How Affinity Programs Impact Member Engagement

affinity programs

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When it comes to affinity programs, the secret to driving member engagement is to deliver value, value, value. Member engagement doesn’t happen on its own, though, and affinity programs that don’t consider member needs will do little to increase value or engagement. Putting together programs that are not relevant or don’t meet a need won’t accomplish much. In order to maximize the impact of an affinity program on your association’s member engagement, it requires a shift from a product-focused approach to a member-focused approach as well as considering the member engagement ladder.

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Member-focused approach vs. product-focused approach

When done correctly, affinity programs serve association members in the ways they need to be served and supported. The first step is to find out what your members need and how can your association help them through affinity program benefits. In particular, looking beyond a member’s individual needs and tapping into group needs allows your association to stand out and be seen as an industry necessity, while also increasing value. Affinity programs that are professionally developed enlivens the association and makes the value super clear. 


Interestingly, affinity programs and member engagement have a cyclical effect on one another.  Any type of engagement, even the smallest interaction, can impact a member’s value perception of the association. Therefore, when a member engages with the affinity program, not only are they increasing their value through the affinity program benefit, but they also increase perceived value through the action of participating in the affinity program benefit. 


In order to maximize the value and move to a more member-focused approach, it may mean actually offering fewer products that are curated to the needs of your members. Sequence Consulting concisely summarizes what this may look like, “Revitalization often takes the form of drastic pruning. A successful affinity program focuses instead on a small number of ‘signature offerings.’ These are products and services uniquely aligned with your mission. Members don’t want you to have it all. They want something that only you can offer.”

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Member engagement ladder

Another aspect to consider is how to support members at varying stages of their membership as well as their knowledge or career level. When members first join, they are obviously interested in the association but not very involved. As they continue their membership and renew year after year, they become more engaged and enthusiastic, eventually becoming leaders within the association. Over time, loyalty increases as members move up the member engagement ladder.


New members have different needs and therefore will see value differently than long-standing members, but both must be considered when developing affinity programs. For example, when the American Academy of Periodontology refreshed their affinity program, they intentionally sought out partnerships that impacted members at every stage of their career, from residents to retirees. Retirees appreciate the lifestyle benefits while new professionals can benefit from resume assistance and professional development. 


Creating the right opportunities for members to benefit and find value at every stage of the membership takes careful strategizing as well as identifying and building the right partnerships. It also takes consistency to see the most impact as well as continued assessment to make sure everything is running smoothly. 



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