Member Onboarding Series, Part 1: Think Beyond the Welcome Packet

The welcome kits of yore might be losing their luster in an age of immediate engagement. But mixing them with other tactics could prove a success.

This is the first part of a three-part series on member onboarding. The second part is on making sure members get their money’s worth, and the third part is on long-term onboarding strategies.

Forging a good relationship with new members—whether they’re individuals or organizations—is an essential part of keeping members around.

Onboarding lays the groundwork for what that relationship will look like in the year—and, hopefully, years—to come, so it’s worth the work of crafting a member onboarding model that has real impact. This three-part series will highlight important considerations for your association’s onboarding process.

We’re kicking off today with something tangible: Think beyond the welcome packet.

Are Welcome Packets Fading?

Welcome packets are traditionally seen as the starting point for delivering information to members, but their status has fallen significantly among onboarding tactics, according to the 2022 edition of the New Member Engagement Study, produced by Kaiser Insights and Dynamic Benchmarking.

Kaiser Insights’ Amanda Kaiser, who coauthored the report, said that the data did not seem to support the long-term popularity of either welcome packets or mailed letters, both of which have fallen off during the pandemic years. While nearly 70 percent of associations surveyed used welcome kits in 2018, the tactic has now fallen to around 40 percent, while letters, which were handed out nearly 60 percent of the time in 2018, have fallen below 30 percent.

“I’m not bullish on them at all—they seem to be tapering off,” Kaiser said.

Instead, tactics such as online communities, surveys, and virtual orientations have started to gain popularity. The all-out member-onboarding champ, however, remains email, which was far and away the most popular tactic in 2018 and became even more popular in the 2022 edition of the survey.

Immediacy Matters

Kaiser said that the reason for the rise of digital tactics such as email—as well as the reason why a different old-school tactic, the phone call, remains popular—is out of a desire for immediacy and depth in reaching members.

The report focused on how members engage, how they renew—and how quickly the response needs to happen. And the data, per Kaiser, seemed to be favoring something quicker than a welcome kit that arrives in the mail. “The sooner you can get anybody to do anything that they want to do that’s meaningful to them, the better,” Kaiser said.

So having digital options available instead of a paper packet might be ideal. Phone calls are a good choice for smaller associations with only a handful of members, but this tactic might be more difficult to manage at scale. Ultimately, the goal needs to be connecting with new members early.

“Members are trying to suss out whether this community is their new professional home,” she said. “Associations very quickly need to warmly welcome their members and, I think, be welcoming and inviting and personable to the extent that they can be.”

However, welcome kits can still come in handy if managed in the right way—especially if combined with an approach that helps to underline a point of deeper engagement.

“I know of some associations that are using the distribution of their welcome kit as an opportunity to actually go in person to their members’ offices,” Kaiser said.

(MicroStockHub/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!