5 Tips to Increase Member Retention with an Engaging Onboarding Experience

This blog comes with our Successful Member Onboarding with Your Member Portal Checklist & Worksheet tool. Click on the link to download your copy of this great tool.


You want to increase your association’s member retention.

You have a limited budget.

You have limited staff resources.

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 member portal 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:

  1. It’s ten times more difficult to attract a new member than to keep an existing member.
  2. 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 for member 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 that have a good start will be more likely to engage and stay engaged.

We’ll start with some strategy talk to help you better understand the 5 Tips.

How to Make Someone Feel Like a Member

Start by giving them a login account on your member website, offering them privileges that are unavailable to nonmembers. With much of our information, learning experiences and networking being accessed online, nothing says “membership” like a member portal. Browsing and interacting with your content and benefits becomes an exclusive member experience. 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 be everything to everyone. Having a member portal 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 fees up the real estate on the website to focus your marketing on prospects and other stakeholders.

Why You Need a Customized Member Portal and Why Association Management Systems are Not Enough

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 member portals, 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 member portal that can organize all your processes and automations easily, offering the members a more enjoyable experience with faster turnaround time. On top of that, the customized member portal will work for your organization for many years, engaging your members and freeing up valuable staff time.

Check out our handy downloadable Successful Member Onboarding with Your Member Portal Checklist & Worksheet to help you apply these ideas to your organization.

Members Need A Guide to Learn About Your Benefits

You have assembled quality member benefits.

We 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 custom member portal, you control your members’ 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.

Let’s make sure your members use your benefits with these 5 Tips!

1. A Warm Welcome (at scale)

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 member portal 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 portal.

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 member portal since you can only do so much with template software.

2. Ability to Browse & Participate in Member Benefits

A custom member portal 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. 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. Independence

Offer your members a way to perform as many routine operational tasks as possible on your member portal. 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 member portal, and their independence frees up your staff from having to field endless support requests from members.

5. 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 future training and member benefits you offer. 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.

Where to Start

This article comes with a worksheet with easy ways to help get your team on the right foot to implementing the ideas shared here. Get your copy of the Successful Member Onboarding with Your Member Portal Checklist & Worksheet.


Looking for More Ways to Improve Your Member Retention Rate?

Learn about our Member Portal Strategy Workshops and start your association on a clear path to growth!