise during key annual event

With a long-term roadmap to guide your efforts, you create measurable goals to strive toward.

 

How to Increase Member Engagement

Historically, associations have engaged their members by distributing welcome kits, hosting community events, and providing a variety of discounts and perks. Recently, the maturation of digital media has allowed many organizations to expand their reach, engaging members across avenues like email, mobile apps and social media. 

Among these new digital channels, mobile apps have emerged as one of the most powerful means for engaging members. Remember, most of your members have a full-time job; they are working 8–12 hours a day. The idea that they’ll sit down in front of a web browser to ‘check in’ on their association news is pretty much over. 

With a customizable association app, you can engage your members by:

  • Sending push notifications for immediate, effective communication Whether sharing important updates or announcing events, push notifications engage members more effectively than traditional communication methods, like email.
  • Increasing access to association resources A well-built mobile app allows members to access information and resources on-demand, while offering a smoother user experience than a mobile responsive website.
  • Providing a better experience at events and conferences Through features like location services, QR codes and digital itineraries, event mobile apps can be used to help association events run more efficiently for attendees.
  • Networking and participating in committees or small groups Push the engagement and conversations online. Provide members the ability to manage and drive small group and committee participation within your mobile app. 
  • Collecting member feedback to improve the association Rather than mass-emailing a link to a lengthy web-based survey, you can seamlessly solicit member feedback within your mobile application.

Your mobile app can become the central place for your association information. Mobile apps help associations maximize their presence in members’ lives by improving upon existing member communication efforts. This results in stronger member engagement.

 

How to Leverage an Engaged Member Base

Once you’ve succeeded in creating a more engaged member base, there is a lot you can do with it. Devoted members can almost be likened to “fans,” whose brand loyalty affords a number of valuable opportunities to the association, including:

  • Targeted sponsorship and marketing opportunities Members with defined interests and affiliations are attractive to sponsors who need to reach a targeted audience. Sponsors will often compete for access to a highly engaged audience; if you’ve diligently tracked engagement KPIs, you can even present hard stats when soliciting new sponsors.
  • Attracting more members A satisfied member base is an association’s most effective marketing tool. Through word-of-mouth marketing and referral programs, communities with an engaged membership will continue to thrive and grow.
  • Improved quality of data Engaged members are more open to providing high-quality, detailed feedback in polls and surveys, further elevating your understanding of your constituency.

The Best Solution for Member Engagement 

Member engagement is a key driver of success in all areas of your association. Over time, a variety of methods for boosting engagement have emerged, from social media platforms to email marketing campaigns. Among these technologies, mobile apps have quickly taken the lead, providing associations with some of the most effective tools for improving outreach and retention. A mobile app, done right, can provide a number of effective tools to drive engagement results that a website or community portal have simply failed to do.

While making the leap to mobile may feel like a challenge for some organizations, expert app builders like MobileUp can help the process feel seamless. With a full suite of mobile tools, highly customizable user interfaces, and a proven track record of serving the association industry, MobileUp is the perfect partner for keeping your members informed and engaged. Now is the time to adopt mobile technology and send your member engagement rates soaring.

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