This post was written by Amanda Kaiser, CEO and Founder of Kaiser Insights, LLC. Amanda is a qualitative researcher for the association industry and co-creator of the New Member Engagement Study. You can read Amanda’s weekly blog for association professionals at SmoothThePath.net or follow her on Twitter @SmoothThePath.
Members who engaged early in their membership are more excited about the association than members who reported that "the association just grew on them."
This was not just a little pattern in the data or even an epiphany. It was one theme running so strongly through each member research project I conducted I could not ignore it any longer.
Early engagers are special. They look to their association first when they have a question, they easily articulate the value they get from their association, they distinctly remember the value they got when they first joined, and they aspire to engage more, whether that means attending the annual conference or becoming a volunteer.
Some associations have far more early engagers than others, and these early engagers tended to engage with the same benefit. Depending on the association, it could be a new-to-the-profession academy, webinar series, mentor program, research report, or any other benefit. These associations have what I call an Association Value Trigger Point (AVTP). An AVTP catches a new member's attention and delivers needed value to them at that critical point just after they join, but far before they worry they made a mistake in joining.
The more early engagers I met, the more I wondered about what was happening on the association side. If members say the best predictor of deep, life-long engagement is early-in-their-membership-engagement, what are associations doing about that? Some associations have new member onboarding programs, others have orientation programs, and some have welcome programs. I began to wonder if these programs were unsung heroes? And if they were, which plans and tactics worked best?
Right around the time that these questions were swirling in my brain, I met Lisa Vivinetto from Dynamic Benchmarking. Lisa and I hit it off immediately, and before long we were talking about ways to partner. I shared my idea of conducting an association industry onboarding study with her and she liked it. After searching industry resources, we found there was not a lot of information available about the effectiveness of onboarding programs and thus the seed was planted for our New Member Engagement Study.
Because this was a new to the industry study, we decided to start with qualitative research first. This data would give us a detailed understanding of what was most important to the industry and help us write the most accurate, quantitative survey questionnaire possible.
After interviewing thirteen association professionals from organizations of all sizes and industries, we had the data necessary to craft our quantitative study. Dynamic Benchmarking Project Manager, Holly Maki led the team through the process of carefully analyzing and crafting each question until we had a thoughtfully curated list of questions that promised to get in-depth data without taking respondents too long.
We then faced the biggest challenge - recruiting survey participants. Lisa and I reached out to our contacts in the industry and were thrilled when they too saw the possibilities of the research. In what seemed like no time at all 13 research partners committed to promoting our study to their members and customers and, thanks to them, our study has been an amazing success.
As of today, we have 143 survey respondents. Data analysis for a final report is underway and it is my hope to release that report in early December. But while there is much work to do between now and then, we can share this key highlight with you now:
In an early look at the overall results, it is clear - new member engagement programs measurably raise new member retention rates and do not have to cost a lot of money which is great news for associations. If you are curious to learn more and would like to see what a successful new member engagement plan looks like and how it’s measured, our in-depth report will be released soon to survey respondents.
If you’re kicking yourself for not participating, don’t worry. The platform is still open to responses. If you have not already participated, create an account so that you can gain access to the results in the platform later, then take the 15-20 minute survey, and you will soon have access to the dynamic, customizable reporting for which Dynamic Benchmarking is known.
Thank you again to everyone who’s made this study possible!