December 17, 2018

Setting Benchmarks for Your 2019 Membership Engagement Plan

Setting Benchmarks for Your 2019 Membership Engagement Plan

As the end of year approaches, it’s time to look back at your association’s member engagement metrics. During your review of these metrics, take note of any correlations and patterns. See where your engagement strategies and tactics are working and where there’s still room for improvement. What you learn from these metrics will help you develop your membership engagement plan for next year

Capturing Member Engagement Data

If you had unlimited time and gargantuan amounts of data, you could track all kinds of member engagement. But I’m willing to bet that time is your most valuable resource.

Only collect data and track metrics you plan to use. Focus your energy on areas where data can make a difference, for example, informing your marketing and communication strategies, or your onboarding and retention strategies.

The list of engagement metrics you could track is long. It includes digital data such as:

  • Email opens and clicks
  • Member portal logins and profile updates
  • Website and blog page visits and downloads
  • Member service contact via phone, email, and web form

Activity data:

  • National and chapter event participation
  • Online learning participation
  • Online community contributions and participation
  • Volunteer service: not only committee service, but also ad hoc or microvolunteering, such as writing or reviewing content, speaking or presenting, event assistance, reviewing session proposals, and grassroots political action
  • Membership referral/recruiting
  • Voting in association elections
  • Social media interaction
  • Use of other membership benefits/services

Transactional data:

  • Product and service purchases
  • Donations
  • Sponsorships, advertising, exhibiting, and other revenue partner activities

Trade association data:

  • Number of participating employees at company
  • Engagement of primary contact

Some of the data you need for a 360-view of members may be stored in other systems, unless your AMS has a wide range of modules. To unlock your data’s power, you need to eliminate data silos. An AMS with a strong open API will help you integrate your different systems.

Measuring Member Engagement and Satisfaction

“Engagement” is an overworked and loaded word. Association professionals don’t always agree on the definition of engagement—which makes it difficult to provide standard engagement metrics. The idea that every member must get involved somehow is no longer the prevailing wisdom. Engagement means something different to every member.

So-called “mailbox members” (or “inbox members”) are perfectly content reading the daily digest of your online community and your daily curated industry newsbrief. These resources are of tremendous value to them. But would they be considered “engaged?” They’re not at risk of dropping their membership because they’re getting what they need.

Engagement is not only about activities. Many members join to connect with other members. They renew because of their relationship with your association and fellow members. Their emotional experience as a member is a key factor in their decision to renew, but how do you measure that?

Association leadership consultant Rita Santelli wrote in an ASAE article on measuring member engagement: “The key is to measure whether members view the association as their partner and go-to resource for help with resolving challenges.” She suggests two engagement metrics:

  • Measure the value of participation. Send out post-activity polls to find out how regularly members use benefits.
  • “How likely are you to apply the information you learned in today's webinar?”
  • “Will the information you learned today directly help you in your work life?”
  • Measure the emotional connection of the member to the association. How likely are they to turn to the association when a challenge arises? Find out how often they take advantage of member benefits (website and other resources, fellow members) when seeking a solution.

When you collect and track this type of member engagement data, you can understand the true value of different membership benefits and activities. By noting trends in emotional satisfaction, you can see where you need to focus your efforts.

Using Metrics to Develop a Membership Engagement Plan

Don’t overwhelm yourself with engagement metrics. Start small with metrics that can help you spot problems and answer questions. What do you want to learn about the engagement of different membership segments? Where do you need to improve membership engagement? What new strategies and tactics can you try? How can you test those ideas?

By segmenting your data, you can better understand how different membership groups engage. Engagement metrics can help you gauge their interest in different topic areas. You can identify the most (and least) popular events, online learning programs, membership benefits, or products/services—either in aggregate or by membership segment. Engagement metrics can help you determine where to focus your limited resources as you develop next year’s member engagement plan.

What do your association’s decision-makers need to know about member engagement? What do other departments or teams need to know? Give them information that will help them understand issues and make decisions.

For example, engagement metrics can help your association identify leadership prospects. You can spot under-the-radar members who aren’t volunteer leaders but who are participating or contributing in other ways. Data can also lead you to membership prospects—those non-members who are engaging but haven’t yet joined.

By segmenting data by membership journey stage, you can see how member engagement with the association changes throughout their tenure. You can find correlations between different types of activities and renewal rates. What activities are predictors of membership renewal? This type of information can help you develop not only a member engagement plan, but it can also help inform marketing and communication strategies and tactics too.

Sharing Member Engagement Metrics

Data is useless if not shared. Develop reports and customized dashboards for association colleagues and leaders that provide the information they need to inform decisions and strategies. Use a report scheduler to send the reports they need at specific times each month.

Find out if other departments and teams need to track the use of specific membership benefits or member participation in specific activities. Ask your marketing colleagues what type of data they need to help them better understand members and the effectiveness of their marketing initiatives.

As some engagement questions are answered and problems solved, others will emerge. Engagement is an evolving process, always changing within the membership as a whole, within membership segments, and within a member’s tenure. The metrics you track will necessarily shift as well.

With Report Studio’s intuitive and user-friendly interface, tweaking and revamping reports is easy enough. You can combine data from multiple MemberSuite modules and perform in-depth analysis of your association’s data. You can also design reports, build custom data visualizations, and create dashboards for your colleagues and leaders. Find out more by downloading the Report Studio information sheet.