by Michelle Hunt, Director, Alliance Management Operations – ISTO

As a member organization, understanding the importance of retaining a happy and strong membership base is key. Employing a regular cadence of communications and other tactics to keep your members aware and engaged demonstrates that you are prioritizing informing constituents with ongoing dialogue, be it monthly, weekly or even daily. What’s more, it shows that you value their membership.

That said, you might want to also consider that this outreach and communication efforts aimed at retaining happy members may actually take a back seat to a cohesive, organized WELCOME to your organization. Why? Because first impressions count. Experts know that it is far easier to retain a satisfied member than it is to work to retain a confused, ill-informed or unsure member. And that is exactly what can transpire if your organization’s “Welcome Mat” and its associated on-boarding plan is not up to snuff.

So, what constitutes a strong, effective Welcome to your new member?

Well, it starts with your website’s Welcome Center for new members. That’s right…a Welcome Center on your website. And, if you don’t have one, you should seriously think about developing one for members only. It is the best vehicle for providing a one-stop shop for new members to gain access to the relevant information they need to understand your organization, its mission, its operations and how they can benefit from utilizing membership resources.

At a bare minimum, your Welcome Center should contain an organization backgrounder and current organizational chart that details its history from inception. You should also include Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) based upon past inquiries from new members entering into your organization.

To create a strong virtual handshake with your new members, include useful tools in your Welcome Center, like a listing of resources available to members, a roster of key staff contacts, a hyperlink to your membership directory webpage for seeking out synergistic opportunities, and a matrix depicting membership benefits. This would also be an appropriate place to post your Code of Conduct Forms or any other legal documents for new members to consider.

If your organization has a membership portal, as most do, and/or member forums, it would be helpful to schedule a new member presentation on navigating the online environment or have a presentation available in your Welcome Center. And, don’t forget to provide links for e-newsletter and social channel subscriptions. This is your chance! Also include a link to your Calendar of Events.

Whether your organization is small or large, remember that new members always benefit from on-boarding sessions that can recap all of the useful tools from your Welcome Center in one online session devoted entirely to them.

These are the ingredients of an effective Welcome Kit to get your new members started off right–and help to ensure your organization is up to snuff– knowing that first impressions are lasting impressions!