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Think back to the last time you joined a new group, professional or otherwise. Whether it was an intramural sports team, professional association, or hobby club, it was probably a little intimidating. Everyone seemingly already knows one another and what to expect, and the unknown can be a bit scary — especially attending your first event! It feels a little bit like showing up to a party where you don’t know anyone else there. 

Your association’s new member welcome and onboarding process sets a valuable first impression for your recently joined members. A strong start gives you an advantage in facilitating long-term happiness and success as part of your community. 

Here are some tips on how to welcome new members to your association or membership-based organization. 

1. Create a welcome letter to new members. 

First things first. As soon as a new member joins, your association should send a welcome email immediately. This lets them know their membership has been confirmed, in addition to other valuable information. 

Your welcome letter to new members should include: 

  • A personalized greeting
  • Gratitude for joining
  • A recap of the benefits they receive for being a member
  • Instructions on how to log into their account and access the member portal
  • An overview of next steps or upcoming events
  • Links to important resources and/or training guides
  • Information on where to go to for help
  • A request to white-list your domain so they don’t miss your communications
  • An invitation to ask questions or share why they joined

While there is a lot of information to convey in the initial welcome, at the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm your new members. An option to consider is setting up a drip campaign that walks them through a key member benefit once per week. 

In addition to sending a welcome email, a direct mail welcome kit is a nice touch as well. This kit can include a signed or handwritten welcome letter, association swag, dues information, newsletter, and other information on member benefits and what their membership includes. 

2. Follow up with personalized information. 

If a new member indicated — whether via one-on-one communications or on their application to join — they are interested in a particular member benefit, be sure to follow up and direct them to those specific resources and how to access them. Be sure to do this in the earliest stages of their membership so they can find exactly what they’re looking for, right from the start. 

3. Hold quarterly new member social gatherings. 

Whether virtual or in person, new member socials are a great way to facilitate networking and foster a sense of community among those who recently joined your organization. New members can ask questions and meet each other in a non-intimidating environment. The frequency of these new member socials will depend on your individual association — if you have a lot of new members each month, monthly events might be a better fit.  

4. Check in with new members.

How can you tell if new members are feeling comfortable in your association, learning the ropes, and experiencing value from their new membership? Ask them! Checking in on new members a few months into their membership not only provides your association team with insights on your member onboarding process, but it also helps you build meaningful relationships with members that will keep them a part of your organization for the long haul. 

5. Provide an online forum where members can welcome and interact with one another. 

Whether your association has a members-only social media group, Slack channel, or independent discussion forum, your association should have some sort of digital forum where members can connect with one another. This is a great place to introduce new members with a short bio and open the doors for existing members to welcome them into the fold. Another nice touch would be to add a new members welcome section to your email newsletter. 

6. Create a buddy system.

A great way to make new members feel comfortable and connected is by creating a buddy system that connects new members with veteran members. This will automatically make them feel like they’re not alone and they have an experienced person to whom they can direct their questions. “Buddy” members can offer valuable advice and mentorship while building camaraderie and trust. It’s always less intimidating to attend an event when you know someone who will be there!

7. Keep the communication going. 

It is easy to let communication with new members fall by the wayside once they have completed initial onboarding. However, in order to keep them engaged and happy in the long-term, be sure to continuously make members feel valued and appreciated!

How you welcome new members to your association sets the tone for their overall membership experience, so don’t neglect this important part of the process. To receive tips for association pros directly in your inbox, subscribe to the Sidecar newsletter today!

Emily Herrington
Post by Emily Herrington
August 18, 2021
Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.