Boredom is the Enemy: How Proper Engagement Retains Members

A woman with her head on the desk, unengaged

While many associations place the bulk of their attention on bringing in new members, retaining members is every bit as important. It also requires substantially less time and money. Because of this, if associations dedicated more of their efforts to keeping current members satisfied, they could make a significant contribution to member numbers year over year. 

So, how should associations go about retaining members

Well, there are a variety of effective methods, but today we’re going to look at how proper engagement has become one of the more important of these.

Engagement itself means different things to different people. In general, however, it means that members are purchasing more, participating more, and attending more. In almost all cases, engaged members are more loyal and committed to their association. 

Getting members engaged and keeping them that way requires careful planning and consideration; after all, each member is a unique person, and associations must keep their differences (and similarities) to one another in mind. 

In this article, we’ll be exploring some of the ways to engage members more and retain them longer. Let’s get started!

1. Personalized Communication and Feedback

Your communications are incredibly important for engagement. 

In an ideal world, associations would personalize all of their communications for each individual member. Accomplishing this, however, is extremely challenging for most associations–especially the large ones. 

Instead, organizations can break their membership base into subsets to make things easier. Different generations, experience levels, and personalities require different approaches, so dividing members by age, location, and career type allows for more tailored communication and better response rates.

For more specific retention and engagement recognition strategies, associations can group members by their engagement levels. Track how often members open emails or click through on association posts. Consider reaching out to unengaged members and sending offers designed to boost their interest and stimulate participation. Associations can also ask for feedback from members and reach out directly to those who delivered negative or less-than-positive responses.

Cater your communications to members’ individuality, and you’ll likely see a rise in engagement in no time!

2. Unique and Interesting Events

It should go without saying, but modern members require interesting events and offer to stay truly engaged and enthusiastic about their memberships. 

While many are quick to dump the blame for this at the feet of the so-called “unengaged” younger generations, associations should be changing with the times. In order to stay competitive, it’s necessary to bring something new and exciting to the table

Try new things with your events. Integrate technology in creative ways, live stream your workshops, and include presentations and presenters who deal with cutting-edge topics. Consider incorporating modern causes and themes (such as environmental friendliness and inclusionary practices) into your sessions. Look around at what your competition is doing–or not doing!–and try to meet some missed or underfed needs. 

3. Quality Continuing Education

Continuing education represents one of the best ways for members to engage with their association. To encourage this further, however, associations can develop a number of engagement-specific strategies. 

One effective addition may be to develop an educational path or series of courses for learners to follow. This can encourage members to continue their educational pursuits while recommending relevant, industry-specific information. This can also help members track and document their successes, further highlighting the value they’ve received from their membership.

Associations can also implement an online forum for members. Learners can use this to discuss class materials, industry news, and other association-related topics. Forums can be a great space for social learning, too, as members can learn from each other and stimulate each other’s interests. 

Over time, an online forum can become a landing page for members, increasing the number of touch points they have with the association and increasing overall engagement.

4. Expanded Networking Opportunities

Giving your members the chance to network with other professionals is an excellent way to break them out of their shells. 

Networking is typically one of the more attractive components of association events for members. By providing a variety of outlets for members to meet and talk with other professionals, engagement levels should increase considerably.

Associations can also experiment with other unique ways of connecting members. For example, by implementing technology (such as the use of live streaming and a “live chat” function on an event app), associations can add to the networking experience. In this case, the benefit would be the ability to network with other members from all over, as the internet doesn’t suffer the same geographical restrictions as in-person-only events. Some apps even allow for games–a perfect draw for member participation!

5. Nurturing New Members

Almost all members are engaged at the very beginning of their membership. They join because they’re interested and looking for something. It’s usually only over time that engagement levels drop. 

If members are not continually involved with their association, they may gradually lose touch. Eventually, this disconnect can lead to leaving the association entirely. For this reason, it’s important to coddle new members without overwhelming them. 

Ensure that members are comfortable and understand what they have available to them. Keep in touch with them on a regular basis, and be sure to field any and all questions and feedback. Know their goals and wishes for their membership and help keep them on course throughout. You can map their journey and follow up with them as they complete things on their list. 

Remember: members who are integrated and involved in the association early on tend to stay engaged throughout their membership!

6. Preemptive Initiatives

No matter what an association does to keep members engaged and active, some members will lose interest and others will disappear entirely. It’s unfortunate but inevitable. 

That being said, this occurrence is sometimes preventable. 

It’s important for associations to identify and catch members who are reaching this point before they actually get there. For the most accurate information, track member responses and engagement levels. If you notice these metrics dipping or declining steadily, it’s time to implement different strategies to recapture their instance. For instance, you can change your communications or offer them specially tailored deals.

A happy member is a retained member!

You may also like: Helpful Tips for an Association Membership Manager


When it comes to your return on investment, retaining members is just as important as acquiring new ones, and proper engagement plays a significant role. Engaged members are more loyal and committed, and it takes careful consideration to keep them that way. 

Keep the six steps above in mind, and you’ll have your members coming back for years to come!