How You Can Use Your Website to Keep Members Engaged

Website & Technology April 06, 2020

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

Given everything that’s happening in the world today, you might be worrying about engaging and retaining members in your organization. 


It might seem like members will no longer be interested in your programming if you can’t do the activities you’ve always done. 

But really, when people are unable to live their normal lives, they need to find alternative ways to connect with each other, learn new skills, and entertain themselves: something membership organizations are in a unique position to provide. 

And even if you can’t run your usual events or connect in person, you still have a great online tool at your disposal: your website. 

Since none of us can leave the house, chances are that your members might be spending more time online. (I know I am!) 

This means you still have the chance to provide tons of value to your members: you just have to do it virtually. 

You can meet them where they are, and find new ways to delight and entertain them while they’re stuck inside. 

To help you out, here are 7 ideas you can use to keep your member engagement high during this stressful time: 

  1. Create a Members’ Only Area
  2. Create a Member Directory
  3. Host a Virtual Event
  4. Write a Blog
  5. Start a Forum
  6. Launch a Member Survey
  7. Send out a Member Newsletter 

I’ve also included examples from real WildApricot customers, so you can see how to implement these ideas for yourself. 


1. Create a Members’ Only Area

Do you have a members' only area set up on your site? 

Creating a section of your site that only members can see can make it easier for you to share confidential information, and keep all the information that members need to know in one place. 

It can also give you the ability to upload documents and files in a secure area so that only members can see them. For example, The Tennessee Self Storage Association uploaded sample lease agreements, contracts, building code documents and other pertinent legal information only in the members’ section of their site.

You could even create a video course or training series that members only get access to once they’ve signed up. 

As you keep reading, note that every other idea I’ve listed can either be added into this area of your website or made public. You can pick and choose which route to take depending on what works best for your organization’s goals. 

Setting up a members' only area in WildApricot 

It only takes a few clicks to make your WildApricot website pages only accessible to members. You can restrict who can view a page by selecting the option for Public, Admin only, or Restricted in the Access level section of the page settings. If you choose Restricted, you can set pages to be accessible to all members, or only to specific member groups or levels.  
When a site visitor tries to access a members-only page without being logged in as a member, they’ll see a login page instead. 
Click here to learn more about creating a members' only page.

2. Create a Member Directory

Creating a member directory is a great way for your members to connect and learn more about each other. (You can even get them to add photos for an extra personalized touch!). 

If sharing a list of your members is valuable to the public, you can create an open directory like The Exit Planning Exchange has done below. 

Creating an open directory like this allows them to showcase their members’ expertise and show off the wide range of skills their members possess. They can also advertise getting listed in their member directory as a benefit to joining their organization. 

However, if your organization’s members prefer to remain a little more anonymous, you can also make a private member directory that’s visible only to other members. You can also present this as a different type of member benefit: members have the chance to be part of an exclusive group that no one else gets to see. 

This idea can then extend beyond the virtual world and help you create community spirit.  For example, members can share skills or reach out to each other for advice, or even go on grocery runs for people who aren’t able to in their neighborhood. 

This is what the Ontario Zoroastrian Community Foundation has done: they’ve created a network of people who are regularly phoning seniors in their community so they feel less isolated. 

Regardless of the direction you take, it can help improve member engagement. If your members can reach each other, they’ll be able to build their network together, which will in turn help them feel more connected with your organization. 

Creating a member directory in WildApricot 

To add a member directory to your WildApricot website, all you need to do is to drag and drop the member directory gadget onto a page. You can then set whether your directory is visible to the public, which member levels or groups to include, and which details will be listed in the directory. 
Your members still stay in control of what they share: in the Privacy section of their member profile, they can choose which details they want to hide or show in the directory.  
Click here to learn more about member directories. 


3. Host a Virtual Event

Have you been forced to cancel your usual events and meetups? 

Although it’s definitely an added stressor, thankfully there are ways that you can move your events online. 

Given the preponderance of tools to keep in touch via video call, it’s never been easier to organize activities that your members can participate in virtually.  

