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Beyond Transactions: Cultivating Meaningful Member Relationships

Regardless of whether your association is large or small, your members are at the heart of your organization. Understanding their needs and desires is crucial for fostering member satisfaction and engagement. Even better is knowing if they are getting engaged, married or having a new child or grandchild. Did they just return from an amazing vacation or take part in an interesting hobby? Knowing your members on a semi-personal level creates a deeper bond. All sales people know that it is in those details that relationships form, and sales are made. In today’s association environment, the sale we are making is “selling” our member benefits and programs to our current members.

How do we find this information?

  • Phone Calls: If your membership size warrants, pick up the phone and invite them to attend an upcoming program. During that conversation you may hear something about their situation and be able to build on that.
  • Social Media: Monitor their social media activity for a glimpse into their lives. By following or viewing personal or business profiles, you can stay updated on their recent activities and accomplishments In associations with larger memberships, be sure to follow chapters or interest groups to keep up to date with the latest events and needs within your member communities.
  • Member Surveys: Discover how members view their relationship with your association and if there are areas to focus on or address. Remember to include an area in your surveys allowing members to request staff contact for follow-up conversations.
  • Email: Engage members through personalized emails inquiring about their priorities and preferences regarding association benefits. Be sure to include open-ended questions to solicit feedback.
  • Host Drop-In Office Hours Online: Set aside time to be available to hear from your members and answer any questions they may have. Volunteer leadership and staff availability during published online drop-in hours may prompt casual inquiries, even those they may feel hesitant to articulate in an email.
  • Member Spotlights: Feature your members in blogs or articles to profile their personal and professional lives. Such public introductions are a great way to learn more about your membership while expanding personal networks (and humanizing volunteer leaders).

Why does building a relationship matter?

  • Understand Your Members: By gaining insight into members’ needs and values, you can tailor association programs and benefits to align with what matters most to them.
  • Leadership Development: From volunteer opportunities to board positions, knowing your members allows staff and volunteer leaders to identify the next generations of invested volunteers at every level.
  • Conference and Event Participation: People go where they feel included and welcome. By creating a relationship with your members, they are more likely to show up at conferences and events. By understanding your member’s interests, you can invite them to participate in valuable online and in-person educational opportunities.
  • Stronger Professional Networks: Introducing your members to one another is much easier when you have identified any similar personal or professional interests. Networking events gain warmth with the presence of even modest personal connections.
  • Subject Matter Experts: Create content for your newsletter or magazine by asking select members to write about their area of expertise. By knowing their hobbies, travel or other interests beyond the scope of their professional membership, you can expand your offerings when it comes to written materials.
  • Good & Welfare: This is one of the most important reasons to get to know your members. Whether you reach out to celebrate an important life event or share your condolences on a personal loss, your member knows they matter to you and your association.

Ultimately, by nurturing relationships with your members, you demonstrate their value to the association and ensure they feel appreciated and that they belong. In doing so, you create a community where members feel like VIPs, fostering loyalty and long-term engagement.


Picture of Nancy Weil

Nancy Weil

Nancy Weil joined the RGI team in 2020 as Member Services Director. Nancy has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from Empire State College. She has expertise in the field of grief with Certifications as a Grief Management Specialist, Grief Services Provider and Funeral Celebrant.

Picture of Melissa Heeke, CAE, MLD

Melissa Heeke, CAE, MLD

Melissa Heeke joined the RGI team in 2019 and serves as Membership Director. She is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and holds a bachelor's degree in Speech Communications from Indiana State University and a master's degree in Leadership Development from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Melissa has 20 years of experience in the association management field, as well as volunteer management, leadership development, and membership growth.