Think back to when you got your first job. Maybe it was at your local pizza shop, ice cream parlor, or neighborhood pool. Odds are, you didn’t just apply for the role out of the blue. You probably spent some time perfecting your resume, reaching out to potential references, and practicing for the interview.
Your members have joined your association for the same reason—to gain access to valuable career development opportunities and guidance on how to advance their careers. But, are you doing all you can when it comes to facilitating your members’ professional growth?
When you provide members with opportunities to advance in your industry, you’re creating a better member experience for them, which could boost your renewals. Ultimately, what’s good for your members is good for your organization as a whole! But how do you ensure that your career development offerings are what your members are really looking for?
Here are 6 ideas for empowering your members to advance professionally:
1. Enhance your educational offerings and certifications.
Your industry probably offers certifications your members can obtain to prove their skills. For example, nonprofit certificates alone run the gamut of skillsets, from grant writing to leadership, marketing, and fundraising. Other industries might require skilled trade or software certifications.
If your organization doesn’t offer a way for members to achieve these certifications or training opportunities, members might start looking elsewhere—and take their membership dues with them.
To give your members educational opportunities that they see value in, use a learning management system (LMS). You can offer courses and lessons that your members need to achieve the certifications that are important to them.
A quality LMS can offer the following features to help facilitate members’ continuing education:
- Content storage to keep track of documents, lesson plans, and other learning materials in a centralized location. Members can return to the content at any time to prepare for assessments or brush up on their knowledge.
- Assessment tools to test members on what they’ve learned and measure their progress. You can adjust your learning strategy based on members’ test results.
- Certification issuing so members have physical proof of their educational accomplishments. Once members pass all necessary assessments, your LMS can issue them the certificate or educational credits they need.
Sometimes a certificate is all that stands between a member and a potential raise or promotion. Your continued education opportunities could transform your members’ lives—and make you a crucial part of their career.
2. Offer a membership directory.
An online member directory can be a great way to grow your community as well as provide networking and career opportunities. They can help advance your members’ careers in many ways, such as providing the information they need for entering a mentor-mentee relationship.
To provide the most value with your membership directory, include each member’s:
- Contact information
- Join date
- Relevant social media handles
- Business address
- Alma mater
But your directory is more than just a database of information. It can also create relationships and opportunities for people outside of your organization, which can also lead to new members. By making your directory accessible to the general public, external people will be able to browse it and get in touch with an individual or company they’d like to connect with.
For example, MemberClicks’ guide to membership directories explains that a chamber directory can point prospective customers, business partners, and employees to your members’ businesses. This can also bring direct traffic to your members’ businesses and grow their customer bases.
3. Create a mentorship program.
Creating a mentorship program is a great way to help members gain access to expert tips and advice for advancing their careers.
Use your membership database within your association management system to identify members who you think would make great mentors. These may be longtime members, respected experts in the field, or those who’ve taken on leadership roles within your organization.
Then, once you have a few mentors on board, reach out to prospective mentees. New members, younger members, and those who are looking to advance in their careers could all benefit from your mentor program.
Give your mentors and mentees more structure to their mentoring sessions by creating specific training resources or learning materials they can work through together. Encourage them to meet up a couple of times each month for a defined time period to work through the materials, as well as any other conversations that would benefit mentees.
4. Host events and networking opportunities.
Give your members a more engaging way to learn and grow professionally by hosting an educational event or networking opportunity.
Educational events and networking opportunities allow members to interact with each other, form relationships, and learn about industry trends and developments.
For instance, let’s say your organization is an association for sports psychologists. By hosting a conference, you can bring members together to hear talks from industry leaders on topics like reducing anxiety or treating concussions. They can bring these tips back to their own practices or teams to ensure they’re offering the best care possible.
Depending on your budget and goals, your event could be a conference, webinar, or night out at a local restaurant. These experiences can be either in-person or online. You can even offer a hybrid conference so members can choose how they feel comfortable participating.
Check out Re:Charity’s guide to livestreaming to review the top strategies and tools for hosting virtual and hybrid events. From Facebook Live to Zoom chat rooms, there are plenty of ways to engage members in events and networking opportunities, even if you can’t meet in person.
5. Provide access to industry publications.
Trade publications are invaluable resources for the latest trends and developments in your field. Consider offering free or highly-discounted subscriptions to members so they can stay up-to-date.
For example, if you’re an association for professional dog trainers, giving access to your industry’s leading magazine can be a great asset. It can provide members with the latest tips and best practices for topics like online training, working with puppies, teaching agility, and more.
You can even make it easy for your members to access industry information by transforming your association’s website into an important source of industry information. Write high-quality blog posts and news articles highlighting different trends or interviewing well-known leaders.
6. Ask your members for feedback.
The best way to know if you’re on track with providing career development opportunities that are valuable and relevant to your members is to ask them!
You can request member feedback using a short survey that asks about career development needs, or you can include it as part of your longer member needs assessment. Either way, be sure to ask members:
- How would you rate our career development opportunities on a scale of 1-10?
- What opportunities have you taken advantage of?
- What opportunities are you planning to take advantage of in the future?
- Are there any career development opportunities we don’t offer that you think we should?
Make sure you sample a wide range of members, including both new and long-time members, younger and older ones, and those in different sectors of your industry. This way, you can accurately assess if you’re meeting all their needs.
Offering career development opportunities that speak to the needs of your members is a powerful part of your association’s membership benefits. It can establish your association’s reputation as a valuable organization within your industry and engage with your members in a meaningful way. Most importantly, it can help your members bring their careers to the next level by helping them achieve professional goals and aspirations. Overall, by offering these valuable opportunities to members, you prioritize their needs and ensure you’re advancing your mission effectively.
This guest post was contributed by Kerry McCreadie of MemberClicks.
What matters most to membership organizations? As the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Personify’s Wild Apricot and MemberClicks products, this is the question always on Kerry’s mind. Their goal is to help nonprofits, associations, and clubs discover the solutions that solve their most frustrating pain points—while growing and retaining their member base. As he CEO and Founder of their own nonprofit organization, Kerry is passionate about nonprofit and charitable work—especially in the arts.