Whether you’re an association, a nonprofit, or a business with a core constituency, the importance of engagement can’t be overstated. For membership associations, engagement is essential for maintaining and growing your membership program. For a nonprofit, engagement can be critical to encouraging volunteer participation and donations. Businesses can benefit from customer engagement through improved customer loyalty. Engaged customers become brand evangelists.

Engagement is a buzzword- It can mean a lot of things to a lot of different organizations. First and foremost, it’s important to determine what engagement means to your organization. For some, it may be about building a strong online community. For membership organizations, engagement is a way to keep members involved in the activities of the organization, aware of the services it offers and educated about the interests it advocates for.

Remember that every interaction that you have with a member, prospective member, donor or customer is a form of engagement. That means every website visit, every email that is opened, and every online search that leads someone to your organization is an engagement. We recommend keeping these critical concepts at the forefront when looking to increase engagement:

Understand your constituency and their communication preferences.

Any organization will benefit from obtaining data, and a data-driven approach to membership may yield some surprising results. Surveys are a great way to glean information about your members, how they view membership and what they consider valuable. It’s also a great way to learn about their communication preferences. Some members will solely prefer email and online communication. Some constituencies relish face-to-face interaction. Holding in-person events can help engage members by making them feel like a part of a community while also making it easier for them to network.

Offer fresh, customized content and useful services

Whether you’re looking to attract new members or simply retain members, it’s important to consider the questions “What’s new?” and “What’s in it for me?” If your organization has nothing new or of value to offer, there’s no reason for members to keep engaging, or even to remain members. Whenever possible, customize content to reach specific segments of your membership, or in the case of nonprofits, donors and volunteers. Make sure your website is engaging, easy to navigate and offers multiple contact options. Ensure that the services, benefits or educational opportunities your organization is offering are easy to find and are attractive to members.

Focus on engaging and welcoming new members

New members are the lifeblood of any membership association and should be a focus of engagement. It’s important to get to know new members, understand why they joined and to make them feel welcome. The first few interactions a new member has with an organization can be critical, so take a deliberate approach by creating a new member engagement plan. Some strategies to consider are connecting new members with longtime members, clearly outlining the specific benefits of membership and checking in during the first few months.