The Value of Membership Onboarding

The Value of Membership Onboarding

A great deal of time, energy and budgets are spent recruiting and retaining new members. They are, after all, the lifeblood of any association. The good news is that, according to the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report by Marketing General, Inc., 48% of associations reported that membership rates increased (versus 25% showing a decrease).

That said, the same survey cites that, while over 80% of respondents send a welcome email to new members, just 50% send an onboarding packet; only 32% invite new members to interact via social media, or visit the main website; and only 28% pick up the phone to welcome new members into the fold. The numbers are even bleaker for other means of engaging new members, such as inviting them to chapter meetings or seeking their participation in new member surveys.

Put simply, onboarding means offering the tools and resources necessary to help new members or employees interact and engage with an organization successfully. When done well, it both strengthens and deepens the connections your members have to your association. Onboarding demonstrates value.

Here are a few best practices and trends in creating successful onboarding practices for your association:

  1. Move beyond the transactional; instead, really show your members what you have to offer them. Brochures and trinkets are nice, but your onboarding program should not stop there.
  2. Use the onboarding opportunity as a chance to talk to new members about what it is they want. Why did they join? How can your association meet their specific needs? A great time to do this is about two months after a new member joins. Be sure, too, to follow up with new members who are inactive.
  3. Make it personal. Tailored emails and phone calls are expensive and time-consuming, but they work! Even automated messages can be impactful if you are thoughtful about them. Divya Tandan of MemberNova, a membership software firm, suggests creating an automated welcome campaign series that drips emails to new members on a pre-defined schedule, allowing you to share information about your association in small doses, as opposed to overwhelming them with every resource available.
  4. Use the “buddy system.” Are leaders among your existing membership base willing to introduce themselves to new members, whether via email, on the phone, or at an upcoming event? So-called “ambassadors” can make new members feel welcome, help them network and answer questions.
  5. Be sincere. Let your new members know how happy you are to have them. Whether it be through emails, welcome packets, social media posts or events, your enthusiasm for your membership base and your organization should shine through.


If your organization invests heavily in member recruitment activities, only to lose members at renewal, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your onboarding process. What does your organization do to onboard new members? What more might you do?