Member Engagement: The Strategic Guide

You don’t want your supporters to just sign up for your membership program — you want them to stick around year after year, upgrading their membership and advocating for your program to others.

Close attention to your member engagement strategies is the only way to ensure that you keep your satisfaction and retention rates high.

Read through this ultimate guide to set a strong membership engagement plan, incorporating the top member engagement strategies seamlessly into your operations with powerful membership software solutions.

Keep member engagement at the top of your priorities.

THE BASICS OF MEMBERSHIP ENGAGEMENT

Membership engagement is a two-way street between members and organizations.

What Do We Mean by Member Engagement?

Most generally, member engagement is a two-way investment between an organization and its members. The organization’s most ardent supporters contribute money, time, and passion, and the organization devotes energy to the member experience.

For organizations, the goal of member engagement is to boost its members’ perceived value of the membership. This value of membership comes from personal benefits as well as the feeling of pride that comes from supporting a worthy cause.

You should pay attention to member engagement to energize both recruiting and retention. The more value supporters attach to your membership, the more likely they will be to purchase and then renew their membership.

Membership engagement comprises events, communication, and other elements.

What Constitutes Member Engagement Strategies?

All organizations will build their membership engagement plans differently, depending on their missions, size, and operational structure.

Successful member engagement, no matter what form the strategies take, all aim to bring organizations and their members closer together in measurable ways that benefit the greater mission.

Most organizations will work toward that goal using some combination of the following elements:

  • Members-only discounts and material benefits
  • Special member access to events or programs
  • Online and social media engagement
  • Public affiliation with greater member community
Measure membership engagement with quantitative and qualitative metrics.

How Can We Measure Member Engagement?

Your organization can’t monitor progress toward your goals without meaningful data.

To keep your membership engagement plan on track, you need integrated membership management software to track quantitative and qualitative data:

  • Quantitative: Track registration in your membership program over time, as well as renewal rates, attendance at member events, popularity and usage patterns of member benefits, donations contributed, and memberships gifted.
  • Qualitative: Gather feedback about your membership program from members, nonmembers, and staff. Surveys and focus groups should be scheduled regularly and short enough to fit into busy schedules.

BUILDING A MEMBERSHIP ENGAGEMENT PLAN

1. Gather a Diverse Team

Every department in your organization has a stake in membership engagement and a different perspective on how to achieve it, whether or not they’re directly responsible for administering your membership program.

Gathering centralized team comprising representatives from various departments will ensure a focused, single strategy that benefits the organization as a whole.

In addition to including representatives from departments, an effective team will include staff with different levels of seniority and experience. Veteran staff can share knowledge of your organization’s past strategies and successes, while newer staff may offer new approaches.

2. Solicit Member Feedback

There’s no better way to know what your members want than to ask them. So if you’re looking to increase member satisfaction with your membership program, reach out to your members for their feedback!

The most effective channels to gather member feedback are surveys, focus groups, and data analysis. While surveys and focus groups allow your staff to gather answers to direct questions, your team can also learn indirectly through data. Statistics gathered by integrated membership management software can show you which material benefits, events, and programs are the most valuable to your members.

Using this feedback, you should be able to learn why your members joined in the first place as well as what they want from your membership program. Because visitor-serving nonprofits attract members for financial reason as well as emotional ones, understanding your members’ motivations can guide you to the most effective member engagement strategies.

3. Set Measurable Goals and Check-ins

Once you know what your members are looking for in your membership program, you can start to design and test changes and improvements. Careful planning is the key to success when you’re developing new strategies.

While all member engagement strategies ultimately aim for a high member renewal rate, starting off with a focus on short-term goals is a manageable way to build a foundation to reach your long-term goal.

Identify specific metrics to track for each new strategy. Your current plan might aim for a more engaging member onboarding experience, higher member event attendance, more engagement on social media, higher email click-through rates, or greater use of member discounts at the gift shop. Don’t forget to establish a baseline for member behavior before you start a new strategy so you can measure your results.

Once you decide on your strategies, set a schedule for meeting predefined benchmarks. During this period, your team should meet regularly to check in and re-evaluate the strategy if necessary. The most successful plans account for the possibility of changing strategies quickly if goals aren’t being met.

4. Focus on Sustainability

All visitor-serving nonprofits want to increase their membership to bring in more revenue and expand their base of advocates. When it comes to member engagement, though, the goal is to keep existing members involved in the program.

That’s because your return on investment is higher for renewal than outreach — your team has to spend much less money marketing the organization to individuals who have already experienced the benefits of membership.

A sustainable membership engagement plan relies on your team reminding members why membership is valuable to them. Regularly send feedback surveys, routinely reevaluate benefits, and always let your members know exactly what tangible results you’re reaching because of their membership. The right membership management software solution can automate some of these processes!

TOP MEMBER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES

Program membership levels into your membership management software solution.

Review and Evaluate Membership Levels

Offering multiple levels of membership helps your organization improve engagement with members.

Different levels at different price points widen the pool of individuals who can afford to participate in your membership program. Providing options also allows your members to manage their expectations of engagement.

