Skip to content
group of people welcoming a new member

15 min read

Path to Renewal: Member Engagement

Tags: Member Engagement,Member Retention,Professional Associations,Trade Associations

Member retention is a lot easier when your members already see your association as indispensable.

The top reason members lapse is because they’re not finding value or not feeling engaged. But member engagement doesn’t just happen – it’s an ongoing, proactive practice of cultivating content, connections, and benefits for your members and sharing them at the right time and in the right ways.

Think about what you want your ideal member journey to be and how you can guide members on that journey, matching them up with what matters to them. You don’t have to take a brand new member and turn them into a full-on fan overnight – your goal is to build a relationship over time, moving members up each step of your member engagement ladder.

Engage members effectively and increase their affinity for your organization by using your data and technology to personalize each member’s experience, using automation to scale member communication (even with a small team!), and – just like with member onboarding – engaging members across multiple channels.


Community is key to engagement. It’s a place for members to go beyond simply receiving information and level-up to multidirectional participation.

Create a Community Content Calendar to help you ensure consistency in sharing resources. This will drive your users to habitually check in and planning ahead saves you time in the long run.

Laptop screen with online community homepage

Make participating in your community easy and familiar – think about features of popular social media sites, like news feeds, and how they drive participation. Thoughtful and ongoing effort should be put into the design of your community to drive member engagement.

online community design

Use community tools like Automation Rules, Security Groups, and Smart Newsletters to personalize each member’s experience and make them feel understood and better served.

personalized fields

Use Gamification elements like badges, profile completeness, and leaderboards to drive members to engage more. One Higher Logic customer even created community awards/prizes!

community badges and leaderboard

One of the most powerful benefits of community is what you can learn from listening in to what members care about. Trends you see in your community will help you develop relevant programs/education and respond to member needs.

woman reviewing member discussions in online community


Emails sent to smaller, targeted lists have up to 15% higher open rates than large eblasts. Member engagement tactics for email should revolve around getting informed about what each member values, delivering relevant messaging, and empowering members to stay invested in their membership. Think about the information you have:

  • Interest areas
  • Job levels/titles
  • Length of time as a member
  • Member type (student, retired, international, regular, etc.)
  • Past participation in your programs
  • Behavior (topics of emails they clicked on, threads they engage with, pages they visit, etc.)

And think about the ways your email platform can help you use that information at scale to segment email lists, personalize messages, and drive members toward further engagement:

Use Personalized Fields to include helpful details in your emails – for example your member’s name, certification status, or membership expiration date. Any field you’re tracking in your marketing platform (or bringing in via an integration with your AMS) is a piece of data you can leverage to make your members feel like you know them.
Use Dynamic Content to include specialized member blocks in your emails. Higher Logic Thrive Marketing’s Story-Level Targeting, for example, lets you create one mailing and target different groups with specific messaging. Sending an email about a webinar to both members and nonmembers? Include a block that, for nonmembers, encourages them to sign up for membership to get a discount. For members, thank them for being a member and remind them their membership pays for itself in what they save with member discounts.
Set up Engagement Scoring to monitor members’ engagement level with your organization. If someone hasn’t interacted in months, they’ll have a low score, alerting your membership team that they need some special attention – for example, you could funnel them into an automated Reengagement Campaign. Meanwhile, if they’re highly engaged, they may be a great fit for an upcoming volunteer opportunity or new program.
Use Message Categories to offer members the opportunity to unsubscribe from certain types of communication if it doesn’t offer value. While this might feel scary, it ultimately prevents them from unsubscribing from all of your messages.

Career Support

Job Boards and Career Centers are an often overlooked component of member engagement. Yet they can help you make your association even more integral to your member’s career development. Helping a member find a job, or more easily fill an open role, deepens their emotional connection with your organization.

In addition, a job board can help you:

  • Orient members to career trajectories and opportunities
  • Develop highly relevant resources and expertise by learning from what you observe in job postings and requirements
  • Foster members on their career paths, which ultimately improves industry retention, keeping people (existing and potential members) and knowledge in your field

On top of all this, a job board that integrates with your other systems, like Higher Logic Thrive Jobs, can help you drive repeat community logins and easily automate targeted email communication based on job board activity.


Identify and reduce barriers to engagement on your website to ensure it’s an efficient portal to what members need and want (and what you want them to know). In today’s world, members are comparing their experience with your association to their last great experience online – so, while it might seem like a small thing, having a modern, intuitive website makes a big impact on how often members will come back to your site.


Your website should be easily navigable for members (and other audiences). Run usability tests with member focus groups to make sure they can find what they're looking for. Make sure page organization makes sense externally (not just internally).

Ease of Access

Implement integrations, single-sign-on (SSO) functionality, and streamline your tech stack where possible so member access to all their benefits feels seamless.

Measuring Member Engagement

It can be hard to set aside time to track and reflect on performance, but reviewing your member engagement metrics is crucial for determining what’s working, what’s not, what members want, and where to allocate resources. It can also help identify at-risk members who need a little extra attention, and brand champions who can help create content and share enthusiasm for your association.

Some metrics to keep an eye on include:

  • Community
    -Monthly Unique Logins
    -Total Threads and Avg reply per thread
    -Library Entries, Views & Downloads
    -Search Terms
  • Email
    -Open, click, and unsubscribe rates
    -Engagement scoring
  • Event participation
  • Use of member benefits, when you have the means to track them (e.g. discount codes, logins, etc.)
  • Website Traffic
    -What pages have the most/least traffic?
    -How many visitors do you have vs. unique visitors vs. repeat visitors?
    *Higher Logic Thrive’s web tracking functionality allows you to get even more detailed and track the specific web behavior of known users (and even use that to automate email campaigns based on that behavior).

Based on what you’re seeing and the data you’re tracking, you could even customize and/or automate follow-up to your members to make sure they’re making the most of their membership (e.g. set up a reminder for new members who haven’t logged into the community, highlighting some threads they won’t want to miss).

Member Engagement is What Turns New Members into Lifetime Members

Once a new member understands their member benefits (thanks to a strong member onboarding plan), keeping them engaged should be an ongoing priority. Whether they’ve been a member for a year, 5 years, or their whole career, it’s important to think about the ways your association can support them and keep deepening their connection and involvement with your organization. It’s unlikely that all your members are in the same place in their career and membership journey, so remember to personalize your communication to clearly demonstrate value to each individual member every time you reach out. Having tools that allow you to collect and act on member data and behavior make achieving that personalization not only possible but scalable, so that no matter the size of your membership and the size of your team, you can make each member feel seen and valued.

Create powerful member experiences and drive member engagement quickly and simply with Higher Logic Thrive