Attract and Retain a Diverse Member Community by Meeting Members Where They Are

Community-enabling technology keeps members engaged before, during, and after your events, opening doors for highly personalized engagement.

By Lizzie Urban, Sr. Manager, Product Management at Higher Logic

People join associations to rally around shared interests or causes. But that doesn’t mean all of your members share the same engagement preferences—and if they do, you may want to consider how effectively you’re capturing members from across your industry.

The benefits of cultivating a community with varied viewpoints and backgrounds are numerous, improving everything from creativity to problem solving and decision making. Appealing to members of all kinds is a matter of meeting them where they are, and that’s where online engagement technology comes in.

In a systematic analysis of conferences held in 2020, researchers found that online and hybrid engagement options reduced financial, administrative, geographical, and disability-related barriers to participation.

“We observed a dramatic increase in the number of participants from under-represented minorities, as well as in international attendees, including those from developing countries,” researchers noted. “The remote format allowed more people to present their work and attend events by offering recorded lectures by on-demand online services and eliminating physical space limitations.”

Employed strategically, your virtual engagement strategy can also democratize access to your association. Whether you’re looking to give members a space to connect, centralize member resources, or spread the word before and after events, the following advice will help you better serve all corners of your industry.

Create Excitement Before, During, and After Events

Effective relationships between live and online resources are complementary rather than competitive.

For example, community-enabling technology is great for creating personalized marketing messages that keep upcoming online, in-person, and hybrid events top-of-mind. With the right digital tools and platforms, associations can segment their membership based on variables like location, career status, and engagement preferences—and market to those subcommunities accordingly. (Depending on the tool, you can even automate this segmented messaging, reducing the effort needed to achieve a personalized experience for each member.)

Whether you’re holding a virtual, in-person, or hybrid event, it’s also a good idea to create an online space for event engagement where attendees, sponsors, and staff can ask questions, access additional resources, and chat about sessions and speakers.

The space can be used during the event to get people talking and foster a sense of enthusiasm. Afterward, attendees will have a place to access slides, revisit session recordings, and engage with presenters.

Ultimately, driving excitement within the online community both pre- and post-event makes your event more powerful while creating paths for different experiences based on interaction preferences. The more value you provide, the more likely members are to attend the next event.

Cast Away Technical Concerns

The prospect of setting up an online community may sound intimidating, but today’s technology makes it easier than ever to serve a broad group of people and preferences, regardless of technical skills.

Best-of-breed member experience platforms offer community-building capabilities, marketing and communications tools, and member subscription management without complicated start-up processes. Some platforms are designed for smooth integration with association management systems, helping users create personalized and powerful member experiences quickly and easily. Look for association-specific solutions with features like pre-built communities and automated marketing campaigns designed to enhance member engagement out of the box.

Associations with tight staff and technical budgets should consider working with a platform provider that offers managed services for an additional fee. Managed service providers work as an extension of your team, lending their technical support and online community-building expertise.

It’s also a good idea to network with your software provider’s customer base to learn how other organizations make the most of community-building technology. For example, at Higher Logic, all customers receive access to our Higher Logic User Group, also known as HUG. This powerful learning area includes years’ worth of advice from associations on how to use the platform to encourage conversation, monetize online communities, and automate communications, among other tips.

Couple HUG with free online learning courses and a dedicated implementation project manager for each new customer onboarding, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a welcoming community catered to a variety of engagement preferences.

Higher Logic Thrive is a member experience solution that provides a powerful but simple approach to community, marketing, and member engagement. For more information on how Higher Logic’s years of experience, research, and feedback can solve your challenges, visit

(Handout photo)