The dog days of summer may not be good for much, aside from lounging in a pool or enjoying the latest Netflix release from the comforts of a cranked AC. But, for associations, July is actually a peak time of year – it’s typically membership renewal time.

This means members will be evaluating their respective organizations and determining whether or not to shell out the cash to continue their investment, which of course, means your association must be on top of your game not only in July, but all year ‘round. And, as most of you know – engaging members all year long is the secret sauce to seeing those eye-pleasing retention numbers you’re hoping for this month.  So with retention top-of-mind, it’s an apt time to look at your continuing education and online learning offerings, as these may just be the key to keeping those members active for the long haul.

According to Abila’s recently released Membership Engagement Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 members across all career stages and ages, as well as 150 association professionals, 62 percent of members pay their own dues. Meaning, if they don’t see the value in their membership, they aren’t likely to fork over the funds. It’s that simple.

For respondents, specifically in the early-to-mid stages of their career, access to training opportunities is essential, ranking as one of the top three most valued benefits. Moreover, the Baby Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial generations all stated that professional development is the number one driving force behind their engagement with an association.

Take a moment and let that sink in. Your three primary generations care more about professional development than any other perk they get out of their relationship with your organization. Which begs two questions:

  1. What percentage of your benefit offerings focus on professional development?
  2. Are you effectively marketing your professional development opportunities to members?

First, let’s focus on Question One. Many associations nowadays still struggle with how to successfully offer learning opportunities to members. Do you do it online or in-person? Should it be one hour or two? Should it be a live webinar or on-demand? Well, the answers to all of these questions lie within the minds of your members. You have to really take the time to understand your member wants.

So, step one for you is to get a survey out to your members ASAP that asks them these very questions. We predict your members probably want a mix of learning offerings that make it convenient for them to pick and choose.

However they respond, remember members are looking for personalized learning experiences that are interactive and accessible. Webinars and webcasts are great ways to accomplish this. Most association members are familiar with webinars, but webcasts, too, offer a vibrant learning experience.

For example, a webcast provides a live video stream of your presenters to make virtual audience members feel like they’re in the room. This may look like a presenter in front of a classroom, and it’s a way to elevate engagement to the next level, while still utilizing webinar platform tools, such as real time polling, surveys, and the ability to customize theme and branding, along with the overall configurations and interactivity tools.

And of course, the smart phone and tablet boom has produced a technologically savvy group of members who want access to courses anytime, anywhere, so you have to keep this in mind when strategizing both your in-person and online learning offerings.

Now, let’s shift gears to Question Two above. How can you most effectively market your learning offerings? The only thing better than surveying your members, is following up to let them know the impact their responses have had. Once you wrap up planning, based on the data, work with your marketing team to build out an email campaign that shows all of the upcoming professional development opportunities available to your members – and let them know that they picked them. Then, continue to market those programs all year long, at a cadence that works for your association.

Training opportunities directly impact retention, and as you see your renewals climb this July, think about the role of transformative learning experiences and the value they bring to your association and membership. Take full advantage at every turn to share these learning opportunities with members, not just this month, but all year long.

See how The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) launched AARC University, powered by Freestone™ Learning Management System to meet members’ learning needs.