How Chapters Are Engaging Members at Different Career Stages

Members join for networking and socializing, but value these benefits less over time. What's important to member in the career journey?
How Chapters Are Engaging Members at Different Career Stages

How Chapters Are Engaging Members at Different Career Stages

There’s nothing much better than spending an afternoon with fellow chapter geeks. Lucky us, we got to do that during our virtual workshop, Tap Chapters as a Member Engagement Channel. We co-hosted the event with our usual educational co-conspirators, Peggy Hoffman and Peter Houstle from Mariner Management.

We were also joined by our friends at Community Brands. They shared some useful findings from their Member Engagement and Loyalty Study about member needs and interests at different career stages.


What’s important to members throughout their career journey

It’s fascinating to see how the importance of different membership benefits changes throughout a person’s career. Members join for networking and socializing, but value these benefits less over time. You have to wonder if this will change in an uncertain economy. Now, everyone is paying more attention to growing and/or maintaining their professional network.

Notice how all career stages value industry information, but early- and mid-career members are more focused on training. For late-career members, “representing interests” (advocacy) and code of ethics are most important, perhaps because they’ve “made it,” so they focus on giving back to their professional community.


Help chapters design and promote membership benefits for each career stage

Without demographic data, you can’t segment members by career stage. Collect this information via new member applications, renewals, and periodic member surveys. A shared database or association management system makes this data more accessible to chapters.

Develop career stage personas that help chapters understand and meet the needs and desires of each segment. A member journey mapping exercise can help identify any gaps in benefits and programming for each career stage.

Since needs and interests are changing rapidly right now, you need a mechanism for gathering regular feedback, for example, newsletter and website polls and pulse surveys.

Once you’ve identified what members at different career stages are seeking, promote the appropriate benefits in member onboarding campaigns and promotional emails. The American String Teachers Association created new member onboarding videos for different career stages.

Develop educational programs, networking events, and career resources to fill in the gaps you’ve identified. Chapters of the Network of Executive Women host virtual meetings that focus on life stages, for example, single moms and women dealing with career change.

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How chapters are engaging early-career members

During our workshop, participants shared many examples of early-career programs in the chat box and breakout room discussions.


Poster contests

At the Parenteral Drug Association, the prize for poster contest winners includes conference registration and the opportunity to publish research. The American College of Physicians (ACOP) also gives students the opportunity to present their research and win awards.



ACOP connects residents and fellows with mid- and late-career members for mentorship in an attempt to “sink the membership hook” during a prospect’s residency and keep them around throughout their career.


Student programs

To build a membership pipeline, connect with advisors and student leaders at universities, fraternities, and sororities related to your association’s profession. Ask early-career members to help you develop these relationships. Their perspective is valuable as their memories are still fresh.

  • The Appraisal Institute started a university relations committee to kick off their efforts.
  • (ISC)2 invites students going into the profession to meetings where they can connect with members and get a better idea of what to expect in their career.
  • The National Society of Black Engineers offers free professional membership for the first year after college.
  • During the pandemic, the Emergency Nurses Association is offering free student membership to all non-RNs still in school.


Road to Licensure

The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists provides Road To Licensure resources for students. The Northern Virginia Licensed Professional Counselors hosts Road to Licensure training.


Mini-MBA program

The New England chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) developed a mini-MBA program for young professionals. Employers allow young members to attend year-long classes that help them develop the skills needed to advance their career. The idea has spread to two other chapters. Chapters can apply for an IIDA grant to start up the program.


Virtual lunch and learns

The Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) has a Young Aviation Professionals (YAP) group that hosts regular virtual educational programs.


Virtual happy hours

ACTA’s young professionals group also hosts a weekly virtual YAPPY Hour.


Chapter leadership

Many workshop participants said their associations are putting a greater emphasis on leadership development so National and chapter leadership pipelines are kept full.

  • Identify and promote microvolunteering as a way for time-conscious members to get involved.
  • Make leadership training available to more members.
  • Create leadership roles specifically for younger members. For example, encourage them to get involved with virtual events, young professionals programs, social media outreach, technology training, and advisory boards.


Dues payment options

All of this is for nothing if young professionals can’t afford membership dues. Installment or auto-renewal monthly payments makes membership more doable. Chapters that offer this payment option see an increase in their early-career member retention rate.

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How chapters get mid-career members more engaged

Workshop participants said they tend to focus more on early-career members and need to strengthen their efforts to engage mid- and late-career members. You can’t take seasoned members for granted in this economy, especially if their professional development budget is cut or they lose their job.


Advanced training

More experienced professionals want advanced training, but our workshop participants said these members don’t always specify what kind of training. National is best positioned to research and identify topics and speakers, and to share those findings with chapters.



Mentoring programs seem to be most successful in mid- and large-sized chapters. Associations are still figuring out how to help smaller chapters implement and manage mentoring programs.

The American College of Prosthodontists is running a pilot program that engages students and early-career members with 25 mentors. Some associations use the Higher Logic MentorMatch module or Salesforce HandsOn Connect module to run their programs.

Component relations professionals (CRPs) are frequently asked for a chapter mentoring toolkit, but the challenge is keeping it simple and scalable. Ask mentors to identify the type of training they need. You could provide mentoring pairs a template for Q&A that helps them make their own matches for informal chats, not formal mentoring relationships.


How chapters keep late-career members in the association fold

The pandemic is creating additional membership challenges and opportunities for chapters.

  • As members take early retirement, chapters are trying to keep them involved as volunteers, mentors, and subject matter experts (presenters, instructors, and authors).
  • Some members are going out on their own as consultants or contractors. They have the necessary industry expertise but need help with business management skills. They also would benefit from marketing opportunities that increase brand awareness, such as speaking, writing articles, and teaching classes.
  • In an uncertain economy, members need to up their game to prevent being laid off. They’re a ready audience for education and networking.

Survey your late-career members—as a group or individually—to assess their interest in contributing their expertise as coaches, mentors, discussion hosts/moderators, speakers, authors, or instructors.


Did you notice how many of these ideas came from our workshop participants? You can get lots more practical ideas from fellow CRPs—and share a few of your own—at our virtual Association Component Exchange (CEX) on the afternoons of October 26 and 27, 2020.

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