4 Effective Strategies for Engaging Association Members

Team Members Gathered Around A Table

Written By:

Tim Badolato Author Picture

Tim Badolato


As an association leader, you recognize the need to engage your members to further your organization’s initiatives. Their active participation is necessary for your association to not only survive but also evolve in new and improved ways. 

However, with stiff competition for members’ time and attention, it can be difficult to establish and maintain strong relationships. Members have busy schedules, and they need every reason to stick with your organization. So how can you continually engage current members while attracting new ones?

To give your association an extra engagement edge, we’ve provided 4 proven strategies for success:

  • Optimize Your Communications
  • Mix Up Your Professional Development Services 
  • Offer a Variety of Networking Opportunities
  • Keep Your Content Relevant

Keep in mind that these strategies can be tailored to your specific association audience. If, for instance, your membership is national or international, you can lean on technology to take an in-person webinar to an online format. That said, let’s explore these in more detail! 

Optimize Communications

Engagement is directly related to your association’s communication strategy and membership marketing. A consistent, informed strategy will strike the right balance between keeping your members informed and flooding their inboxes.

Follow these best practices to optimize your communications: 

  • Segment your members. Members respond differently to various communication tactics. Conduct member research and segment them by industry, age, and experience with your association to determine their preferred communication type. For instance, Generation X members may respond better to email while Millennial or Gen Z members may prefer text updates.
  • Personalize your messaging. Send personalized digital messages to recognize members who have just reached a major milestone like a promotion or 5 years of membership. Additionally, use members’ names in email correspondence and tailor your messaging to their interests and needs based on the information in your member database
  • Keep your subject line compelling. Make sure your messages stand out by using a compelling subject line to grab current and prospective members’ attention. Incorporate urgency with lines like, “Don’t Miss Out: National Summit on Climate Change” or “Fight Back Against Cyber Threats with the National Conference on Cybersecurity.”
  • Monitor engagement metrics. Figure out which communication strategies are working and which ones need some adjustments. Monitor metrics like email open rates and click-through rates to determine which messages are resonating with your audience. Refer to previous metrics for more insight on the impact of new strategies, and keep track of ongoing communication data to reference in the future. 

Reference recent updates from association members to look for additional opportunities for engagement. For instance, you might scroll through LinkedIn and notice a member has been promoted. Consider using digital tools like eCardwidget to send personalized congratulations and a gift recognizing their hard work. 

That way, your association never misses a moment to congratulate and recognize its hard-working members. 

Mix Up Your Professional Development Services

Add value to your professional development services by increasing your service variety. Think of ways you can help your members advance their skills and improve their resumes with tailored training and workshops. 

To keep your professional development services fresh, consider implementing these tips: 

  • Provide access to industry experts. Reach out to experts in your field via cold outreach or ask for an introduction from a shared network connection. You can invite experts to contribute to a panel discussion, provide an insightful presentation, or contribute to an article on your association’s website. Make a lasting impact by inviting members to discuss the expert’s perspective and ask questions following their professional contributions. 
  • Incorporate soft skills development. Soft skills include teamwork, communication, and leadership which are difficult to quantify, but can make a notable difference in the workplace. To help members develop these skills, you might provide more opportunities for members to practice professional problem-solving together, such as providing feedback on presentation skills to increase their public speaking effectiveness. 
  • Create a mentoring program. If your association hasn’t already, consider adding a full-blown mentoring program to connect members. Consider factors like industry experience, professional goals, and personality differences when matching mentors with mentees. Then, provide training for mentoring groups to equip them with the necessary tools for success. For example, a mentoring group within the tech industry could attend machine learning and AI conferences together. 

All of these services can be adapted according to your association’s unique objectives and schedule. You might host a virtual mentoring workshop, a team-building in-person event, and an industry expert panel with both online and in-person registration. Review your budget and timeline to see what works best for you. 

Offer a Variety of Networking Opportunities

Regardless of their associated field, networking can be intimidating for many professionals. Luckily, one of the main benefits of being an association member is the ability to make meaningful career connections. 

To add variety to your networking opportunities, consider offering opportunities like: 

  • Speed networking. A networking version of speed-dating, speed networking lets members talk to several attendees during one event. Members meet and chat with fellow attendees for 10-15 minutes at a time, and they can facilitate follow-up conversations with members they relate to most.
  • Roundtable. Facilitate a roundtable discussion with a defined discussion topic or moderator. Provide attendees with the topic ahead of time, so they can come prepared with research to back up their claims and discuss new perspectives. 
  • Happy hour. Make networking casual by inviting association members to an after-hours happy hour event to build existing relationships or get to know new members. These events don’t have to include work-related topics. Instead, they provide opportunities for members to get to know one another on a personal level. 
  • Community service. Unite your members by inviting them to contribute to a good cause. Organize a community outreach event like an environmental clean-up day or an animal shelter volunteering event. 

NXUnite suggests leading a sustainability webinar to increase awareness and engage members in a timely and productive conversation. You could include various ways your association can give back and roll out any new environmental policies during the meeting. 

Keep Your Online Content Relevant

Opt for a holistic approach when planning your association’s content. To drive engagement, you’ll want to be sure you are providing as many talking points as possible. While topics will differ by industry, there are a few engagement tips you can implement to expand your reach and re-engage current or lapsed members: 

  • Stay up to date on industry trends. Whether it’s new medical technology or updated legislative processes, be sure to stay up to date on current and emerging industry trends. Create and share industry-related articles, poles, and virtual presentations for members to interact with and consider. For instance, a medical association might plan a small group discussion concerning new vaccination studies. 
  • Recognize members. Keep current members engaged by recognizing leading professionals in your organization who have created positive change or presented innovative ideas within their respective industries. Consider creating a “member success” series to share stories of personal and professional growth and encourage members to recognize their peers by sharing the series within their network.  
  • Promote member benefits. Highlight your member benefits regularly online. Does your association offer discounted products or services? What about access to policymakers or other industry leaders? Discuss what makes your association different and why your resources provide value to members. 
  • Leverage member expertise. Invite your experienced members to share their thoughts on emerging topics through a mini Ted Talk-style series, article contribution, roundtable discussion, or webinar. When prospective members notice that your content is supported by thoughtful, well-researched members, they’ll be more inclined to join. 

Ask for feedback through timely surveys or focus groups to discover new engagement topics and discard ineffective ones. Following a webinar, for instance, you can ask attendees to rate how helpful the event was and add any additional topics they’d like to cover in upcoming webinars. 

Engaging members is a balancing act between communication, networking, and professional development. Through a multifaceted engagement approach, you’ll be able to provide more opportunities for members to connect with your association and form lasting member relationships. 

Tim Badolato Author Picture
Tim Badolato
CEO at eCardWidget

Tim Badolato is the CEO of eCardWidget.com an innovative platform for digital employee recognition, donor acknowledgement, business marketing, and nonprofit marketing. He has a passion for using technology to drive positive outcomes for mission-driven businesses and nonprofits.

All Posts By Tim Badolato