Associations are fixated on member engagement, and rightly so. You regularly ask members to deepen their engagement by volunteering, reading newsletters, attending events, or enrolling in online learning programs. But all this engagement takes time, and most members have no time to spare.
Your busy members are stretched thin. Some of them are also dealing with career anxiety and professional burnout. They know they should spend more time on professional development, but they can’t imagine finding time for it—and that stresses them out too.
10 ways to help members save time
You won’t have to worry about engagement if your association becomes indispensable to members. Engagement will happen naturally as members become reliant upon your resources. Here are ten timesaving ways to help members engage with your association.
#1: Make it easy for members to find what they need
Whether it’s searching for an article to read or a learning program to enhance their expertise, members (and non-members) expect to find what they need quickly. Your website and LMS must provide the user experience they’ve come to expect online.
Most likely, they’re searching from their phone so your website and LMS must be mobile-friendly. Provide appropriate search filters so results are highly relevant. Organize your LMS catalog in a coherent way and use clear, comprehensive (but concise) program descriptions.
Once someone chooses a program, anticipate what else they might like. For example, offer optional bundles of programs or products that naturally go together, like a test prep course and study guide, or an online learning program and related book.
Price items so they’re less expensive purchased together as a bundle than purchased separately. Bundle learning pathway programs and provide a discount if someone pays in advance for the entire pathway. If a customer is purchasing an item that’s included in a bundle, make a recommendation for that bundle at checkout.
#2: Eliminate barriers to professional development
Examine the entire professional development discovery, enrollment, and participation process to make sure nothing stands between the member and their goals. Eliminate barriers to entry like lengthy forms. Only request the data you need to get the learner going. You can request additional information during a pre-assessment or orientation.
Remember, we live in a time of instant gratification. Let learners get started right away with their program. If your systems are properly integrated, they won’t have to wait until a batch is processed overnight.
Help learners become familiar with your LMS by building it into other aspects of their association life. For example, use the LMS for new member onboarding, board and volunteer training, leadership development, and mentoring programs.
Don’t let learners wander away. Make sure they can find any other association resource they need. If your LMS is branded like your website, they won’t even know they’ve moved into a different system—it’s all one place for them—their association.
#3: Always be relevant
Nothing shows a lack of respect for someone’s time than irrelevant emails. Target your communications, especially promotional emails, to the appropriate audiences. Don’t treat everyone the same. Segment your communications by position or specialty, interests or needs, training history, or career stage.
#4: Fit into a member’s schedule
In an Associations Now article, Alexandra Mouw, CAE, senior consultant at Results Direct, said, “My day is filled with little snippets of time that I need to fill, and I think that is increasingly the same for most people. Your member engagement should fit those moments of time.”
Microlearning fits those moments of time. If pressed, any of your members could find 10 to 15 minutes a day for professional development. Microlearning spaces small chunks of engaging educational content out over time. Each chunk focuses on a narrow topic and a single learning outcome.
You could offer these activities in microlearning chunks:
• Videos and podcasts
• Quizzes and self-assessments
• Reflective exercises
• Group discussion prompts
But first, you must stoke demand so members feel compelled to set aside even that small amount of time. Create a sense of urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out) by regularly discussing in your publications the need for lifelong learning—or else members may fall behind or lose out to their competition. Share statistics from your industry or profession about the emergence of new issues and challenges, implementation of new technology, need for new skills, and changes anticipated in the workplace.
#5: Provide options for members who want to avoid the drive (or flight)
Many members skip local chapter events because they don’t want to spend time in traffic. Or, chapter events conflict with their schedule at work or home. Getting to a national association event is even more problematic. Besides taking time off from work—and parental responsibilities—members have to spend money on flights, hotels, and other travel expenses.
Don’t deprive these members of the opportunity to learn from local and national speakers. Offer session recordings at a price members don’t mind paying. You could turn some of the recordings into webinars with an interactive chat for viewers.
#6: Help members work on two goals at once
Just about every member has at least two goals when they join an association: improve their skills and knowledge, and develop relationships with fellow members. An online learning program that includes a discussion forum allows members to work on these two goals simultaneously.
As long as your LMS is integrated with an online community platform, learners can enjoy frequent and fruitful discussions with their peers.
#7: Provide a solution for information overload
Every day, members have to wade through a vast stream of information in their inbox and on the web to find the best articles to read or videos to watch. Google isn’t always the most trustworthy source, but your association is. You can curate their information overflow by bringing together relevant content from different internal and external sources.
Content curation is one of the most valuable services you can provide to time-strapped members. You could even curate resources around specialized topic areas or issues, or ask an influencer to create a special curated selection of articles.
In a world of information overload, think about reducing a member’s sense of overwhelm and decision-fatigue. Do the research work for them by creating online learning pathways for different positions, interest areas, and career stages.
#8: Help members prioritize education
If a member values and prioritizes professional development, they’ll make time for it. Facts are compelling, but not always persuasive. Members know they should invest time and money into their professional growth, but they don’t always do it.
You need to tap into their emotions. Your marketing should prompt a member to think about the ways education can:
• Alleviate professional anxiety.
• Build hope or excitement.
• Reduce fears.
• Validate their self-worth.
• Relieve frustrations.
Different segments of your audience are motivated by different emotions for different reasons. Your marketing should reflect that.
#9: Convince employers to make time for professional development
Even if a member is motivated to make the time for education, they won’t get far if their employer doesn’t support their professional growth. You need to aim some of your marketing at employers too. Remind employers that companies that support professional development are more attractive to people looking for a job—an asset in a competitive talent marketplace.
Offer talking points and a sample ‘Dear Boss’ letter that members can use to make a compelling case for their professional development. Focus the talking points on how an employee’s continuing education benefits the company and supervisor.
#10: Build a culture of learning
Share learning tips in your newsletters. Talk about the need for professional development on your website, in your publications, and at events. Ask staff and leaders to communicate and behave as if lifelong learning is the default for successful people and businesses. People make time for what they value, and for what their workplace and professional community value. Keep lifelong learning front and center in your association.