By: Ashly Stewart, Content Marketing Manager

Our first blog in our member appreciation series gave you the latest stats and quotes from association leaders like you who are looking to show a little bit of gratitude to their members in a season of thanksgiving.  

And even though a simple “thank you” makes anyone’s day, associations and nonprofits are looking to go a little above and beyond for their members after a challenging 2021.   

But what does going “above and beyond” look like when members have seen it all?  

We think it has less to do with the tactics and more about making your appreciation efforts personalized for your members and your association.  

Here are some of the top ways we’ve seen associations say “thanks” to members with some new ideas and tools you can craft for your appreciation campaigns.  

Showing Member Appreciation Through Gifts 

1. Personalized Letters 

I know. You’re probably not thinking that writing a personalized, handwritten letter is exactly new. In fact, it’s one of the oldest gifts in the book. But what is new is your association’s ability to use data to send personalized letters at momentous moments in your members’ lives.  

When it comes to milestones in your members’ journey with your association you can send a written letter of thanks and acknowledgment to events like:  

  • Welcome letters for new members  
  • Joining anniversary letters 
  • Donation letters 
  • Renewal letters 
  • Referral appreciation letters 

Beyond sending a personalized letter for moments related to your association, you can personalize letters for things like: 

  • Birthday letters 
  • New job letters (if they update their member directory profiles) 
  • “Thanks for attending” letters as a follow-up to your flagship event 

We recognize that writing handwritten letters takes time and resources, so we recommend choosing a couple of milestones for personalized letters, and don’t be shy about recruiting volunteers or even a special task force dedicated to member appreciation.  

And if all else fails, you can send personalized emails.  

2. Care Packages

In the marketing world, we refer to care packages as “direct mail kits” which speaks to the format of these gifts — you are mailing them a little box or package of goodies. But “care package” definitely sounds closer to what we’re hoping to accomplish in sending these gifts: showing thanks and care.  

Care packages don’t have to be big or expensive. We’ve seen small care packages that include a note and a gift card. We’ve seen other care packages sent with the purpose of inviting members to an event, and those can include notebooks, pens, and a mug, things that event attendees would appreciate.  

No matter what you decide to send, we’re confident you can find a care package that suits your budget. And while you may not be able to send a care package to every member, sending care packages in cohorts to show appreciation throughout the year will be easier on your staff and your budget. 

Here are a couple of guidelines for a successful care package: 

  • If your association has some “swag” items like branded t-shirts, mugs, bags, etc. it’s always fun to include those in a care package.  
  • If you have a piece of content you’re particularly proud of like an annual impact report or newsletter, it’s nice to include a printed piece, even though it’s a little old-school. 
  • Include something fun! People especially love if there’s a little gift in there for a pet or kids.  

3. Event VIP gifts

If you have members who have are super attendees of your big events or they volunteer to help, send them a special VIP gift as a thank you. It could be an exclusive invite to a social hour happening before or after the event. It could be discounted materials and merchandise from your store or an exhibitor’s booth. It could be as simple as a gift card to a local restaurant near the event venue.  

4. Email a playlist

Not every gift has to be extravagant or labor-intensive. You can email a themed playlist that aligns with the season and the holidays or a special “thank you” playlist full of fun, upbeat songs. These days, it’s as easy as creating a public playlist on Spotify, copying the embed link, and placing it in the email.  

Here’s an example:  

5. Email a recipe

Giving the gift of food is always a win, but it can be hard to send food in care packages because the quality of the food may be affected during shipping, and you just never know what food allergies people may have.  

Instead, you can give the gift of food in the form of recipes you include in an email! Even better if you can include recipes shared by your members over social media or in your online community.  

Showing Member Appreciation Through Recognition 

6. Declare a member appreciation day or week

We’ve been seeing dedicated member appreciation days or weeks more and more. The duration of the member appreciation event isn’t as important as making sure you’re planning for some activities that your members will enjoy and your staff can support.  

If you’re looking at a member appreciation day or week, here are some ideas and strategies to get you started: 

  • Show appreciation by giving members a shoutout on social media throughout the day or week. You could recognize members’ contributions to the wider cause and to your association. 
  • Start a member appreciation discussion thread on your online community and use it as a type of “praise jar” where staff and members can give kudos to one another.   
  • Plan a contest or two to make it fun. You can select random winners of a gift card or swag item for members who share what they appreciate about each other or the association, or ask trivia questions about past member spotlights. Don’t forget to create and promote a fun hashtag to help sort through all your posts. #personifyappreciatesyou 
  • Dedicate either a portion of a newsletter or a temporary page on your website where you can share images of members working together, post screenshots or paste some of the member appreciation kudos you’re seeing across social and your online community, and declare winners to your member appreciation contests.  

7. Monthly member spotlights

To keep the spirit of member appreciation going all year long, commit to highlighting a member across your most popular channels. Include a member spotlight on a main page of your website, the homepage of your online community, and your social media profiles.  

The spotlights don’t have to be in-depth. You can draw from information in their member profiles and reach out for a few additional questions. And remember to include a profile picture!  

8. Online Community

We’ve mentioned an online community as a great channel for member appreciation a lot because we’re finding that more and more members are interacting with each other and their associations on these dedicated communities.  

In addition to discussion threads dedicated to member appreciation and member spotlights on the main page, many online communities include gamification features that can make members feel seen. See if your online community has the ability to create badging that indicates levels of participation and frequency of posting or leader boards that acknowledge your members’ engagement.   

Are you looking to start or refresh an online community? Get the essential guide to building an online community. 

Showing Member Appreciation Through Growth Opportunities 

9. Job listings

Featuring a job board has been mutually beneficial to members, partners, and associations. A job board allows members’ businesses with urgent hiring needs to get in front of qualified jobseekers.  

It also highlights new opportunities for members who are looking for jobs, and it’s an opportunity for additional revenue for the association as members can pay a fee to feature their listings. Few things show your members you’re grateful for them and want them to succeed like a job board.  

10. Mentorship programs

Speaking of wanting your members to succeed, implementing relevant mentorship or support groups that meet regularly helps build community and is one of the most tangible values an association can give to its members.  

These types of programs can be a one-on-one mentorship program or small support groups, whichever format works best for your team and your members.  

Wondering how to build a virtual, low-cost mentorship program? Check out this case study. 

11. Accessibility

We’ve come a long way when it comes to building communities, content, and experiences that are accessible to people of different abilities and backgrounds. But we still have a long way to go.  

Many associations have recently started exploring ways to make their member communications and campaigns accessible by doing things like adding transcripts to webinars, including closed captioning on all their videos, and building visuals like infographics and video tutorials to support their written work.  

If you want to make your member appreciation emails and strategies more accessible, consider sending a thank you video with closed captioning from services like Otter or Rev.  

Keep the gratitude going!

We hope you enjoyed the second blog in our series about member appreciation, and we look forward to our next blog about saying “thank you” to members and donors after a successful Giving Tuesday. 

And if you have any questions about member appreciation and engagement, don’t hesitate to reach out.