Member Onboarding Series, Part 2: How to Make Sure New Members Get Their Money’s Worth

An important way of keeping members engaged early on is to make sure they know what they’re getting—and that means creating frequent touchpoints throughout that first year.

This is the second part of a three-part series on member onboarding. The first part was on the state of welcome packets, and the third part is on long-term onboarding strategies.

New members invite a little sensitivity for your organization. You need their continued patronage, whether as an individual member or at a corporate level, and their choice about whether to make that happen could rest on some of the earliest decisions you make in your relationship. Do things incorrectly and you may find that these members are one and done.

With that in mind, let’s dive into today’s member onboarding series entry: how to make sure new members get their money’s worth.

Understand What’s Not Working

Joel Nepomuceno, the director of membership for Research!America, has been making tweaks to the trade organization’s onboarding model in recent months, and just launched a refresh at the start of 2023. He said that the organization has faced challenges with membership growth, but revenue growth has remained strong nonetheless.

To help understand the discrepancy, Nepomuceno and his team performed a membership audit.

“I really took a deep dive into what the data is telling us—who’s renewing, who’s not renewing, what are they renewing,” he said. “We found that a lot of our $500 members who had been with us for like a year or two were dropping off, because they didn’t feel engaged. They got our newsletters, but outside of that, that was it.”

But by contrast, more mature members, who had been with the organization for many years and paid significantly more for their organization to be a part of Research!America, were staying around—ensuring that the organization was clearing its financial goals despite its challenges with reengaging newer members.

Build Frequent Touchpoints

Nepomuceno’s plan to resolve this challenge with member engagement is to increase the number of engagements throughout the year, including:

  • An initial call with the CEO of the organization, along with other senior staff members, to personally communicate the benefits of the organization.
  • Welcome emails throughout the first year of the program.
  • A six-month check-in call.
  • A renewal process that begins at the nine-month mark.

This, he said, is a much more organized approach than the organization’s previous ad-hoc treatment of onboarding, where the renewal process might have started a bit later, for example. But even with a coordinated plan of attack, communicating value requires a careful balance.

“You don’t want email to just be constant and turn them off and say, ‘All we’re getting is just emails,’ but you do want to make them aware of the resources available, the meetings coming up, and all the things that they can take advantage of,” he said.

The goal, he added, is to give organizations with smaller stakes in Research!America a world-class treatment early on, “even if they’re just a $500, $1,000 organization, to make sure that they also feel like their membership is valued—and it’s not just a second thought—by having calls with them and somebody on our senior leadership team.”

Ultimately, the goal is to show that you’re listening, whether that means literally listening to members on personal phone calls or listening in a more macro sense within larger organizations.

“If you’re able to do that and you’re keeping them engaged, the chances of them continuing to be members for years to come increases exponentially,” Nepomuceno said.

(skodonnell/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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