There are tons of different ideas you can try, including: 

  • An online happy hour — this is what the Wine Tasters of Naples has done to replace their in-person meetups 
  • A workout class 
  • A presentation, either by members who volunteer or a guest speaker
  • A panel discussion between members or with special speakers
  • Online training sessions related to your organization 
  • Your usual member meetings and discussions — for example, The Mother Connection is continuing to host their usual weekly meet-ups so that mothers can continue to feel supported during this time 
  • Q&A sessions between members or with a guest speaker

You can also use this as a chance to open up your events to non-members, so that even if you aren’t actively recruiting members, you’re still giving the prospective ones who discover you a chance to connect. 

That’s what the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work is doing with their events. They’re continuing to host meetups virtually that are open to both members and non-members. 


Although it might not seem like the best time to focus on member recruitment, providing free meetups and classes can build goodwill with prospective members and let them know you’re around to provide helpful resources. 

Scheduling a virtual event in WildApricot 

Adding virtual events to your WildApricot event calendar will help showcase what you’ve got coming up. Plus, each listing connects directly to the online registration so it’s easy for members to sign up.  
You can choose to create a simple RSVP for free events like a virtual meeting, or an advanced event with online payments, waitlist options, and a registration form to gather details. Once you’ve set up your event and set the visibility to Public, it will automatically show in your event calendar.  
If you want to make sure only people who have registered for your online event can attend, you could include the link to join the event in a confirmation email that is automatically sent when someone registers.  
Click here to learn more about setting up online events

4. Write a Blog

Want to have your say about current events and spread the word about the good work your organization is doing? 

Creating a blog allows you to tell the behind-the-scenes stories and news updates related to your organization, as well as posting about educational topics your members might enjoy.

It’s a great way to share longer-form content than you can on social media, meaning that you’ll be able to share the full stories of the impact your work is having on the community. 

You can also share activities that your members will find relevant during this period of social distancing, like The Mother Connection has done on their website. 

It’s also a great time to reach out and ask your members if they’ve secretly been dreaming of becoming an author — on your blog, that is. 

You may find that they have a variety of ideas that you would never have considered, and they can also help give a whole new perspective to everything you’re writing about. 

Other blog post ideas include:

  • Interviews with members
  • How your organization has used donations or membership fees to make a difference
  • Recaps of events (including a webinar / video link for ones you ran virtually) 
  • Interviews with experts in your field 
  • Roundups of advice from members or experts 
  • How your organization is handling current events
  • Questions from your audience, with an expert replying to give advice

You can also do some keyword research to see if your site can rank for searches relevant to your audience in Google, or simply ask your members what kind of content they’d like to see from you. 

Starting a blog with WildApricot

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Adding a blog to your WildApricot site is as simple as dragging and dropping the blog gadget onto your page. There are many things you can do with your blog: you can create as many different ones as you like, embed a WildApricot blog on another website, and have it on a restricted page so only some members can see it.
There’s also the option to add an RRS icon, which is a button that allows visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive updates in their RSS reader.  

Click here to learn more about adding and using the blog gadget. 


5. Start a Forum

One of the easiest ways to get members engaged online is to start an online discussion group. 

As anyone who’s ever scrolled mindlessly through Reddit (or even a Facebook group) knows, people love sharing their opinion on topics they’re passionate about — so why not let them do so on your website? Giving your members a chance to connect online is an easy way for them to interact with each other and build connections outside your meetings and scheduled activities. 

Members can also ask each other questions related to your membership and look for support, taking some of the load off your organization.  

Plus, it also gives people a reason to keep coming back to your website to read responses and craft their own. You can also get inspired by their responses: write a blog post with the answer to a particularly debated question, or host a webinar around a topic that a lot of members expressed interest in. 

