“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.member onboarding” An advertising slogan coined by Madison Avenue for Botany Suits in 1966 (and used later by Head and Shoulders shampoo), it’s a phrase that’s made its way into our everyday conversations and has particular relevance for nonprofits of all kinds–especially when it comes to member onboarding

Whether you’re welcoming members to your association or starting to build donors who have just made their first gift, those early interactions with your organization provide a unique opportunity to capitalize on their enthusiasm and create a strong foundation for a long-term relationship.

At its core, member onboarding is about reassuring new constituents that they made a good decision and should stay involved with your organization. That first gift or membership purchase is an opportunity for you to show up and prove the value you bring to the table.

I once read a great example that compared the process to trying a new restaurant – you may go because it got a great review, you heard about it from a friend or had a coupon. But, to keep a patron coming back, all of the pieces (from the hostess to the atmosphere, chef and waitstaff) have to work together to create a great first impression.

There is no shortage of articles with advice on how to create, expand or improve, a member onboarding process but here are 3 simple tips to help you get started:

  1. Start emailing them – immediately. Not only should new constituents receive a welcome email from your organization, they should be enrolled in an email nurture campaign that will affirm the value of your organization and all of the ways they can become involved. What information is helpful to know? Who can they reach out to with questions? What opportunities are available to them to get to know you – and others who share their interests and passions – better?
  2. Consider adding a personal touch. Email is a critical tool for effective onboarding but a phone call from you can make becoming part of your organization feel special. Engaging 1:1 gives you an opportunity for members, donors and constituents to ask questions. For an organization, it’s an opportunity to learn more about the new constituent, share relevant information and tell them more about what makes your organization special.
  3. Help them make connections. Personalizing the experience for newcomers is essential but it’s still important to make them feel part of the larger group. Communities can be a great way to not only introduce new constituents but also to engage them in dialogue with other members from day 1. Warmly welcome new community members and make them feel at home with guided tours, interactive tutorials to highlight key community features, and provide how-to instruction for common tasks such as filling out your profile and searching for information.

Done right, member onboarding is a first step in a long-journey for constituents and donors, one where they continue to engage with your organization and with each other.

Take the time to make a good first impression, ensure they’re informed, share your impact and keep them involved. You don’t get a second chance.