7 Tips to Improving Member Experience in your Organization
Have you ever joined a membership program, whether it be in the nonprofit space or not, that just left you feeling uneasy, for no reason in particular? I know I have.
Even though everything was clear, I always had the appropriate information, the fees were low, and benefits were high, I just never felt integrated or that sense of community that is supposed to come with this sort of thing.
Why? Two words: member experience.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Write a Membership Agreement
- Be Transparent About Fees and Reporting
- Dig into Emotion
- Map the Membership Experience and Journey
- Find Your Value Proposition
- Build Connections Between Members
- Use the Right Tools
Write a Membership Agreement
The overall goal of a membership agreement is to keep expectations and guidelines clear and give you and the member a guidepost to follow. The agreement is a legally binding document that, first and foremost, assures the organization will get paid but also guarantees the benefits to the member. This agreement should ensure that the new member fully understands your membership model.
What should be included in the membership agreement are:
Member’s rights and obligations
Examples of the member’s rights could be:
An indemnity clause
Both parties will be required to sign and date the agreement for it to be legal. We’d recommend talking to a lawyer to have them help with drafting your membership agreement to ensure that you and your members are safe.
Corinne knows a clear membership agreement
Be Transparent About Fees and Reporting
It’s important to be upfront and honest with your members about all fees and reporting. No one wants to be surprised with a hidden fee after signing a membership agreement! Right from the start build trust with your members by being clear and transparent.
I understand that you probably don’t want to air every detail about what’s going on in the organization. However, when it comes to tax-exempt organizations, the more transparent you can be, the better. Consumers want to know that their time, money, and effort are positively impacting the community and cause they are working toward.
The insights you share will quickly show members (or soon-to-be members) that your nonprofit has a culture of integrity and honesty. This can help your membership program stand out in the nonprofit industry. It shows a partnership between you and your members.
Let people know what their membership fees are being used for, and what the membership rules are. Just as any credit union or other financial institution that you may be involved in does, you could include this information in an annual report (that could be included in your welcome packet!). In that same email, you could include details to let the member know exactly what they’ve paid for. For example, how much of their money goes towards operations or how much goes to providing benefits.
For example, if you’re a local swim team you could mention in your newsletter that, "Because of the increase in memberships we are now happy to say that the pool hours will now be able to stay open to 7 pm!" This shows guests and your members that their fees are doing something to help the club as a whole.
Dig into Emotion
This one is difficult to quantify and tough to find data to track. The fact is, you need to have relationships with your members on a level that they will tell you when they are uncomfortable or want something to change. The member experience can be improved through organizational changes, but sometimes there needs to be a more personal interaction. When possible, take the opportunity to connect with your members.
Emily is taking notes on her members' emotions.
There are various touch-points that a member experiences with your organization. Take the time to zero in on how the member feels during the whole process of onboarding, meetings, events, and communication methods. The more emotionally invested in your organization a member is, the better their experience will be.
However, the same goes on the flip side. If a member is unhappy, they can bring others down with them. It’s important to gauge the general satisfaction of your members, and if a member is generally dissatisfied to talk with them about it. It’s going to be impossible to keep everyone perfectly happy, but by at least hearing out concerns and providing responses, you are creating the open and transparent environment that we mentioned previously.
Map the Membership Journey
A customer journey maps out the details of a member’s experience and progression with your organization. It includes internal and external influences that affect the member’s behavior as well as all of the touchpoints and interactions an individual may have while participating in your organization.
By mapping out a customer journey, you are helping:
Find common issues, trends and steps that all your members experience
There are five steps that should be mapped out in each membership journey.
Awareness - This is the stage in which potential members first become aware of your association. This can be through word of mouth, social media, and exploring your website. Awareness often occurs through your various marketing strategies.
Consideration - Potential members have heard of your membership program, and now are considering joining. In this stage they’ll be doing research or reaching out to you to ask more questions about your offerings.
Acquisition - They’ve joined as a member! After learning about your membership program they’ve decided to join your community.
Service - This is the stage of the membership journey where you’re serving members with your specific benefits.