To ensure that your membership levels are realistic to administer and actually beneficial for your members, you should make it a habit to regularly review the benefits you offer for each level. Benefits should be financially feasible for your organization, and they should attract your target market.

Meaningful benefits will boost program retention through membership engagement.

Offer Meaningful Benefits

The same member benefits won’t make sense for every organization. You should utilize feedback, analytics, and awareness of other similar organizations’ programs to pinpoint the most successful benefits.

Some popular, choices low-cost choices are priority registration for programs, early admission, special admission lines, discounts, free gifts and even behind-the-scenes tours.

Whichever benefits you decide to offer, the right membership software solution will make it easy for you to automatically reward members at checkout online and onsite. Ensure your ticketing solution is integrated with your membership database!

Implement membership management software that tracks membership levels.

Your organization needs software that can automatically apply benefits for every member in the database.

Exclusive events can boost your membership engagement plan.

Organize Members-Only Events

Nothing conveys a sense of exclusivity to participants in your membership program more than a members-only event invitation. Holding members-only events may require extra coordination by your team, but the sense of community you can foster with an in-person event is worth the planning time.

Your organizations’ budget and scope will determine how elaborate your special events can be. You might host a simple cocktail hour, a tour of your facilities, or a hands-on activity—anything that demonstrates the value of your organization and the value of a membership to your participants.

Members-only events present additional opportunities for member engagement before and after the event itself. Encourage select members to help plan the even, and seek feedback from all the members who attended after the event.

Take your membership engagement strategies into cyberspace.

Engage Online

If you want to get a message to your members, the cheapest, quickest, and most easily accessible channel is online communication. You can send emails, post on social media and forums, and use blogging and video to reach your members wherever they are.

When communicating with your members online, don’t just post updates or announcements. Interact with members, starting conversations and asking for feedback about relevant topics. If all you do is ask for donations or registrations, your members will tune you out.

To encourage engagement within the member community, invite members to special mailing lists or social media groups where they can share their thoughts with other members. A vibrant member community is a benefit in itself!

Manage events in the same integrated solution that houses your member profiles.

Choose an event registration software solution that integrates with your membership solution so members receive their discounts for online registration and nonmembers can easily become members to receive the same benefit.

Member engagement is impossible without communication.

Stay in Contact

If the only time your members hear from you is when you want them to renew their membership, you’re not going to make them feel valued. And members who don’t feel valued are unlikely to stay involved in your organization.

Regularly encourage your members to see themselves as active participants in your organization’s mission and the community of members by soliciting feedback about your membership program, your organization’s mission, and topic related to your mission. Continuous communication helps ensure that members will follow through with membership renewal and donations when you need them.

Automate the simple elements of membership engagement to save time for strategic planning.

Automate Operations

An easy way to discourage members is to make it difficult for them to engage with your organization.

You’ll strengthen your member engagement efforts with membership software that streamlines two-way interactions and communications between your membership base and your organization.

For example, don’t make members jump through hoops to renew their memberships. Invest in integrated membership management software that sends customized automated renewal reminders and expiration notices on a schedule of your choice.

Engage your members in your mission so they will be more likely to make donations when you need them.

To increase donations and membership renewals, engage your members with a variety of communications strategies.

DOUBLEKNOT’S MEMBERSHIP MANAGEMENT SOLUTION

Take a look at how two of our partners have integrated membership solutions into their operations:

The Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket's Science Center, implemented Doubleknot's membership management software.

Maria Mitchell Association, Nantucket’s Science Center

The Maria Mitchell Association, which manages observatories as well as a museum and aquarium, needed a solution to smooth registration for its many educational programs and camps as well as an integrated system to facilitate admissions, gift shop operations, and memberships.

The science center meets their goals with Doubleknot’s integrated museum software. Visitors can now purchase memberships onsite from staff members using a mobile POS, and the integrated system immediately applies their member benefits to any ticket, registration, or gift shop purchase. The switch resulted in a significant increase in memberships!

The Chippewa Nature Center implemented Doubleknot's membership management solution.

Chippewa Nature Center

The Chippewa Nature Center hosts Nature Day Camp every year, a highly popular program for children ages 3 through 16. The Chippewa Nature Center’s day camp program was so popular that long lines formed outside the office on the first day of registration and continued through the day as staff handled paper registration forms.

Doubleknot reduced the administrative burden of managing day camp registrations. Parents could register their children for camp in the convenience of their own homes, and members automatically received the appropriate discounts without needing to call the office.

ADDITIONAL MEMBER ENGAGEMENT RESOURCES

Member Renewal Letters Guide

Learn how to write the most effective membership renewal letter with our ultimate guide.

A successful membership engagement plan will pay off when it’s time for membership renewal.

Learn how to write the most effective membership renewal letters with our essential guide!

Welcoming New Members

Welcome your members well so they're more receptive when your membership renewal letters arrive!

Get a head start on member engagement with a strong member onboarding process.

Check out our top tips for welcoming new members into your organization’s membership program!

Museum Membership Guide

Work your membership renewal letters into your overall museum membership program operations.

Build your membership engagement strategy into your museum membership program.

Take a fresh look at your museum membership program with our essential guide.