The OpenWater Blog


5 Member Appreciation Strategies to Maximize Retention

Published January 21, 2022 in Leadership

From simply saying “thank you” to hosting a celebratory awards program, acts of appreciation are fundamental to member retention. Big or small, these displays of gratitude show your members that they are valued and that their continued support will be rewarded.

On the other hand, failing to show gratitude to your members may lead them to feel neglected by or disconnected from your association.

Over the course of this guide, you will learn how to tackle the issue of member retention head-on with a robust member appreciation program. Consider these expert strategies to stimulate member engagement, retention, and satisfaction:

  1. Send personalized messages and newsletters.
  2. Expand their access to learning resources.
  3. Offer rich community and networking opportunities.
  4. Organize digital member spotlights.
  5. Host an awards program.

1. Send personalized messages and newsletters.

Email, social media, traditional mail, and your membership platform are critical mediums for member communication. They’re not only the main pipelines for general association updates and newsletters, but they can also be used to personalize the membership experience!

Consider sending handwritten thank you letters, digital congratulations for membership anniversaries, and customized email newsletters with event opportunities that members would find personally interesting.

The right association management system should help you to organize and automate these personalized messaging campaigns. This allows you to send out thousands of customized communications without having to spend hours thumbing through members’ records.

2. Expand their access to learning resources.

Association members are looking for opportunities to further their growth in their chosen field or industry. By nurturing that development, you give them yet another incentive to stick with your organization.

Reward members with access to new e-learning content. This could include downloadable resources or webinars on your website. Alternatively, you could centralize your content on a learning experience platform (LXP). This Web Courseworks article on learning experience platforms sheds some light on ways to effectively leverage your LXP, hyper-personalizing the learning process by allowing your members to curate their own educational journeys.

However you organize your e-learning tools, just be sure to properly promote these resources so members can get the most value out of their membership experience.

3. Offer rich community and networking opportunities.

There’s no replacement for being able to network with other professionals in your field. Show members that you recognize their professional aspirations and desires by fostering plenty of opportunities for member-to-member networking. For example, you could:

  • Incorporate chat and breakout rooms into virtual events. Leverage the tools in your virtual conference or event platform, like breakout sessions and networking lounges, to boost engagement between your virtual attendees.
  • Organize dedicated networking nights. Carve out time in your association event schedule for a casual or professional evening of community-building, bonding, and networking between your members.
  • Implement a membership directory. The Fonteva guide to membership directories explores how member directories can be leveraged for maximum engagement between members, giving them a tool to initiate their own conversations and build relationships.

Creating a tight-knit, robust community for your members to explore not only allows them to feel seen and heard—it also gives them access to an invaluable professional network.

4. Organize digital member spotlights.

Providing critical resources like community networking and e-learning resources are great ways to address your members’ needs. However, if you’re looking for a bolder way to say “thank you” to members, take to social media and your website for a public shoutout. You could:

  • Organize a member spotlight section on your landing page for those who have made significant contributions to your association.
  • Create social media shoutouts and email blasts for members’ achievements, both within and beyond your organization
  • Create a member-of-the-month that is promoted and announced across your various online platforms

Of course, remember to reach out to members in advance to secure their consent before posting about them.

Additionally, be sure to practice good data hygiene as you organize these programs, maintaining accurate records of members’ contact information, professional and personal details, and engagement history. With such a public display of appreciation, the last thing you want to do is share outdated or incorrect information about your members.

5. Host an awards program

An awards ceremony is one of the most sophisticated, public strategies for showcasing member appreciation. These elaborate events are a grand celebration of everything your members have accomplished, both for themselves and in the larger context of their professional spheres.

There’s a good deal of leeway when it comes to organizing your own awards program and ceremony. However, keep in mind a few of these best practices for a successful, engaging awards program:

  • Create a visually appealing, organized awards program website with important resources and forms
  • Create a realistic budget and calendar for your program
  • Invest in a robust marketing campaign for your awards program, ensuring high application and attendance rates
  • Conduct regular awards program surveys to get important feedback about how members feel about your program and ways that it can be improved

If managed correctly, your awards program will serve as an exciting highlight to your association events calendar, bringing your members together for a night of community and celebration.

From the day a new member first joins your association to their tenth anniversary with your program, you should aim to make them feel recognized, engaged, and appreciated by your organization. Of course, this is no easy task, and there is a limit to the level of engagement that can be accomplished for each member.

However, with these mindful appreciation strategies and the right association software solutions, you should be able to streamline the tough task of member retention.

Jake Fabbri

With over two decades of experience marketing association technology, Fonteva CMO Jake Fabbri has developed a deep understanding of the unique needs of associations and the challenges technology can solve. Jake’s marketing expertise has been honed by demonstrated excellence in the areas of lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.

This AMS Integrations Contributes to Membership Engagement

ASI Acquires OpenWater, the Market-Leading Provider of Application & Review Software and Virtual Event Management Solutions