What a Horse Academy Taught Me About Association Membership Journeys

Greater awareness of your membership journey can help you create better content and membership value to specific segments of your association.

This week’s Membership/Customer Acquisition and Retention tips are inspired by my daughter, Ellie, who is 12 years old and shed light on the Association Membership Journey.

She recently started a student-work program at a horse riding Academy near our home.

Ever since she was a toddler, she has loved horses. She had a birthday party at the Academy when she was about five. 

Before leaving the party, we discovered the Academy offers a summer camp. So for a few summers after her birthday party, we enrolled her in the camp when our budgets permitted, and she grew in her knowledge of horses and fell more in love. 

But her love for horses didn’t end there.

She learned she could volunteer at the horse Academy a few years after camp. 

Pretty soon, that volunteering turned into something even more significant. Last fall, we enrolled her in formal equestrian lessons. Now that she is a student, she is eligible for the student-work program. Every week, when she volunteers for six to eight hours, she earns a free extra lesson in addition to her weekly lesson. So she is building on her skills each week and learning the importance of serving and volunteerism.

I thought of Ellie’s evolution from her birthday party when she was five to the student-work program today seven years later. It reminded me a little bit of how association membership works.

First, a prospect is introduced to the association by attending a conference or webinar.

Next, she may be added to the mailing list for the association and start getting emails that acquaint her with other training opportunities and benefits the organization offers. 

With a few more touch points, she may take the more significant step and join, followed by volunteering. Before you know it, she is chairing a committee or even receiving an award for her volunteer service. 

Most of this week’s tips concern content that addresses your members’ different stages and journeys. Every association or business strives to have lifetime members/customers. Offering content at every rung of the membership ladder provides value and satisfaction so your members keep going.

Here are five Membership Acquisition and Retention Tips (one for each day of the week) to inspire you to create content that drives membership growth.

(Retention, young professionals)

Do you have young professionals in your organization? In your member onboarding, include phone calls in your outreach for greater engagement. According to Personify’s 2019 Young Members 2.0 research study, 78 percent of Millennials and Gen Z found phone calls to be a somewhat or very effective form of engagement.

(Acquisition, young professionals) 

Trying to get younger prospects to make the commitment and join? Career-focused messaging* resonates with young professionals as they view association membership as a way to network and advance in their careers, providing value. (*Personify’s 2019 Young Members 2.0 research study)

GOOD WORDING: Joining ABC Association means you get discounted training to earn ________ certification.

BETTER WORDING: Do your five-year goals involve getting ________ certification? Did you know ABC Association offers a unique course taught by senior executives who can train you on the material and give you tips on how to take the exam with greater confidence? In addition, our course is $000 less than the one offered by ________.


Tailoring your content to different segments of your membership and customer base will create more excellent value. An organized content calendar helps you better plan your content with prospects and different member segments. Start small, pick two critical segments of your membership, and feed them with content that appeals to their career stage (young professionals, mid-career or senior level). You could also address their member stage; for example, are they new or active for a while?

For new members, you may want to steer them to the value of your online community to seek answers and advice. At the same time, you can educate your more active members about volunteer opportunities that require a more significant commitment, such as chairing a committee, writing a newsletter article or presenting at your annual conference.

(Acquisition, RETENTION)

Are you using video in your content for your member journeys? Sharing testimonials from members and sending “Thank you for renewing” video messages helps drive value and creates more personalized messaging. And with smartphone technology continually improving, using videos is easier than ever.


With events in full swing, consider creating content at your annual conference or event that brings together different generations. For example, at a Dallas-Fort Worth Association Executives (DFWAE) event I am involved in, we are bringing together our young professionals (who have up to seven years of experience) with our senior career professionals, who are 10 to 15 years away from retirement. We are pairing them together for relationship-building, possible mentoring and sharing knowledge and wisdom.

If you’re wondering what is next for Ellie, she already has her eyes set on getting her first job at the Academy in a couple more years.

Ellie with her favorite horse, Cruella.

What does your member journey look like? Remember that your content can be a central way to deliver value from your young professionals to your seasoned members at every rung of the membership ladder. Need help with your creating your membership journey? Feel free to contact me via my website or reach out on LinkedIn.


Related Posts

Scroll to Top
Free Email Templates

Convert More Prospects into New Members

Get my best follow-up email templates

Your workload got a whole lot easier. These “plug and play” templates make it easy to fill in the blanks, and you’ll be on your way to growing your membership! 

Comes in both pdf and Word .docx formats.