Supporters, members, and donors are the lifeblood of your organization or association. They’re the very reason for your membership program in the first place. Needless to say, keeping them engaged is of paramount importance.
Slipping engagement statistics can be a serious warning sign for your organization! While no membership programs actively neglect their engagement techniques, it can still be incredibly easy to forget about the foundation of your success: member engagement.
Ambitious new goals or projects can sometimes overshadow the importance of continual engagement work. It’s easy to identify and discuss ways to boost member engagement, but actually putting them into practice can be a challenge when your team has so much on its plate.
That’s where digital content and other perks come in.
Creating special content and unique benefits for your members is the most direct (and often easiest) way to start boosting engagement. We’ve outlined 6 of the most effective types of content, digital activities, and other perks to offer your members:
- eLearning Opportunities
- Online Communities
- Podcasts and Other Audio Content
- Q&A Sessions
- Thank-You Events
- Branded Merchandise
Chances are you already make use of one or more of these tactics, but thinking of them as part of your broader member engagement strategy is the key to success.
Consciously optimizing all of the content and perks you provide your members to encourage their continued engagement is a best practice that all organizations should be following. Let’s dive in to learn how:
Online courses, lecture series, webinars, and roundtables — the kings of all member engagement techniques! If your professional association or organization already offers eLearning opportunities for your members, start thinking about them as part of your broader content offerings.
This means resisting the impulse to treat these opportunities solely as promotional tools. Yes, eLearning content like webinars are powerful tools for attracting new members, but they are also necessary to offer real value for your existing members too.
Put another way, it’s your job to promote your eLearning offerings as valuable resources. It’s not the job of your eLearning content to promote your entire membership program. High-quality eLearning content will attract new members because it more deeply engages your existing members. There are a few strategies you can use to promote it:
- Offer some of your eLearning content for free. Make it easier for members to get started engaging with your programming.
- Integrate your eLearning content into your social media marketing strategies.
- Write blog posts (another great type of content for membership programs!) about your eLearning opportunities. Share them everywhere and ask your partners to, too.
Maximize engagement with eLearning by focusing on quality rather than volume. Of course, you want as many members (and prospective members) to engage as possible, but this only contributes to meaningful engagement if your content is truly valuable for members.
And if you don’t offer any eLearning content to your members yet, get started today! Just make sure you’re using robust membership software that can handle more integrated or complex strategies.
They are essentially the infrastructure for increased engagement across your entire program.
Online communities can take a number of forms depending on the nature of your program, organization, or association:
- Online forums hosted through your website
- Committees and other member-managed groups
- Collaborative work platforms to share ideas and files
- Searchable member directories and internal messaging tools
One way to supercharge the engagement-boosting power of your online communities is to offer certifications, badges, and other markers of achievement for your users. Integrate them with your eLearning programs! The worlds of higher education and professional development are changing, and association members are more interested than ever in these kinds of tools.
Generally speaking, online communities must accomplish a few things: connect members with each other, empower them to control how they experience your membership program, and make it easier to access all of your engaging content.
If your current management tools aren’t cutting it when it comes to online communities, conduct a comprehensive membership software comparison of other potential solutions. Prioritize features like certifications that can bring added value to all of your engagement efforts.
eLearning opportunities and online communities are great ways to keep your members engaged with your content in very specific contexts, that is, when they’re directly interacting with your association or organization.
But what about the rest of the time? Your program is an important part of your members’ lives, so it’s a smart move to offer more content they can casually engage with any time.
Digital media has become a major, if not essential, part of life in the 21st century. More people than ever watch online videos and listen to podcasts daily than ever before. Should your membership program start producing its own? The answer is a resounding yes!
Start by adapting your other types of content. For instance, your association’s podcast channel could share audio versions of:
- Your most recent webinar
- Interviews with industry figures
- Internal and sector-wide news updates
The main idea is to offer your members mobile, easy-to-consume content that keeps them in the loop and keeps you on their mind. Maybe some of your members don’t have much time to stay engaged; a podcast newsletter to listen to on the way to work is the perfect solution.
This form of content is the perfect way to unite all of your other engagement strategies, especially your eLearning programming and online communities. Q&A calls can work well for nonprofit membership programs, but they’re particularly effective for professional associations.
Let’s say you’ll have a visiting industry leader or prominent member available to help you out. Here’s how you might set up your Q&A session:
- Make sure your webinar platform can accept incoming calls and messages in real time.
- Announce the session on your (print and/or audio) newsletter a week or two in advance.
- Start a conversation in your online communities to start generating interest, and ask for questions or discussion topics in advance for the Q&A session.
- Promote the session on your social media and other digital marketing channels.
- Host the Q&A session, encouraging members to tune in and get involved.
- Later, post recorded video or audio versions to your other content outlets.
Organizations and associations are important outlets for many professionals; they keep them engaged and up-to-date with developments in their fields. A Q&A session is the perfect way to tap into that core function of your work.
That’s because it offers your members truly valuable digital content. It fulfills an important need while also reminding members of the central roles that you play. Presenting yourself as an authoritative, active, and responsive player in your field goes a long way to keep members, particularly younger professionals, engaged with your work.
More so a perk than a form of content for boosting engagement, thank-you events are an incredibly important way to keep your program at the forefront of members’ minds.
You’ve probably hosted these types of events before, but have you made the most of them? There are all kinds of ways to thank your members for their engagement, support, and loyalty. You might try any of these ideas:
- Annual welcome events. A yearly party to gather in-person, celebrate your organization’s accomplishments, and welcome members who joined in the past year can quickly become a cherished tradition in your program.
- Local meet-ups. For larger associations, organize casual local meet-ups for members in a particular city or area. It can be as simple as gathering at a local bar or restaurant, but be sure to show your gratitude with a thank-you gift, like branded merchandise.
- Streaming video thank-you messages. Digital member appreciation is another viable strategy for all kinds of groups. Live stream your other events, or post videos to say thanks and acknowledge the loyalty and accomplishments of your members.
For large-scale in-person and online events, be sure to use integrated planning tools designed to work seamlessly with your membership management platforms. Fonteva’s guide to planning events in Salesforce is a great starting point.
If you’ve never thought about branded merchandise as a useful engagement tool for your organization, think again. From t-shirts to water bottles to tote bags, branded merchandise can be useful in all kinds of contexts. They serve as:
- A low-stakes, year-round revenue stream
- Elements to incorporate into your in-person events
- Promotional tools to increase the visibility of your brand
- A way to foster a sense of community and belonging
Most importantly, branded merchandise helps increase member engagement all-around by solidifying your image and brand in the minds of your members. Simply put, merchandise gives members something tangible to remind them of your work in a way that online forums or webinars never could.
Physical perks and rewards are one of the most reliable ways to catch anyone’s attention, so developing strategies to integrate your custom merch with your other content is a smart move. For instance, you might include a special promo code in your podcast that rewards listeners with free merchandise for renewing their membership early.
Branded merchandise also makes an extremely popular and cost-effective thank-you gift. Just think of the reward tiers that large nonprofits offer during annual pledge drives. We recommend browsing Bonfire’s list of top thank you gift ideas for more ways to incorporate merchandise into your engagement strategies.
Boosting your organization’s or association’s rates of member engagement begins with fostering deeper relationships. There are all kinds of ways you can do this, but the easiest and most direct way is to offer them meaningful and valuable content or perks.
Take the time to consider what types of digital content of physical perks might most interest your members, then craft strategies to combine their impacts. Engagement tools should always support each other for maximum impact!
About the Author
Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.