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8 Irresistible Online and In-Person Member Benefits Every Association Should Have

Looking for new member benefits to drive member value and engagement? Try these irresistible member benefits.

The effectiveness of your association’s growth strategy depends on your organization’s willingness to adapt, innovate, and implement data-backed solutions that produce maximum member value. Members and potential members have a lot of demands on their time. You have to show them that your association provides value they can’t get anywhere else.

To support member retention and member acquisition, you need to make sure you have a solid list of member benefits – and the technology to make those benefits a reality.


Why Do Members Join Associations?

The main reasons members join associations are to access networking with others in the field (63%), continuing education or certification (36%), and specialized or current information (35%) (MGI, 2022). With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of eight member benefits to help you meet your membership goals. (Use the links below to jump to any section.)

  1. Online Member Community
  2. Flexible Online Learning and Certifications
  3. Mentoring Programs
  4. Members-Only Job Boards
  5. Virtual Events
  6. Directories
  7. Volunteering Programs
  8. Exclusive, Industry-Specific Offers

Building a quality selection of modern member benefits helps your association stay relevant while keeping member satisfaction at the core.

Let’s dive in.

1. Online Member Community

The benefits of an online member community are endless: peer-to-peer connection, access to experts, exclusive resources, and many more.

Virtual Member Engagement All in One Place

With community, you can engage members anytime, anywhere. Your online community becomes a digital home for members to connect with each other and with your organization. Your members don’t need to wait for your annual conference to interact with their peers – they can do this every day with an online community platform. Your community is also a destination members can return to again and again to find resources, event information, volunteering opportunities, webinars, access to subject matter expertise, and more.

Features like automation rules and automated engagement campaigns built into community platforms like Higher Logic Thrive also help you draw them back in with relevant content when they haven’t engaged in a while.

Hear what one of our customers, SHAPE America, has to say about their Higher Logic community.

Understand Your Members’ Wants and Needs

An online community also opens the door to understanding your members’ interests, wants, needs, and pain points. Their discussions, the resources they download, and the feedback they give you are all crucial to building your member personas. Community data shows you how you can better help current members.

EXAMPLE: The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) worked with Association Analytics to analyze ASAE’s community data, which helped ASAE identify overarching membership trends and popular topics, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They used this to tailor programming to just what members wanted to hear. “When we started aggregating data, GDPR was strongly searched and frequently discussed in the community,” said Reggie Henry, ASAE’s Chief Information and Performance Excellence Officer. “So, we created a group and started pushing more GDPR content and resources based on the data we had collected. This was well before the regulation went into effect – we knew we had to be proactive. We put together a GDPR program much faster because we saw it growing early.”

2. Flexible Online Learning and Certifications

Whether it’s through continuing education, certification courses, or gamified interactions, extending online learning components to your members and prospects shows you’re dedicated to their professional growth.

To make the most of this member benefit, it’s a great idea to use a learning management system (LMS) that can integrate with your online community. Creating that sense of community in your online and in-person educational offerings can lead to higher member satisfaction and increased engagement.

The best LMS software also supports a variety of content types, which makes it easy for you to create online courses with text, videos, live webinars, and tests to gauge how much information members retain.

As a bonus, a learning management system can help you increase non-dues revenue through course or certification sales. You can set prices for courses individually or base them on membership tiers. For example, members in your highest tier may have complimentary access to all your courses, while lower tiers pay for more in-depth material.

3. Mentoring Programs

Starting a mentoring program is one of the best member benefits to help members grow their careers and meet new people in the industry! Mentoring programs encourage professional development and networking, giving your association the power to connect experienced members with ambitious members just starting out, so both can share resources and work together towards mutual career goals.

And when you have an online mentoring program tool- like Higher Logic Thrive Mentor Match – it’s a lot easier to manage these programs. Mentors and mentees connect directly and choose the relationships that they find most valuable. Mentees can request a mentor from a different company, department, or location based on their interests, while mentors search for and connect with promising young professionals who may benefit from their expertise.

Check out how the Southern Medical Association supports its members with an online community-run mentoring program.

Here’s a tip if you’re adding a mentoring program as a member benefit:

“Find a good core group of mentors first (more than you think you’re going to need). If you’re estimating 50 people who want to be mentees, make sure you have at least 50 mentors available, and make sure those mentors are in place before your program launches. We did that by asking our mentors to register first before launching with our mentees.” Says Barb Boggs, Events & Volunteer Relations Manager, Grant Professionals Association.

Mentoring programs work best when you have a great plan. Get tips for success in our short guide11 Steps to Start a Successful Mentoring Program.

4. Job Boards

Everyone wants to land a great job, right? Your association has the industry connections to make that happen. Partner with major employers and experts in your field to create a job board for your members.

Try keeping job postings open to the public to entice prospects and make the application available to members only. This creates a public-facing member benefit that helps potential members find you while also providing a compelling reason to join. A job board can be a great way to keep members involved with your association—especially during the Great Resignation—even as they switch to a new job.

