Give Your Members What They Need at Every Career Stage

A new Community Brands study indicates that your members’ needs change as they advance in their careers. The finding suggests that there’s a lot of opportunity in an engagement strategy focusing on benefits that match career stages.

A professional might turn to an association for help for a variety of reasons—he or she might be looking for a new job, a networking event, an industry conference, professional learning, or a certification. But can you predict what that member might need even before the person asks for help?

A new Member Engagement and Loyalty Study released last week by the cloud-based software provider Community Brands suggests that associations can anticipate member needs if they focus on specific stages in their members’ career journey—and then design and engagement strategy that aligns with them.

According to the study, members who are at the beginning of their career are much more likely to engage with their association, but they’re less likely to renew—45 percent of early-career members surveyed said they’re “very likely to renew,” compared to 53 percent of mid-career members and 61 percent of late-career members.

The late-career members were also more likely to recommend their association to others, says Erin Shy, managing director of Community Brand’s association and nonprofit division. “The study confirmed that it is hardest to keep members in those critical first years,” she says.

That’s a big retention issue, especially since 76 percent of members surveyed said they joined a professional association either before they entered the workforce or within one to five years of employment.

Here are a few career-stage opportunities that associations may want to consider for boosting member loyalty and engagement.

Job resources are essential for early-career members. Early-career members ranked “job opportunities” third behind industry resources and training in overall membership value, but professional associations have room to improve if they’re looking to connect members to jobs, Shy says. “The data suggests that many associations are missing the mark on this opportunity,” she says. “Seventy percent of members said that job opportunities are an important benefit, but only 27 percent thought their association was doing a good job in this area.”

And there’s no doubt that career development benefits will grow more valuable as the employment landscape continues to offer more digital and global opportunities that create demand for new skills.

“Focus on tools and activities like career centers, job boards, and career fairs to better serve members in the earlier stages,” Shy says. “By focusing on the benefits that uniquely matter to new members, like training, industry resources, and job opportunities, associations can build long-term loyalty and drive higher retention.”

Industry information is valued at all career stages. Some member benefits are valued by almost all members, regardless of career stage. Overall, 53 percent of respondents ranked “industry information” as the most important member benefit associations provide, and it was ranked as one of associations’ top strengths as well.

Ethics support matters the most for late-career members. Don’t overlook the value of a code of ethics and other support services that help members faced with ethical dilemmas. A code of ethics was ranked highest as a benefit by late-career members: 59 percent of these respondents said it was a top priority for membership.

The big takeaway from the research? “Our study showed that what brought your members there definitely won’t keep them there,” Shy says. So it’s wise to design your offerings to serve your members at every stage of their career.

What type of career-stage benefits and resources does your association offer? Have they helped increase member engagement and loyalty? Post your comments below.

(Mykyta/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

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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