What is Member Engagement?

By Allison Scudder • July 8, 2022

Associations exist to bring people together who share common interests for a joint purpose. That purpose could be for educational opportunities, social advocacy, community, and even public charities. Those who make up the association are members. Many membership programs are organized so that a person/organization pays a fee to gain access to the full network within the association. Within this network, it is up to the association to provide value to their members that further drives the mission of that organization. When your members interact with the content and materials, they are engaging with the association. There are many factors that make a successful member engagement plan. Let’s go back to basics and define who your membership is and understand how they like to receive information.  


All organizations are made up of a unique set of individuals who are dedicated to the mission. How much does your association leadership and staff know about your membership? Understanding your current members will play a big role in building your member engagement plan. It will allow you to customize your messaging to create content that speaks directly to your ideal audience.  

  1. Analyze your current members’ demographics. Analyze your members gender identity, age ranges, geographic location, income level, and industry (if applicable).  
  1. Research your members’ attitudes and aspirations. Also known as the psychographics, this will help you understand why this group of people have joined your association. Understanding their wants and needs will help you tailor your content and message to speak to your members on a more personal level. 
  1. Understand the technology comfort level of your members. This will determine the best methods for distributing information to your members. Technology has changed the way all people communicate over the years, but not everyone uses it in the same way. Knowing where your members want to receive information will make for more engaged members.  
  1. The issues your members are facing. Whether they are personal issues or business issues, this affects the daily lives of your members.  

Creating this deep understanding of your membership helps you set the stage for a strong member engagement plan.  


When it comes to member engagement channels, there is no one-size-fits-all method. After defining your membership, you will have a better idea of what information they are looking for and what information is important. There are many ways deliver meaningful content to your members where they will be fully engaged with your organization.   

In-person events are an excellent way to solidify the sense of community within your membership. Offer professional development sessions, host networking events, an award ceremony, or appointment-based events with industry buyers and suppliers, to add additional value to your members. Not only will it bring your members together, but it also gives you the opportunity to earn non-dues revenue through exhibit and sponsorship sales.  

Publications are a time-honored source for industry information. It is a way to help position your association as a thought leader in your industry and advance your organization’s mission. Publications can be distributed through traditional mail or digitally. Connect with your members wherever they choose. Utilize your demographic analysis to understand what channels would reach your members best.   

Online career centers can empower your members. Career development is a common reason that people join associations. Connect job seekers and businesses that are looking to hire qualified professionals. Your association can be an important piece of the puzzle for advancing the career of your members.  


Now that you have identified the needs of your members and what channels will bring the highest engagement levels, how do you know it’s headed in the right direction? Your members should feel connected to both the other members and the organization.  

The best way to know if you’re engaging your members correctly is to ask! Continuously survey your membership to stay up to date on their wants and needs. The information that you collect can be used to drive new content programs, gauge the relevancy of offerings, and identify if there is a need for additional support. Understanding how your members perceive the value of your offerings will be the main driver in measuring how engaged your members are with your association.  


The only thing that is constant when it comes to member engagement is change. As time continues and your association goes through different phases, the wants and needs of your members will change too. Keeping an engaged member will ensure that you are delivering on your promises to your current members and will be your best asset when recruiting new members. Your members need to stay engaged or they will not renew.  

Your staff and board are experts on your mission and focus. Our team can provide expertise on how to turn your knowledge into effective member engagement initiatives. Working together, we can create meaningful programs to build deep connections with your members. Contact one of our staff members today to learn more!  

 Allison Scudder is an event marketing specialist with Naylor Association Solutions.