5 Tips to Increase Member Retention with an Engaging Onboarding Experience


This helpful tool will help you take stock of what is working, where there is room for improvement and plan your next steps for your member portal .

You want to increase your association’s member retention, but your budget is limited.

How can your limited resources get you the biggest impact?

This article will explore the connection between a strong onboarding experience and member retention, and how a custom membership site will save your association time and resources by helping to automate a quality onboarding experience.

There are two key points to remember when trying to increase your member retention:

  • It’s ten times more difficult to attract a new member than to keep an existing member.
  • A member is most excited about their association membership right after purchasing the membership

This shows us how important it is to design a member experience and user journey so that your members become loyal fans of your association.

A new member joins your association because they see value in the membership. We need to show them right away how they gain from their membership. Members who have a good start will be more likely to engage and stay engaged.

Strategy for Member Retention

Make them Feel like a Member

Start by giving them a login account on your membership site, offering them privileges that are unavailable to non-members. Moreover, with much of our information, learning experiences, and networking being accessed online, nothing says ‘membership’ like a membership site.

Additionally, browsing and interacting with your content and benefits becomes an exclusive member experience. Furthermore, your association has decades of experience in your industry, and that lends credibility to the content you share, as opposed to just any article on the internet.

Why Your Website is Not Enough?
Associations have many types of stakeholders such as the community, board members, donors, partners, prospects, and, of course, members. Your website is not enough because of the practical issue that the website is everything to everyone. Having a membership site that focuses on your members is a great way to keep focus on your members and allows you to deliver your association benefits in one place. This frees up the real estate on the website to focus your marketing on prospects and other stakeholders.

Need for a Customized Membership Site 
There is a full array of Association Management Systems out there that offer a list of desirable features. However, for all the things they can do, there is very little flexibility, and often fall short of what you envision.

From our 12 years of experience building membership sites, some associations find their membership offerings too complicated to be easily managed by templated software. Many associations have sophisticated benefits with many moving pieces and steps to their process of delivering them to their members. A template AMS is a quick solution when your needs are simple. For more mature associations, the amount of work they have to do outside the AMS easily gets out of hand.

At a certain point, it makes more sense to move the budget from manpower to a custom membership site that can organize all your processes and automation easily. Additionally, it offers your members a more enjoyable experience with a faster turnaround time. Moreover, a membership site will work for your organization for many years, engaging your members and freeing up valuable staff time.

Create a Members Guide about your Benefits
You have assembled quality member benefits.

You just need your members to use them!

Often it is not clear to members what their membership benefits are or how to use them. Often this is because the benefits are buried in a busy website, not housed centrally, and are not easily accessible.

With a membership site, you control your member’s user journey. You can ensure that they get the welcome and walk-through they need to get familiar with your benefits and present paths to easily access them.

Tips to Increase Member Retention

1. Make your Members feel Welcome
Offering each member a human-touch welcome would be wonderful, but is likely cost-prohibitive to pay the staff required to do this. Using your membership site to onboard new members is ideal. Have a welcome section for new members with FAQs and video tutorials for each of your benefits. The tutorial videos can explain each benefit as well as how to access them on the site.

When members know what your benefits are they are more likely to use them. Members who use the benefits are more likely to renew their membership.

It is challenging to properly welcome new members without a custom membership site since you can only do so much with template software.

2. Members can Access their Benefits
A membership site becomes your association’s hub to clearly present your full buffet of member resources for members to browse and engage with.

Thoughtfully presenting your member resources takes some strategy to create a positive user experience. Take the time to view the website from your user’s perspective and create user journeys that will guide them to the content that interests them without overwhelming them.

3. Create a Connection
More often than not, members are looking to connect with other members for networking, support or collaborations. Having a discussion forum to connect your members is powerful, as is providing a directory of members with contact information.

Consider setting up a mentorship or partnership program where new members can pair up with another member. It will cost you close to nothing and yet offer tremendous value to the members.

4. Offer Independence
Offer your members a way to perform as many routine operational tasks as possible on your membership site. Provide readily accessible ways for them to renew their membership, update their information, update public profiles, update billing info, register for events and training — anything they can do independently, offer it!

This independence enables members to participate, engage, register, and download when inspiration strikes them without the delay of requiring help from your staff. They see there is practical use to the membership site, and their independence frees up your staff from having to field endless support requests from members.

5. Facilitate Communication
Frequent checkpoints with new members in the first weeks and months is so important to make them feel cared for and send the message that you care about them. If you can track that their engagement is low, you’ll know they are at risk of not renewing. Ask how they are enjoying their member experience and if they need any additional help. Ask them for what interests them. Have a designated place on your website for members to submit their ideas and suggestions.

The most valuable feedback you can get is from your members. Listen to them and use their feedback to inform them about training and member benefits you plan to offer in the future. When they see an event or article come up that they requested, they will feel heard and know that your association is responsive to their needs and interests.

Looking for Ways to Improve Your Member Retention?
Join us for a member-engagement webinar to start your association on a clear path to growth!


Farhad Khan, CEO

A tech entrepreneur specialized in creating membership websites for professional associations to increase member engagement. My background is as an engineer for Nortel and Ericsson. I started my own tech company in 2009 to help associations and nonprofits solve their challenges with my digital technology skills.