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Nailing New Member Onboarding: Everything You Need To Know

MemberClicks Avatar MemberClicks February 7, 2023
Table of Contents
6 min read

So much time for membership organizations is focused on getting new members. Advertising, events, emails, cold calls, networking socials, lunch and learns, webinars and sponsorships (just to name a few). What do you do when you finally get that new member? Unfortunately, that is the worst time to pull back on your efforts.

Member onboarding is vital to the long-term success of your organization. It’s that sets the foundation for the relationship that member will have with your organization forever.  

Why onboarding matters

Onboarding sets the tone for a few things.

  1. How a new member utilizes all their benefits and the resources you have for them
  2. How welcome they feel impacts how engaged they are
  3. Gets them excited for seasonal events and networking engagements
  4. Impacts how they talk about your association to people they know (I.E. other potential members)
  5. How likely they are to renew their membership when the time comes

None of these 5 things are small or insignificant. If we can really drive home one message for you, it’s that renewals begin the moment a new member signs up.

What to include in new member onboarding

New members onboarding should:

  • Remove any technical challenges of interacting with your organization
  • Deliver immediate value to new members
  • Make them feel immediately welcomed and included in your community
  • Encourage interaction with your organization

The first point of removing technical challenges is super important today with so much of the world being online. Access to your members-only content, online community, learning management system, job board, etc. is what will set your new members up for success.

You should let them know where they can find information, how to access it and give them a point of contact for any questions they may have in the first few months.

3 ways to welcome new members

When you get new members, knowing how to welcome them (especially virtually!) can be a challenge. These are our top 3 ways to welcome new member.

1. Embrace the welcome letter

The first step to welcoming your new members is a new member welcome letter, where personalization is key. Personalization can be as small as including the new member’s name in the salutation. However, you can absolutely take the personalization to a deeper level. Talk about the specific contributions and characteristics you think the new member will specifically be able to bring to your association.

Next, you’ll want to offer your thanks. Without your members, your association would be nowhere. Your members should know how much value they bring to you, and how important their presence is.

Finally, give your new member next steps. While you don’t want to overwhelm them, you do want to tell them how to get involved. Include upcoming events they can attend, or volunteering opportunities. If you’ve done your research, you’ll understand why this member joined your organization in the first place, and you’ll be able to highlight specific activities that appeal to their specific interests.

If you’re a visual learner, check out this article for a sample template and example to guide your letter-writing process.

2. Address new members’ reasons for joining

No two members are alike, so be sure to treat them as such. Address new members’ reasons for joining in your welcome letter, and in other key, initial communications with them.

For example, perhaps some members were intrigued by your online learning program, while others decided to join to gain access to employment and networking opportunities. Once you know the “why” behind your new members joining, you can cater to their interests and needs.

3. Add new members to your online community

Direct new members to your online community—you can even make it easy by giving them instructions or a video walkthrough of how to use the platform. Remember to offer answers for any questions the new member may have after they’ve reviewed the instructions or videos provided.

You’ll also want to make them feel included in your social media presence. Add new members to any Facebook groups or group chats your organization uses to stay in touch with members. If you don’t have any private social media channels for members, you can also encourage the new member to follow your public social channels.

Top tip: Don’t stop too early

Too often, associations send a new member welcome email and/or packet…and then that’s it. They kind of drop off the radar and leave it up to their new members to get involved (which often, doesn’t actually happen).

To boost engagement from the start (and build the habit of engagement), it’s important to have a schedule of communications lined up. You can’t assume that just because you tell your new members something once, they’ll remember it. The second (or third) time’s the charm. 

To make sure these communications actually happen (especially given how busy you are), we recommend setting up an automated email marketing campaign targeting your new members exclusively. (Note: With something like an association management system in place, this type of campaign is extremely easy to set up.) Email topics could include upcoming event reminders, benefit reminders, volunteer opportunities, special discount codes, etc. (Remember, the earlier you can engage these members, the better!)

Use a Learning Management System to build out your onboarding process

Have you ever considered using your learning management system to build out an “onboarding course”? This is an excellent use of time and resources because:

  • You can record welcome videos and informational sessions once and have them ready to go.
  • You can track what members complete it and which don’t.
  • It keeps your schedule from being filled up with meetings and notes when a new member joins.
  • You can set a path of what information should be released in what order to streamline the onboarding process
  • Everything you need for onboarding is already in one palace with easy access to members.
  • Members can redo training and refresh themselves on benefits, contact info, resources etc. whenever they need to.

Hosting regular members-only events is an excellent way to build a community

Many people join organizations to feel like they belong to a community. While open events are great to bring in new members, members-only events are vital to building that sense of connection. Incorporate new member onboarding into your member-only events by:

  • Giving them a buddy to introduce them to people
  • Having a meet-and-greet time for all your new members who joined in the past quarter/month/year
  • Facilitating ice breaker games

Make sure your new members feel heard

The best way to tell if your new members are happy is to ask them! Encouraging feedback from your new members (maybe through a 3 or 6 month survey) is the best way to hear what can be improved and what they love.

Some questions you can ask include:

  • What meetings or events have you attended since joining organization XYZ?
  • What do you like the most – so far – about being a member of organization XYZ?
    • What do you like the least?
  • How often do you login to your member portal?
  • How likely are you to renew your membership in the following year?

We say this a lot when talking about surveys, but the best thing you can do when reviewing answers is to be honest with yourself about the feedback you get. Members may identify cracks or roadblocks in how things are done. It can be hard to hear that feedback but it’s vital to embrace the honesty and make any changes that are needed.  

New member onboarding: Put yourself in their shoes

No one knows your members like you do. Throughout your entire onboarding process, continue to ask yourself questions about what you would want to know or learn if you were them.

  • What information would be helpful for you?
  • What benefits would you want to know about first?
  • What questions do you with you had been asked when you joined an association?

Keeping your members front and center as you build out your new member onboarding plan will make sure you’re crushing it.

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.