Engaged members are happy members who renew their membership and recruit others to join as well. In the global village we live in, our main point of connection is online via our website and member portal.
The key to connecting with our members in a satisfying way is to keep members engaged with your online offerings and the content on your member portal. When members feel they aren't finding value in their membership, they are at risk of not renewing. One of the golden rules of marketing research is that it takes ten times the effort to attract a new member than to satisfy an existing member. As associations, we want to make sure that our member benefits are clearly understood and accessible.
Since all associations offer such varied benefits, the gold-standard is to create a customized member portal that is built around the needs and goals of your membership and makes administrative tasks a breeze.
This article will touch upon the importance of your member portal to your association and open-source solutions such as CiviCRM and Drupal 8.
Websites vs Member Portals
A necessary first step is differentiating your website and your membership portal. Your website should be targeted to stakeholders, prospects and those in the industry. On the other hand, your membership portal should only be designed for members only. These two should always be different, the membership portal would be a microsite in comparison to the website.
Strategy First, Development Second
The first step is to start with the strategy phrase of development. We start with the end in mind by laying out the functions you want on your website and mempber portal that are appropriate for their separate audiences. Think about the end goal, and what steps will be needed to get there.
Be mindful to invest in features that will bring back your return on investment. Divide up your wishlist into high impact, high return versus low impact, low return.
Lastly, and most importantly, talk to your members. Getting member feedback is integral and will allow you to build in phases, while knowing they will each make an impact. As an association, you will need to start from the bottom up and build the basics first. This includes revamping member renewals, profile updates, certification updates and adding newsletter subscriptions.
Once you strategy is laid out and you are already envisioning the master piece that will be your member portal, please know that this will not happen over night. You will need to divide up your vision into implementation phrases. It will take a few months to create member portal that can go live. Once you have that phrase complete, you can add more features and expand.
As your members take advantage of the membership portal you will experience growth as an association, which will help your members grow individually and through their profession. This focuses on sharing services that help your members grow such as training, webinars, podcasts and publications. It is essential that they are easily accessible for members so that growth can take place. With the right foundation, comes growth and lastly, self-actualization. This is where the magic happens, members help each other grow through engagement in your association. Members volunteer in programs, participate in your community and contribute to creating value for your association. This is time for you as an association to create a community for your members to communicate with each other and initiate programs- the dream!
Open-source software is a great tool for an association that is looking for a personalized member portal. That being said, CiviCRM and Drupal8 need more involvement and time. The key to a successful customized member portal is to really understand what your members need to build a system that resonates with them. With an understanding of your members, you can build a strong customized foundation that will later be a close community of members within your association.