Delivering value at every stage of the member journey

by Courtney Lill

From your members’ viewpoint, the value your organization provides will evolve as they move through their careers. That’s why it’s important to consider how you provide member value through both the entire member journey (from joining through renewal) and each step of your members’ career journey (from student to retiree).

With this idea in mind, here’s how to deliver more value at each point along the member journey to drive greater member acquisition, engagement, and retention:


Attracting new members is an ongoing project. Members leave your association each year. So, not only do you have to add new members, but you also must replace those members who walk away.

Here are some effective ways to reach your member recruitment goals while improving the member experience along the way:

Offer valuable content.

When prospective members see that your organization offers content that will help them grow their careers, they’ll be more likely to join.

A great way to provide valuable content is to regularly ask for feedback from various segments of your members – for example, students, early careerists, mid-careerists, executives, and professionals in transition. Ask them about things such as what would help them do their job better, or what challenges they encounter.

Then, use the information you gather to provide tip sheets, industry news, reports, and other content to targeted groups of prospective members – via your website, social media, and targeted emails. As prospects begin to see your organization as a reliable source of information and a partner who helps them reach their goals, they’ll be more likely to join.

And here’s something to keep in mind: Association industry research from Community Brands shows that the best time to attract new members is early in their career stage (as a student or between one and five years into a career). So, as you develop content, you might want to weigh it more heavily toward this early career stage.

Make it easy to join.

When prospective members are ready to join, the process should be quick and easy. Look at your website and online membership form and ask yourself:

  • Will visitors know they’re in the right place to join?
  • Can they immediately see the benefits you provide to members?
  • Is it easy to figure out how to take the next step to join?

Keep in mind that lengthy forms are a turn-off. Ask only for what’s needed in your online membership application – the data you need to process the membership. You can ask for more details later.

TIP: Price can be a barrier to joining, especially for those early in their careers. Consider offering a budget-friendly monthly payment option that will appeal to that segment of prospective members who are most likely to be interested in joining.

Offer an incentive.

An attractive incentive can break down the last barrier to joining. For example, offer new members a special discount toward an upcoming online learning or networking opportunity. Offer a variety of incentives that might appeal to prospective members in various stages of their careers and promote the incentive on your home page, email campaigns, and social media.


The first interactions with your organization make a long-term impression on new members. Help new members feel welcome and comfortable right away, and you’ll set the foundation for a relationship that lasts for years to come. Some tips for what to include in onboarding emails for your members:

  • Thank new members for joining.
  • Remind them of the benefits they will now receive as a member of your association.
  • Let them know what communications they can expect to receive and how often they’ll receive them.
  • Point them to online resources, such as a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page, calendar of events, your career center, and your online member community. Include any login instructions they might need.
  • Connect them with a “buddy” (a volunteer member) to help them get to know the organization better and feel more welcome.
  • Give them clear contact information so they know who to go to at your organization if they have questions.

Tips and tricks for personalizing the member experience

What you need to know and how to get startedGet the tip sheet


Once new members are on board, it’s important to provide them with the benefits they’re seeking in each stage of their careers while keeping them actively engaged. Here are some helpful ideas:

  • Assess your organization’s programs and services and how they map back to what your members want in each stage of their careers. Make sure the programs and services are providing benefits around continuing education, career growth, and networking.
  • Connect members to relevant and personalized learning, networking, and job opportunities. Offer them the tools they need – such as career coaching, résumé reviews, and interview tips – to help them land the next job they seek.
  • Ask members for feedback so you can determine what’s working and what’s not. Survey a subset of members – including those at various stages in their careers – and ask them about their experience with your organization so far and what could make it better.


When you provide excellent member value throughout the year, the last 90 days before it’s time for members to renew is really about reminding them of the value they’ve received and making the renewal process easy. Here are two simple, yet effective approaches:

Communicate value.

Remind your members of the benefits and value they receive from your organization. This is a great time to segment your membership list and send targeted messages that include content such as:

  • What benefits members have taken advantage of, such as event discounts and learning opportunities
  • What benefits they have not yet taken advantage of (especially those that could help advance their careers), but still can if they renew
  • What upcoming events and opportunities they’ll miss out on if they don’t renew

Offer auto-renewals.

Community Brands research found that 13 percent of lapsed members of associations simply forgot to renew. A great way to address this issue is to offer an option to automatically renew membership, with the membership fee charged to the member’s credit card.

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