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Associations Now

Making First-Year Members Feel Welcome

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, November 2012 Membership

By: Joe Rominiecki

Summary: The California Dental Association created a staff position for a member concierge, whose role is to reach out personally to each and every new member of the association. (Titled “Concierge Calling” in the print edition.)

With so many ways to engage members online, it's easy to forget the power of a simple phone call. At the California Dental Association (CDA), staff is picking up the phone to boost engagement among first-year members. Here's how they do it:

  1. Make a personal welcome call. CDA's Member Concierge Terry Fong personally calls each new member—about 1,000 in a year—to welcome them and gather their background information. She follows up with a brief email recommending benefits specific to the member's needs. "It's really taking the legwork and time to do just a very simple welcome email but make it applicable, not just a generalization," says Conor McNulty, director of member programs at CDA.
  2. Measure engagement among contacted members. Fong also sends another message at each member's six-month mark, part of a 12-month series of onboarding messages. "We look at the amount of our members in the first year that have taken advantage of one of five major benefits, and we want to see how does this compare to previous years, the engagement level of new members that ... have been contacted by Terry through the program," McNulty says.
  3. Share insights with staff. Based on her calls with members, Fong sends a weekly all-staff email that highlights one new member's story. "They definitely humanize our membership," McNulty says. And her interactions give her a better understanding of CDA members' lives than most of her colleagues have. "Terry comes into our meetings sometimes and we're sitting around making assumptions, and she says, 'You know what, I had six calls last week from this area of LA and, guess what, our assumptions may not be right,'" McNulty says. "It's nice to have that insight."

Joe Rominiecki is a senior editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email:

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  Anne Ornelas , December 06, 2012
This is a helpful story. I have been looking to see how we can increase our personalization in member services, and how useful it would be to share with the rest of the staff.


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