Learn more about tactics to support your job-seeking members here and keep your members for life!

5. Virtual Events

Whether you’re doing an annual conference virtually or in-person, or doing a hybrid event, you can use events throughout the year to create engaging, valuable experiences for your audience and reach your overall goals. Members want connection and education now more than ever, and virtual events are a great way to make that happen.

Your virtual events should be more than the traditional webinar – make it a chance for your members to engage by weaving community and connection into it. If you’re new to the concept of an event community, you can think of it as the event’s digital “home.” Your event still runs on a virtual event platform, but you pair that experience with all the engagement tools the community has to offer, like networking opportunities, Q&A, discussion threads, and a resource library. It helps engage your audience before, during, and after your virtual event.

Your event community can help you make sure attendees continue to find value in the event even after it’s over. They can discuss ideas with each other, ask for notes on sessions they couldn’t attend, and keep up the connections they made at your event.

Learn how MUSE International used their Higher Logic Community to improve engagement and sponsorship revenue for their event.

6. Directories

Directories can take multiple forms. You can create a list of members, experts, vendors, partners, you name it, all of which can be either available to the public or locked behind your membership wall. Not only is this a great way to earn revenue from your partners and sponsors, but when you help members create a network of their peers, they’ll become more engaged and more connected to you through these relationships.

Member directories help people find peers in their area and build relationships. New connections can meet in person or exchange emails to share best practices or support one another through personal and professional challenges.

If you create an expert directory, you can aggregate accomplished professionals in your field. Members can browse your online expert directory to find speakers for their events as well as freelancers or guest contributors, like authors. An easily-accessible, searchable directory will save members time and effort trying to fill their event lineup and content calendars.

And if being a member of your association gets experts listed in a public directory, you can easily create one of those, too!

7. Meaningful Volunteer Opportunities

Association members volunteer for several reasons, but every one of them is hoping to get something out of the experience. Two of the top reasons volunteers seek opportunities are to support a cause and to gain professional experience.

Motivate members to join your association and renew their membership by providing volunteering opportunities as a member benefit.

For volunteers who want to make a positive impact or further a cause, provide advocacy opportunities or volunteer positions that directly contribute to meaningful projects. Communicate with these volunteers often by sharing their impact through video, photos, and testimonials. When they feel like they’re making a difference, these volunteers will get value out of your association and stay with you.

Here’s a tip on volunteer management from the American Academy of Audiology, who uses Higher Logic’s volunteering functionality in tandem with their online community. Lauren Reimer, AAA’s former volunteer coordinator, says: “Having everything in one place makes it easy for members to peruse what each opportunity involves. Members want to understand the time commitment for an opportunity before they sign up, so having details available with each opportunity is effective.”

8. Exclusive, Industry-Specific Offers

You know your industry and your members better than anyone. Use that knowledge to create benefits that solve your members’ unique problems with industry-specific offers or an association affinity program.


  • Divers Alert Network (DAN), an association serving scuba divers and businesses, offers travel and accident insurance to its members. Unlike most other insurance policies, DAN’s options cover hyperbaric chambers, an important medical treatment when divers suffer from decompression illness. DAN’s insurance policies can save a diver tens of thousands of dollars, making it a valuable member benefit personalized for their members’ needs.
  • The National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) has another take on this. They offer a valuable shipping benefit for members to help their retail members send wine to their customers’ homes more profitably.
  • Tom Morrison, CEO of the Metal Treating Institute, told us how the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association discovered members had an issue with pallets and appliance transportation. Since pallets were one-size-fits-all, appliances would fall off, get scratched, and end up in clearance. So the association created a software program to engineer and draw the perfect pallets for whatever was being shipped. This was exactly the value their members were looking for, thanks to effective research by the association.

To create your own industry-specific benefit, identify a core problem that many of your members face, then solve it. You can do this by creating content, like a professional education course, or by building a partnership with a company can help.

The Bottom Line?

Offer Member Benefits That Create Clear Value

The most irresistible member benefits are the ones that help members see a return on investment (ROI) for their dues.

Discounts, training, professional opportunities, and other benefits that help members save money or advance their careers are some of the best ways to earn ROI. But it’s important to remember that financial ROI is bigger than numbers. Many association members are looking for a different type of value, such as a feeling of belonging or making a difference. You’ll want to make sure to communicate the benefits in a way that the members interested in them will be motivated to join.

Learn more about those motivations in our podcast episode featuring Todd Henry, author of The Motivation Code.

Make Sure Your Technology Can Support Your Member Benefits

Association membership in the modern age is all about providing people with real value on their terms. To offer the benefits members are looking for, and do it while creating an easy member experience, means investing in your association tech stack. Higher Logic can help, with software purpose-built for associations based on nearly two decades of experience and research. Check out what our customers have achieved using Higher Logic’s Community, Marketing, and Platform tools.

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