This article was contributed by Murad Bushnaq, Founder and CEO of Morweb.
When members join your association, they have certain expectations of what belonging to your organization will be like. From leading career development courses and conferences to facilitating lifelong connections with like-minded professionals, your association has to provide members with enough value so they’ll renew their membership year after year.
To incorporate learning and professional development into the member experience, you need to leverage your website. Not only does your website function as a marketing tool to attract new members, but it also serves as a resource for existing members to stay up to date with your organization’s events, access learning and development materials, and overall tap into the benefits of membership.
A strong website design can help your members dive into your educational materials and growth opportunities from anywhere, at any time. Use these top tips to transform your website into a central hub for professional development:
- Create a members-only resource library
- Offer a comprehensive member directory
- Run an authoritative blog
To make it as easy as possible to revamp your website, leverage a content management system (CMS) specifically designed with associations in mind. Morweb recommends looking for a top membership website builder that offers custom member portals, community forums, and an intuitive member directory. With the right website builder, you can easily upload and arrange valuable professional development resources so they’re accessible to members of all abilities.
A rich resource library can empower members to learn industry insights, pick up new skills that will help them progress in their careers, and access tools to enhance their engagement with your organization. Your members will appreciate an easy way to learn on-the-go, whether they’re in-between work meetings and want to read a member case study or are eager to scan through the latest industry updates while on vacation.
Your learning library can feature the following resources:
- Recordings of past webinars, workshops, conference presentations, and association meetings
- Industry reports and insights
- Case studies about members’ success in their professional fields
- Templates and checklists to track learning objectives
- Online courses that target professional development
- Podcasts that explore industry trends
To make your digital resource library as valuable and user-friendly as possible, leverage the following best practices:
- Develop a members-only area: Only members should be able to access your resource library. This will make members feel more connected to your organization because they have access to these special perks, and prospective members will feel inclined to apply for membership so they can explore your resource library. With the help of your association-specific CMS, create custom member portals where members can submit their unique login credentials and access a dashboard with an option to navigate to your resource library.
- Add a search bar: If your association has a long list of resources and tools in your library, make it convenient for members to find what they’re looking for with a search bar. Here, they can type in a keyword, such as “webinar,” and be brought to a results page that shows all of your webinar content.
- Refresh your content: Constantly generate new content and refresh old content so your digital library is up-to-date with useful resources. For example, an industry report from 2015 that no longer aligns with current standards should be archived rather than prominently featured. Maintaining a fresh library communicates professionalism and ensures your members are learning current best practices.
As you generate new resources, consider promoting them in your members-only newsletters or in your dedicated community forum. This way, members will know when new content is added and can dive right into the e-learning experience.
One of the main reasons members join associations is to form strong peer-to-peer connections and leverage professional relationships to support their own career development. Use your website to facilitate networking by creating a member directory. This allows you to keep an updated list of all current members, including information like their:
- Name and contact information
- Career or place of employment
- College and/or graduate schools they attended
- Goals they want to achieve
- Areas of expertise or interests
Your members can access this directory at any time and look through the contacts to find peers to connect with. For example, let’s say a doctor just starting out in their career wants to find a more seasoned medical professional to be their mentor. They can navigate to your medical association website, take a peek at your membership directory, and reach out to different peers to ask if they’d be interested in mentoring them or simply setting up a coffee chat in the future.
As members join your organization, allow them to determine what information they want to be made available in your directory. For example, some members might be comfortable sharing their phone number, while others would prefer to only share their email address. You’ll also want to clean your membership data in your directory and make updates as needed if any members choose not to renew.
Much like your resource library, a well-designed blog can provide members with key learning opportunities and signal to your community that your association is an authoritative figure in its respective field. Make your blog public so prospective members can learn more about your organization and what it would be like to join.
Use these expert tips to run an organized and compelling blog:
- Empower different people to author content: Different perspectives can enrich your blog and shine a light on the people that make up your organization. Invite staff, seasoned members, novice members, industry professionals, conference speakers, and other relevant people to contribute content. If your members contribute content, be sure to express appreciation for their time. ECardWidget’s guide to member appreciation recommends sending eCards or gifting members with branded merchandise.
- Post a variety of content: If you’re only posting about one topic on your blog, members and prospective members might lose interest in checking out your content. Share content that includes industry updates, descriptions of upcoming workshops and conferences, food-for-thought or opinion pieces, member testimonials, and more.
- Stick to a consistent posting schedule: An up-to-date blog shows prospective members that your association is active and provides a continuous source of value to your current members. Set up a regular posting schedule—for example, share blog content once a week or twice a month.
To make your blog roll visually appealing and accessible, leverage a website builder with ready-to-go website templates. This way, you can simply plug in your content, add in your custom elements, and push it live on the blog. Your website builder will take care of all the hard work so you can focus on maximizing member engagement.
Unlock your website’s potential by featuring a variety of digital resources and opportunities for members to professionally develop. With a strong web design that makes e-learning easy and accessible, you can boost member satisfaction and increase the likelihood of members renewing their membership. Remember to leverage an association-specific website builder so you can share relevant tools and resources that will benefit members for years to come.