Onboarding and Orientations: The First Steps in Successful Retention

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With NAHB's spring membership drive coming to an end, home builder associations (HBAs) are welcoming new members and focusing on engagement. The May session of the Third Tuesday Townhall series covered the first of NAHB’s pillars of retention: onboarding and orientations. Guest speaker Pauline Wilton, director of member services at BIA of Lancaster, kicked off the conversation by sharing her onboarding tactics to maintain her HBA’s stellar retention rates. The Purpose of Onboarding Because the first few months are crucial for retention, onboarding is your golden opportunity to introduce your association to new members, and ensure they understand the value you provide and challenges you can help them face. During first quarter 2019, strong onboarding efforts increased average first-year retention from 56.3% to 56.9% for builders and 50.3% to 51% for associates. The national retention rate has risen slightly to 78%. Communication is Key Making sure new members are acquainted with someone in the association — staff, officers, established members, committees members — is important when it comes to the onboarding process. "I always reach out first, through phone calls or emails. And I always invite them to orientation, or I offer to meet them directly," said Wilton. "It’s to see why they joined and what we can do to work together." How to Motivate Membership Committees
  • Provide incentives for retention calls or other forms of outreach.
  • Make personal introductions or assign committee members to engage new members.
  • Have a streamlined flow of communication.
  • Make resources easily accessible.
Shannon Amerson, director of operations and member relations at the HBA of Richmond, has found that her committee is most successful when comprising people who feel empowered. In recent months, her association’s retention rate has skyrocketed. "I let them choose who they make retention calls to. To every meeting, I bring a list of people renewing six months out, and we pick who makes what calls. That way, they are reaching out to people they have relationships with," said Amerson. Welcome Gifts Welcome packets, incentives and other forms of personalized collateral are great ways to boost your engagement with new members. Wilto's HBA, for example, provides members with a "little black book of benefits," which briefly outlines information like high-level benefits, sponsorships, ways to get involved and upcoming events. Others give out gift items ranging from magnets and window clings to complimentary event tickets and free lunches. Sarah Schultz, executive officer at the HBA of Upper Peninsula, uses laminated membership cards. On the back, there are discount codes from local businesses. Why Hold an Orientation? Having a group of new members come together allows for positive face-to-face interactions, and a chance to create their own relationships or micro communities within the larger association. New members who attend an orientation are more likely to engage with your activities and products. After learning what you have to offer, there is a greater chance for them to join a committee, attend more events, and participate in sponsorships and advertisements opportunities. Make It Personal Putting your own personal touches on your orientations allows your members to get a sense of your HBA's identity:
  • Give it a creative name.
  • Hold it over breakfast, lunch, dinner or a happy hour.
  • Come up with a fun theme or activity.
At the BIA of Lancaster, new members attend "The BIA Whole Picture," which is hosted over breakfast every three months. New members can hear from existing members, learn about the association and its benefits, and understand how to work together. "What you get out of membership is what you’re able to put into it," Wilton said is her mantra to new members. Click here to watch a replay of the session. For more information, including resources to help your retention efforts, visit nahb.org/hbaresources.

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