Associations Struggling with Member Engagement

Associations Struggling with Member Engagement

Sep 21, 2018 | Member engagement

55% of associations felt that engaging members was a challenge

When we speak with association leaders and subject matter experts about the most important challenges (pain points) they face, they will most often put member engagement at or near the top of the list. Associations know how important engagement is in keeping organizations healthy and advancing their mission but many are struggling to use their digital channels effectively.

A recent association benchmarking survey quantified the challenge of engagement. This study showed that 55% of associations felt that engaging members was a challenge.

Traditionally, member engagement meant participation in annual conferences, training programs, or purchasing publications. With the advent of email, social media, and scores of apps, digital outreach became a quick, easy, and less expensive way of connecting with members. These digital options also brought forth a substantial number of new competitors vying for members’ attention.

Oren Ahronson, CEO of InLoop points out that,

“With the huge volume of data and spam that we receive every day, a simple approach of posting content to a website, email, and on social media no longer achieves the goal of engaging members. This is especially true in trying to get members to engage with digital content. These responses elevate engagement levels which are crucial to increasing association member recruitment and retention.”

The rules of the game have changed. Associations need a more strategic approach with specific objectives and metrics. This white paper provides practical tips for increasing member engagement.


Defining Engagement

In a world where electronic communications transfer information in nanoseconds, bombarding your members with “information overload,” engagement isn’t just the existence of a relationship between an association and its members. You also need members acting on those communications and renewing their memberships.

Engagement = Member Recruitment + Action + Retention

The exact definition of engagement will vary across associations since each association has different goals, but the primary objective remains the same… increase engagement by increasing member participation, acquisition and retention.

Wendy Scott, a Partner at ReedScott warns that,

Often associations primarily focus on recruitment while tolerating a decrease in retention until it’s too late. Delivering valuable, customized content is one of the best ways to retain members and remind them of the value you provide to meet their current and, hopefully, unmet needs over time. Retention is crucial because it can cost up to six times more to recruit a new member than the cost to retain an existing one.

How do you know if you have an engagement issue with your membership? According to Reed Scott, there are several reliable indicators:

Warning Signs that You May Have a Retention Problem

 – your association has a retention rate that is less than 75%
 – attendance at conferences and meetings is decreasing
 – the number of members volunteering is decreasing
 – you are seeing a decrease in benefits utilization
 – your sales from multiple revenue streams are decreasing

The reason retention is so crucial is that it can cost up to 6 times more to recruit a new member than the cost to retain an existing one.

Measuring Engagement

It is important to measure engagement for the simple reason that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Without data, you have no information upon which to make sound decisions about which direction to head with your content and communication strategies. But, how can your association figure out how to measure engagement?

At a high level, measuring engagement is about aligning metrics to your strategic objectives. At a more detailed level, these metrics will be specific to each marketing channel.


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