When a new member joins an association, they may feel a little disconnected and unsure of how to get involved. The key is to provide a welcome that they will connect with and remember. This is the very first impression of your organization and as we all know; we can only make one first impression!

I recently became a new member of an industry association. While it can be a little intimidating to join a new group – that that feeling can be intensified even more when you add a little COVID-19 to the mix. So, imagine my excitement when I received an invite for a virtual New Member Happy Hour with a theme. I LOVE THEMES. For me, this was not just any theme, it was a Kentucky Derby Happy Hour and it was requested that I don my favorite hat, bring along my pet, and pour myself a drink!

As an invited attendee here was my thought process:

  • I host an Annual Kentucky Derby Party – I have a hat!
  • I just added a standard poodle to my family – I have a pet!
  • Pour myself a drink – ok … if they insist!  

One of the ice breakers was to come ready to share a fun tradition from your home state that you’ll be missing due to COVID-19 and the current shelter in place advisory. For me, this also was simple, as Wisconsin is home to the World’s Largest Brat Fest, which is a weekend festival complete with live music, beverages, and brats. The good news, is that festival has only been postponed, not cancelled.

This was enjoyable and a fun way to connect with people that I had never met before. The Zoom call included their welcoming team along with 4-5 new members. I feel like the new relationships that are being established during COVID-19 have a deeper connection, because conversations are simply not the same as they would have been three months ago. People are truly in this together and eager to share their knowledge to help your association run smoother during this disrupted time of business.

Here are a three Smart Tips for welcoming new members:

  1. Make it Personal. Reach out with a personal email or a quick web meeting. New members want to know you’re glad they joined.  
  2. Establish a “Buddy” System. Recruit a core group of current members to provide casual, friendly support to new members.
  3. Check-in During the Year. Send an email six months in, and one toward the end of the year, to keep new members engaged. This easy-to-do tip goes a long way with member retention.

No matter how you are welcoming new members during social distancing, just keep in mind how much they appreciate a proper welcome, and how important that first communication is with helping them navigate their new partnership with you.