5 Tips For Virtual Membership Management
Guest Blog by: Jake Fabbri
The events of 2020 impacted many industries across the board, with most associations and other membership-based organizations pivoting their traditional in-person engagements to online and digitizing the membership experience.
The impacts of COVID-19 have slowly lessened since the beginning of the pandemic, but many of the changes are here to stay. For instance, the pandemic made virtual events and experiences a necessity. Association leaders also discovered that virtual events bring added benefits like increased convenience for members, granting them the ability to attend even if they’re all the way across the globe or home on their couches.
With online membership increasing and virtual/hybrid experiences likely to become the norm, setting a solid foundation now to grow your virtual membership strategy is your best bet for success.
Whether you’re fleshing out your digital strategy for the first time or just want to ensure you’re not missing out on any essential tips, you’ve come to the right place. Here are five ways you can optimize virtual membership management at this time:
- Optimize Your Association Website
- Provide A Dedicated Digital Space For Members To Interact
- Offer A Variety Of Virtual Events And Experiences
- Proactively And Consistently Communicate With Virtual Members
- Take Time To Improve Member Engagement Strategy With Data
Modern membership organizations live online, so make sure your own program is prepared. Ready to dive in? Let’s begin.
1. Optimize Your Association Website
In the first weeks of quarantine, there was an 18% increase in internet data usage compared to the same period in 2019. With school and work having to take place online and more individuals browsing the web, taking the steps to optimize your association website is critical.
Before COVID-19 (and even more so now), your association website was likely the first place prospects went to explore membership details and sign up. It’s also the core resource for current members to browse upcoming events, check announcements, or ask staff members a question.
To best meet the needs of both current and potential members, you need to ensure your website hosts valuable information, has ample engagement opportunities, and is intuitive enough for anyone to browse.
Consider the website platform or content management system (CMS) that you use. It’s recommended to invest in a CMS that has experience with associations. This way, you have access to specific features that encourage membership growth and community-building opportunities.
2. Provide A Digital Space For Members To Interact
One of the top reasons members join associations is to meet other like-minded people, join a community, and learn from those around them. Without in-person meetings or meaningful engagements, your members’ experience is not the same.
How might you counteract this? We recommend offering a dedicated digital space for members to interact!
Consider investing in a CMS or association management platform that also comes with an online member portal that is accessible from your association website.
This online member portal should:
- Provide access to a member directory. Your members should be able to view a member directory and search for names and photos within the database. This helps them put a face to members’ names and learn more about them through their profile, making the online experience more personable.
- Allow members to self-edit their profiles. Whenever someone moves, changes jobs, or achieves a new certification, members will want to add the updates to their profile. Instead of your staff scrambling to manually input these changes or sending communications with outdated information, members can go in themselves and easily update information such as contact details, financial details, and dues payment status.
- Host an online message or discussion board. Member portals don’t just empower members to meet each other, but should also facilitate actual discussions and conversations. Your members should communicate through both a messaging system and public forums.
Engagement opportunities right within your association website will be the easiest way for your members to make the most of their digital membership and still make genuine connections with others.
Where can you find software with an integrated membership portal? Double the Donation’s list of membership tools is a great place to start!
3. Offer A Variety Of Virtual Events And Experiences
One of the most common ways that associations provide members with value is through events such as conferences, professional talks, classes, official training seminars, and more. In addition to a member portal to support your member engagement strategies, you might also host virtual events and other digital experiences.
Virtual experiences allow members:
- To join in the conversation no matter where in the world they’re located
- To take online classes or watch webinars on their own time
- To save time and money from having to travel for an event
However, to successfully host virtual events that imitate the engagement of in-person gatherings, you need the right tools. After all, it’s not easy to connect or interact with other members when you’re just in front of a screen.
Here are some of the tools you’ll need to plan a multitude of virtual events and experiences:
- Online registration tool to create branded, customized forms.
- Integrated online payment processor to securely accept payments.
- Email tool to send targeted and personalized marketing and communications.
- Learning management system (LMS) to provide educational programs online.
- Social media groups on Facebook or Instagram to interact with members on another platform.
- Video conferencing tools like Zoom to livestream an in-person event or host a dedicated virtual event.
Because of the global pandemic, your membership program likely paused its normal in-person engagement strategies. While regular in-person events are slowly opening up across the country, investing in the tools now will only set your organization up for success, especially as virtual and online experiences are becoming the norm.
4. Proactively And Consistently Communicate With Members
If you want your members to continue paying dues and renewing their membership, your association needs to actively give them reasons to stay engaged.
This is where proactive and consistent communications come in.
Take a look at your current email tool and determine if you’re doing all you can to ensure your member communications are optimized. Be sure to:
- Check in with members to see how they’re doing. If your association staff is having a tough time, then it’s likely your members are too. Let members know that you care and that your organization values them for more than just their member dues. .
- Update them on your next steps. Now that vaccinations are rolling out and in-person events are making a comeback (with the right safety measures), people will be wondering where your organization stands. Will you continue with virtual events or also host in-person engagements? Let your members know in an email update or your monthly newsletter.
- Provide them with useful resources. Your members already trust your organization— that’s why they joined it. Provide members with resources on best practices during the pandemic, whether it’s work from home tips or CDC guidelines.
- Segment your audience. Email segmentation is a common marketing strategy that can help you create better messaging and target specific members. For instance, you might divide your members by generation, membership type, and job role.
Consistent communication is crucial, especially in times of crisis (like a global pandemic). Don’t let your communications falter now, especially if you’re worried about member attrition.
5. Take Time To Improve Member Engagement Strategy With Data
The best way to ensure your members have a positive experience is to refer to past data. By storing all of your historical engagements and information, you get a better sense of which strategies were most effective and which garnered poor results, improving your member experience and increasing retention.
According to this Fonteva article on association management, keeping track of your data can even help you track flags for at-risk members. You can do this by setting key performance indicators (KPIs).
KPIs are strategic metrics that organizations set to help measure progress towards specific goals. If you want to track membership attrition, you have to first define what online member engagement looks like to you. You’ll need concrete, measurable metrics like:
- Event and other association experience registrations.
- Website page views.
- Email open and click-through rates.
- Social media interactions.
If a KPI reveals that a certain strategy is performing well, you’ll know to continue that engagement. If it indicates engagement faltering, that’s a clear sign that something needs to change.
There is an abundance of membership tools, but it’s essential that you use one with data analytic capabilities. Click here for another list of software comparisons.
If you want to modernize your membership program and ensure you’re meeting all of your members’ current needs, fleshing out a solid and dependable virtual management foundation is essential. As online engagements and virtual events become more and more normalized, the tools you invest in now will only help you grow. Good luck!
About the Author:
Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer, Fonteva
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.
Hannah assumed the role of Marketing Specialist at SBS in June of 2022. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Minnesota Duluth, with coursework in English literature complementing her skill set. Creating content for SBS, her contributions span from graphic design to crafting informative election resources, like blogs and eBooks. Hannah also manages email communications and is responsible for producing the SBS Newsletter, “The Ballot Box”.