Onboarding New Members Successfully for Increased Engagement

Members are the lifeblood of our organizations. Make sure they feel welcomed and connected from the moment they hit the “join” button.

By Nikki Palluzzi, CAE

Happy people greet with a gesture, wave hand. Rainbow. Graphic design from colored lines.

New members joining an association is a reason to celebrate—they represent growth, unique perspectives, and help keep an organization moving forward. Once they’ve joined, how can an association develop processes to get them connected and engaged within the community they’re now a part of? How much is too much information? Here are some ideas to get those new members feeling included, relevant, and valued within their association from the beginning.

Vary Your Communication

Switch up the formats the association is using for onboarding. Email is a useful way to convey a lot of information, but it’s also easy to ignore, especially if an association is sending it often. Members learn in a variety of ways and meeting them where they are will increase your new members willingness to engage. Consider a new member webinar for those who like to learn by listening and include a few immediate ways that new members can get involved quickly, for free, and without a lot of work. For the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), that means directing new folks to join their local meet up groups or to register for a free conversation circle virtually. Offering easy opportunities to make connections with other members make people more likely to come back for more. New member webinars are recorded and sent out to all new members via email, so even if someone can’t make the live session, there’s a way to consume the information on their own time.

Use Volunteers

If it’s an option for your group, have volunteers assist with member onboarding. At NAPFA, volunteers are responsible for two touch points with new members in their first year. They’re expected to make contact via email or phone within the first month of a member joining and check in after six months with a quick survey about how it’s going. New members appreciate the touch point from a colleague, and as the Director of Membership, I understand that hearing from another member about what’s been valuable to them during their tenure is more powerful than a standard marketing message from staff. In addition, with 500-600 new members a year, there’s no practical way for staff to make a personal connection with new members. Dividing and conquering with volunteers is a good way to remain high touch without straining staff time.

Segment Content

Last, despite the advice to provide information in different ways, that doesn’t mean that email can’t be a pillar of your member onboarding. Aside from the standard welcome message, NAPFA uses 30-, 60-, and 90-day emails to help get new members the information they need to be successful. The messaging is reviewed and revamped by the membership committee periodically, and each message focuses on one segment of benefits the member should be thinking about taking advantage of as part of their membership. For NAPFA, that means focusing on education, marketing, and community. By segmenting the content and giving new members specific and actionable steps that benefit them professionally, there’s a greater chance that they’ll feel welcomed and connected to the association.

Onboarding new members into an association is one of the most exciting processes because it means the association has more growth potential, new life, and an opportunity to welcome more professionals into your community. Once you have them signed up, be sure to get them fully onboarded so they grow into engaged, satisfied members, and future leaders of your association!


About the Author

Nikki is Director, Member Services & Experience at the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). She is also a member of Association Forum's Content Working Group.


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