The Three I’s of New Member Orientation
Maintaining an engaged, thriving membership for your association is key to having a prosperous and growing organization. It is essential to remember that member retention starts the moment a member joins your association. New member orientation cannot, and should not, be something you view as a box your members must check to get started. It is a prime opportunity to make a good first impression that will lay the foundation of a long and successful relationship with your members.
Why is Orientation an Important Activity?
At the beginning of any new relationship, both personal and professional, there is a period where you are getting to know each other – learning each other’s personalities, what the give and take will be in the relationship, and whether you are generally going to enjoy and benefit from the connection. If that goes poorly, you don’t have much of a chance for a longstanding partnership. Member orientation follows the same idea – it’s where your members learn the objectives, structure, benefits, and responsibilities that come along with their membership. And it is critical to get it right – studies suggest that as many as 40% of members feel disconnected from the associations they are a part of (1). You don’t get a second chance at a first impression.
What does an effective orientation plan include? A good orientation program will include information on:
- Organizational structure, governance, and guiding policies and procedures
- Association history
- Member perks, rights, and responsibilities
- Programs and activities
- Beneficial partnerships or affiliations
The important, and sometimes difficult, task is to infuse those items into orientation events that are both informative and engaging. How do you make orientation interesting?
When thinking through how to host an orientation program, it’s less important to establish the rigid steps in the orientation process and more valuable to focus on creating a meaningful holistic experience through your member orientation. To achieve that, aim for the three I’s: introduce, inform, and inspire.
The primary goal of your new member orientation is to get your members acquainted with the organization, but more importantly, each other. Yes, there is a lot of information you need to give them, but the main reason they joined was probably for networking opportunities, so be sure to incorporate human-to-human interaction into the organization-to-human education process. It’s tempting to throw all the information at your members and be done with it, but it’s unlikely they will remember all of it, or worse, they could be turned off entirely. Maybe start the process out with an activity that is both informative and social. Add a video or brief presentation into orientation activity ideas like:
- Welcome breakfast or happy hour
- Trivia event
- Speed “friending” event
- Social posts welcoming new members
Many activities can easily turn into virtual welcome ideas in addition to in-person. With so many technology options available, virtual orientation can be fun too!
There is some information your members have to have in order to get the most out of their membership, but you have to make sure it is a digestible aspect of your member orientation. Instead of a lengthy presentation, consider these new member orientation ideas:
- Short, compelling videos that share relevant info. Mix it up by having long-tenured members presenting parts of it.
- A mentorship or buddy program. Empower existing members to share important association information one on one with new members to help them build connections while learning about the organization.
- Highlight information in social posts to share new information and remind members of existing information.
- Create a welcome kit with a comprehensive virtual manual for members to refer to.
All members, new and existing, benefit from motivational outreach to encourage them to be involved with your association. Here are some inspirational orientation event examples:
- Feature testimonials in print and video orientation materials.
- Host panel discussions featuring members.
- Schedule group trips, outings, and volunteer opportunities.
- Hand out branded swag.
- Highlight members on social media.
No matter which orientation event ideas you employ, you want to maintain communication with your members to gather feedback, and adjust strategy as needed.
If you want your members to have a positive experience during their member orientation and stick around for a while, you must break the old, tired orientation mold. At Paradigm, thinking outside of the box is our specialty, and we can help you with your comprehensive membership strategy, from marketing to new member orientation and all the way through to retention. Contact us today.