Gauging Member Engagement: How to Collect Actionable Data

Can you add up the number of members you have?


Can you calculate your quarterly profits?

Yep, easily.

But can you put a solid number to something as nebulous as a member’s level of engagement?

Yes, actually you can.

And in doing so you can help your members succeed based on their individual levels of loyalty.

Lack of engagement is the most commonly cited reason for membership non-renewal (by 37% of associations surveyed.) So better understanding the factors that lead to engagement will help you steer your members toward the actions you want them to take.

The Importance of Assigning a Number to Engagement

Just think of member’s level of engagement as an accumulation of all the times they interact with your organization. Every time they read an email, talk about you with a friend, like a social media post or attend a conference, that contact adds to the entire member experience.


Some refer to this as a ladder of engagement, where every member stands on a rung. Those on the bottom rung have only dabbled, maybe visiting a website or opening an email. Those at the top are truly engaged brand advocates who feel the organization is an essential partner in their lives. The goal is to guide every member to climb the ladder until they reach the top.

Some interactions you can track, others you can’t. But hopefully you’ve been gathering all the data you can to understand your membership better. The next step is to use that data to draw members even closer to you by leading them to connect with you more frequently, and on a deeper level.

After all, members join organizations for many different reasons. This is true even if yours has a narrow focus, like (one example) serving teachers as Education Associations do. With professional associations, some members primarily want to network with like-minded people, some are seeking continued education and career development. Others still want to add their voice to an entity with political clout.

Beyond that, members are at different points in their membership lifecycle, interact with your association through varied channels, and want you to communicate with them in different mediums and at different frequencies.

Obviously, member engagement is going to look different for everyone, making it even harder for you to get to know your membership.

It might take a bit of effort to set up a scoring system where each member’s actions add up to a total engagement score. However, doing so will ensure you can see at a glance which members are in danger of letting their membership lapse, are more likely to sign up for a conference, etc.

Armed with this ability to predict likely actions, you can treat members the way they want to be treated, and further cement your place as their go-to resource. Increased member retention will naturally follow.

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So how do you put a number to that? Can you really say whether a member is 85% engaged, or level 4 engaged? It may take some work up front, but it’s doable and can yield measurable results in the end. If it all seems overwhelming, take a deep breath and follow these steps.

Step 1: Measure Member Participation

Step 2: Measure Member Relationships

Step 3: Assign Values to Member Actions

Not sure how? Read below for a guide on how to start your journey one step at a time.

How to Measure Member Participation

participationMost organizations are already tracking many of the actions its members take, especially in regards to online interactions. This is a great start. However, it may not be enough to arm them with the information they need to meet their most important goals.

In 2019, the top two reported data challenges were lack of membership marketing results tracking and inadequate membership dashboards and reporting tools. While associations reported some improvement to these deficiencies over the previous year, most know they could be doing better.

Any applicable data points ignored are missed opportunities to help your members succeed. Some of the interactions it may be helpful to track include:

  1. Transactional data: renewals, conference attendance, certifications, publications purchases.
  2. Membership marketing response: Emails opened, links clicked, time on website, ad engagement, call to action response
  3. Social media interactions: likes, shares and comments (members and potential members), participation in private online communities
  4. Touchpoint engagement: conversations with staff, especially those initiated by the member.
  5. Value added benefit usage: offer redemptions, opt in opportunities

Online and transactional interactions tend to be easy to track automatically once you’ve got everything set up. Many organizations find a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) to be an invaluable resource for storing all that information. At Access, we use a combination of Salesforce, email tools and other marketing automation platforms to score not only members, but prospective members as well. There are many to choose from, and finding the right CRM can be an investment well worth the cost.

Face-to-face interactions might require some manual input, but are still possible to track. Even so, these numbers won’t account for the entire equation.

How to Measure Member Relationships

While most organizations track PARTICIPATION, that’s not the same thing as ENGAGEMENT. What does that mean? Truly engaged members have an emotional connection with your organization. The act of participating alone isn’t a clear indicator of engagement.

But you can’t exactly use a computer to count how many times a member thinks about you, or calculate how important you are in their lives. These are also important indicators of success, and are definitely actions you want the member to take.

So you have to ask.ask-question-AoqgGAqrLpU-unsplash

The American Society of Association Executives defines engagement as the level at which a member views the organization as a partner and go-to resource for resolving challenges. 

Whether you’re sending out a yearly survey or asking for quick, one question feedback after an interaction, try phrasing the questions to yield measurable data.

For example, you can end a webinar with a single question like, “will you use the information you learned within the next 6 months?"

Or you can include on your survey questions like “on a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to refer this organization to a friend?” and “how often do you turn to association members for help in solving a problem?”

Answers to questions like these, combined with participation statistics, will give you a clearer picture of how far up the ladder each member has climbed.

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Assign Values to Member Actions

Once you have gathered all your information, it’s time to analyze it.

To create a comprehensive scoring system, assign a positive or negative value to each member interaction. It’s as simple (and as difficult) as that.

You may have to fine-tune your point system by trial and error. But a great first step is looking at the actions of your most loyal members. Patterns of behavior exhibited by loyal members can show you possible precursors of engagement. These actions should carry more weight in your equation.

For example, if you find that your most loyal members frequent a specific member benefit, like an exclusive discount program, then you know this is an important action for you to encourage other members to take.

Note: you may want to cap points awarded for certain interactions, like emails opened, social media posts liked, etc.  These quick and easily repeatable actions might inflate a member’s total score while not accurately reflecting their engagement.

scorecardWith a point system customized to fit your membership, total scores will show you at a glance each member’s level of engagement. Those with higher scores will be the ones participating in the most important actions. And those with lower scores? Well, they can still be won over.

In our next article we’ll discuss how to use these member engagement scores to further your organization's goals. Join us to learn how to create segmented membership marketing plans aimed at guiding every member further up the ladder of engagement.

In the meantime, here are some related articles you help you along your own membership marketing journey:

Topics: Customer Engagement, Discount Programs, member retention, member engagement, Membership Organizations, loyalty programs, member loyalty

Written by: Kendra Lusty

For over a decade, Kendra Lusty has been a writer for Access Development, and currently focuses her research and writing on topics related to loyalty and engagement.

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