Ready to go? Here are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind: 

  • If you’re first starting out, it can help to have staff or volunteers being very active and starting threads themselves. You can also ask particularly engaged members to post more at first to encourage other people to contribute.
  • Create separate discussion threads and pages for different topics. For example, if you’re running a writing club, you could have one thread related to new story ideas, another related to works-in-progress, and another related to pitching your novel to an agent. This kind of specificity will appear less overwhelming than if all the topics were in one place, making members more likely to contribute. 
  • There should be clear rules around what kind of discussions and conversations are allowed in your forum (ie: no slurs and no discriminatory behaviour). You’ll also need to have a staff member or volunteer available to monitor responses just in case any discussions get out of hand. 
  • Once your forum has been up and running for a while, you can solicit feedback from your members regarding what else they’d like to see and how it’s going. That way you can continually provide the best experience for them. 

Read More: How To Start an Online Forum


Building a forum with WildApricot 

You can build a forum on your WildApricot website by dragging and dropping the discussion forum gadget onto your page. Like the blog, you can restrict your forum to specific member levels or groups by having it on a page with a Restricted setting. There is also a Permission setting where you can control whether a type of visitor or member level can view, comment on, or post forum topics.  
If you'd like your forum to exist on another site, you can do so by embedding a widget on that site. 
Click here to learn more about the forum gadget. 

6. Launch a Member Survey

If you’re wondering what your members would like to see… why not just ask them? 

Asking for member feedback can help you determine everything from which events you should be running next to which membership benefits your members like most to whether or not you’re charging the right amount for membership dues.

Once you’ve put together your survey, you can send it out using the other channels listed here: sending out an email, writing a blog post about it, and creating a discussion thread in your forum. 

For a template you can use as well as a few questions you can ask, check out this post. 


Conducting a member survey in WildApricot 

You can launch a survey or poll to your members from the Members area of your WildApricot account. You can target your survey by setting which member groups or levels can complete it, and you can also control the date range when your survey will be open for responses.  
Once your survey is published, you can share the link with your members, or cut out the work and send an automatic announcement email to all members who are able to complete the survey. 
Click here to learn more about member surveys. 

7. Send out a Member Newsletter 

Creating an email newsletter is a great way to tie all of these ideas together. You can include links to all the resources you’ve shared on your website, as well as helpful images or links from across the Internet.  

You can also share fun stories or photos to help distract your members from everything else going on in the world. For example, the Ridglea North Neighborhood Association shared inspiring images from across their neighborhood to help members stay positive. 

Other things you might want to include in your newsletter are: 

  • Updates on how your virtual events went
  • Behind-the-scenes updates on how your organization is doing
  • A volunteer, staff, or member spotlight 
  • Links to a “Tweet of the Week” or other social posts from your members that are valuable

Ideas for social-distancing-approved activities your members can take part in
Links to places your members have been featured across the Internet

Read More: How to Write a Newsletter Your Members Will Actually Want to Read
Sending out member newsletters with WildApricot 


Sending out member newsletters with WildApricot 

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In WildApricot’s email editor, you can choose to build an email from scratch or create one using a template. When you click on the Email menu and the Compose email button, you can select a variety of templates from either the Themed or Basic category. You can choose who to send the email to in the Recipients stage, where you can select all contacts or a group of members from the Contact list or send the email out individually. 
One of the perks of using the email editor template is that they’re mobile-friendly, so your newsletter is easy to read from both desktop and mobile displays.  
Click here to learn more about using the new email editor. 


BONUS: Do a Little Spring Cleaning

If your website has been around for a while, it might be due for an update — and this is the perfect time to do so! 

Modernizing and updating your website can make it more appealing to current and prospective members alike by sharing the current face of your organization. You might also realize that there are some new initiatives you haven’t even gotten around to adding to your website yet! 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Clean up your event calendar and remove old events
    Update your “About Us” page to make sure it includes all your current information and staff
  • Check that all the photos you’ve used on your site are still reflective of programming you offer
  • Update your new member welcome packet 
  • Check out all your blog posts and news posts to make sure they’re still current
  • Add links to your social media accounts so visitors can stay connected
  • Check out all of our other member engagement tactics to get inspired

You can also find a more comprehensive list of things to update here.  

Which of these ideas will you be trying first? Let us know in the comments if you have any other suggestions! 


Read More: Choir Management Software: Why Your Choir Needs One Right Now

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