Do Your Members Need a Break? Add a Pause Button.

You might feel compelled to engage members constantly, but what if those touchpoints feel overwhelming or intrusive? A few associations and some subscription-based services let members press the pause button when they need a break.

What I’m about to say might sound counterintuitive to your member engagement strategy, but bear with me. Is it possible that your association does too much for members? The idea that less is more may not be popular among association pros with business or performance goals to meet, but I expect it rings true for a lot of members.

What if a majority of your members are experiencing email fatigue? Or they may be busy five-minute members unable to commit to volunteer tasks, big or small. On an individual level, a member may be experiencing a job transition, a personal or family crisis, or a medical leave that causes him or her to disengage.

Here’s the good news: According to Community Brand’s 2017 Member Loyalty Survey, a large majority of members (84 percent) feel satisfied with their organization, and 74 percent said they’re likely to renew. But an “always on” engagement strategy that’s not attuned to individual members’ needs can have the opposite effect of what you intend. From the member’s point of view, membership in your association starts to feel like a burden.

You don’t need to scrap your member engagement strategy altogether to avoid that fate. The solution might be as simple as allowing for brief membership “breaks.”

Some subscription-based services and a few associations already use this tactic, providing a personalized touch that lets members know you care and adds flexibility to their experience. Here are three ways you might (literally) give your members a break:

A dues pause. Last year, in the wake of an active hurricane season, the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses made a crucial decision: It temporarily paused dues, extending the deadline to pay for members who were affected by storms.

A dues pause might be beneficial in other situations too. Think about when members experience a job loss, take extended medical leave, experience a family emergency, or are called into military service.

The pause option can also be perceived as a member benefit. Just last month, YouTube announced that subscribers to its TV service could a pause it for up to six months. That’s an appealing feature compared to other online streaming services like Hulu or Netflix, which lock you into monthly or annual subscriptions.

A newsletter pause. Do you give members options when they decide to opt out of email communications? Online retailers like J. Crew, West Elm, and Bed Bath & Beyond know that customers sometimes feel inundated with email, so they ask customers if they want a 30- or 60-day pause from newsletters, rather than unsubscribing.

Instead of offering only a full unsubscribe option, consider adding a selection of preferences that allow members to manage the volume and frequency of the communications they get from you. It may be that they only need a momentarily pause rather than a complete opt-out.

A volunteering pause. Finally, most associations rely on members for volunteer support, but do you ever give them a break? In a rush to push people through a volunteer pipeline, you could risk volunteer burnout. If you want longer-term relationships with members, you may need to make sure there’s a beneficial offboarding process with time and space to reflect. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine does this with its outgoing board members through a conference call where volunteers talk specifically about transitions and future roles they wish to play in the organization.

Do you allow for pauses or breaks in the member experience? How do you do it? Post your ideas or comments below.

(flytosky11/Getty Images)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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