Loyalty - As newer members become veterans they’ll hopefully become loyal members who are ambassadors to your program. They’ve experienced how great your program is, and want to share it with others. Turning new members into loyal committed members takes time!
Going through the steps to map this out will help your nonprofit organization move potential members into action.
Find Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition is what makes you special and what makes your organization different from others out there. You are special and what you’re doing for the community, or any other worthy cause is special, so brag on it!
Pro Tip: To figure out what makes your organization the best out there, brainstorm a list of all of the good things you do. It could be the percent of a dollar that you donate, or that you offer hands-on experience, or even if you offer some sort of certification.
This is a great time to also take a look at organizations in the same sector as you. Take a look at their websites, see what events they have planned, and do a deep dive into what they do. Based on your research, do you see any gaps in your offer or mission that you can easily change?
Anthony is pondering his value
proposition...do you know yours?
Obviously, this is not out of a place of jealousy or trying to outdo another organization. It’s simply to understand the differences so that you can market your organization correctly and put yourself in a position of success.
Build Connections Between Members
What makes people feel more comfortable than having friends in an organization? Think back to when you went to any camp or a new sport’s practice as a kid. Unless you know someone off the bat, you have to make friends. We all know, going through this process as adults can be even harder.
Even though the members of your organization are all wanting to help the same cause, they will have very different personalities and traits. This means that some will get along better than others. You may even have a situation where members have friction with another member or feel like they don’t belong.
There’s a few solutions to helping members connect, but one way is go above and beyond with helping new members get comfortable with the new environment. Make warm introductions to everyone you can, but especially people you think they’ll get along with. Play a bit of a matchmaking game. The more of your members that have true friends in your organization, the better! They’ll be more likely to participate and stick around for the long run.
Having your organization’s leadership and employees connect with members is great. You also can help members connect with one another by creating a directory. You can create one easily on your site or create a document that gets updated and sent out when new members join. Include details about your members and fun facts!
If you notice a lack of connection, try setting up either smaller events or one-on-ones to get people together so that members can have a touchpoint with one another. If distance prohibits ways for members to connect, webinars add a digital element to provide more ways for members to connect with each other.
In addition, if you have employees, they should also understand your goals regarding connection between members. Make it a priority that your staff not only understands this goal but that they are helping foster connections between members. The result of doing this is extremely beneficial.
Use the Right Tools
Okay, we’re going to say something that might be a little painful to hear. It’s time to break up with Excel. That’s right, we said it. We know that’s the program that everyone is most comfortable with, and to be completely honest, there is some amazing technology out there and new innovation is being developed daily.
Sam is breaking up with Excel right
now...and look how happy he is!
Member management software is the best way to streamline processes and improve the member experience. Software, just like Springly, can do a better job of keeping everything in order as a lot of small, time-consuming tasks are automated. It’s a membership management software that tracks members, website analytics, event attendance, funds, and other data. This software is easy to use and will benefit you, your members, and any staff that you have on hand.
What I hope that you take away from this article is that your member experience is critical to the success of your organization. Nonprofits thrive when members feel connected and valued. Listen to their thoughts and concerns. For some, this means getting outside of their comfort zone and putting on their "empathy hat" so to speak.
The more you do to create an A+ member experience, the less turnover you’ll see and the better everyone will feel. It takes some work up front and it will require some social skills, but over time you can foster a membership program filled with members who feel connected and valued.
Maximizing your member experience can involve a number of factors that include building connections between members, using the right tools, and mapping out your member journey. It takes time, but the investment in retention will be returned 10-fold.
👫 What is member experience?
Membership experience is the emotional response your members have when they interact with your organization. An organization can have low fees and high benefits, but if your members don't feel welcome and well-integrated into your community, then their experience will be poor. Find out more.
📄 How does a signed agreement improve member experience?
A signed membership agreement serves as a legally binding document to ensure both parties are aware of their responsibilities to one another. This is essential for preventing any conflicts that could potentially harm the member's experience further down the road. Find out more.
🔥 How can you improve member experience?
The key to improving member experience is to connect with your members so that you make them feel heard and valued. This requires building strong social relations that cannot be done overnight, but the rewards at the end are insurmountable. Find out more.