Associations often spend a significant amount of time, effort, and money on attracting new members—only to forget about those new members once they are a part of the association.

That would be a mistake.

The new member experience is unique, and that first year of membership will go a long way toward creating a lifetime member—or an ex-member who tells colleagues about everything the association did wrong.

Here are a few things you can do to help turn a new member into a lifetime member.

1. Match new members with established members.

Formal mentoring programs go a long way toward making new members feel like they are an important part of your association’s family.

However, even if you don’t have a formal mentoring program, take the time to introduce new members to experienced, engaged members who understand the value of the association.

Those relationships will make your new member feel like he or she is an important part of a professional community. Further, those relationships will go a long way toward delivering value. Anyone who has belonged to or worked for an association has heard the following sentence:

The reason a member is because of the relationships I have in this association.

2. Publicly celebrate new members, and create new member communities.

Recognizing new members at events, online, in social media, and in your publications will help signal to the new member that he or she is welcome. At Sentergroup, many of our associations recognize new members at conferences and events with “New Member” ribbons, as well as in special sections of regularly scheduled member newsletters.

Additionally, Sentergroup has implemented programs in client associations that welcome new members with letters, plaques, and other material that make the new member feel valued.

And you can take this concept a step further.

Chances are your association has some form of the Special Interest Group (SIG). These communities—which may go by another name—serve as a way for members with similar interests and passions to network and collaborate. Why not create one for new members, and task a board member to serve as a liaison to the New Member SIG? Not only will new members benefit from a dedicated community, but the New Member SIG can serve as source of innovation and fresh perspectives for the entire association.

3. Understand the new members are especially attuned to value.

All of your members are attuned to whether your association is delivering value, but new members are especially attuned to the value proposition. That’s why it is critically important to touch base with members throughout the year, and inform them of benefits and opportunities to gain value from membership.

The worst possible thing an association can do for new member retention is to touch base with members twice: Once when the membership fee is collected. And again at renewal time.

Think about it. If this is your 5th, 10th, or 20th year writing a check for dues, you’ve:

  1. Gotten into the habit of writing that check.
  2. Long ago concluded that the money is worth it.

If this is the 1st year you’ve written that check, you:

  1. Are not in the habit of writing that check.
  2. Have not yet concluded whether the money is worth it.

With new members, your association has to work hard to earn that 2nd check.

The good news is that in focusing on member value, you also earn that 5th, 10th, or 20th check from your more established members.

At Sentergroup, we take the new member experience seriously, and look forward to implementing best practices that will ensure your association turns new members into lifetime members.