December 12, 2023   |   Vol. 22   |   Issue 12
By Jacqueline Zeranski, MGI Account Director

5 Ways to Increase First-Year Member Engagement

First-year member retention rates are a struggle. Many associations come to us with the same question, “How do we improve our first-year retention rates?” It’s a challenge to engage new members quickly and prove the value of their benefits early in their member life cycle. Early engagement with your new members is vital to increase retention rates, increase loyalty, and improve relevancy for your organization.

But how do you do this? Plan!

Many associations don't have a structured plan for their first-year member onboarding and engagement. You must plan to engage these new members or risk losing them. Develop a simple structured plan to touch these members at different times during their first year of membership to make them aware of their benefits, invite them to use them, and remind them of the relevance of their membership and of your association's mission. A multiple-channel, multi-touch approach through their first year is a must.

Here are 5 ideas to increase your first-year member engagement and onboarding:

  1. New Member Webpage or Portal – Customize a web page just for new members. This page can walk them through their benefits, invite them to start using their membership benefits, and show them how they can get involved with your organization. The link to the website should be used for all communications with your new members.
  2. Onboarding Welcome Emails – Implement a series of 3 to 5 emails over the first 2 to 4 weeks of membership highlighting one or two benefits associated with their membership. Be sure to have an immediate call to action such as registration for an upcoming webinar or joining an online community. A conversational tone is also helpful, referencing previous emails they have received.
  3. Welcome Gift – Send your new members a special gift to welcome them to your organization, one that visibly reinforces your organization and that they will use or see daily. Correspondence by mail within the first 3 months of their membership can have a strong positive effect on a new member.
  4. Digital Engagement Ads – Develop a digital ad series on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other platforms where your members have a strong presence. A series of 5 to 6 ads highlighting one benefit area shown over 2 to 3 weeks each can result in strong member engagement. These ads run within 3 to 6 months of joining can inspire new members to start using their benefits. Using strong call to action and coding for tracking engagement are musts.
  5. Follow up Engagement Postcard – Send a reminder postcard within 6 months of their joining to follow up on their welcome to the organization and reinforce the top 3 to 4 benefits you want to be sure they take advantage of.

Remember, the key to successful first-year member engagement is to communicate consistently and demonstrate the value of membership early. Develop a plan and implement it. A member who has at least one non-dues transaction during their first year of membership is more likely to renew.

Want to learn more about first-year member engagement strategies? Reach out to Elisa Joseph Anders by email at or phone at 703-706-0339.

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