Community Building_Transforming Association Membership


Why giving members a space to build community is essential

In a previous blog post, we discussed the topic of private online communities and their role in keeping association members engaged.

Community building has become ever more important after in-person events were limited or restricted altogether in 2020. However, the need to build relationships and to foster a sense of belonging remains a central issue. In this post we explore why creating opportunities for building communities is essential to associations today.

Strong Communities: An Upgraded Membership Experience

Delivering value for existing and potential members is an ongoing effort. As such, it must be revised often to ensure the membership is still valuable and meets the needs of association members. After the disruption experienced in 2020, some of these needs have changed, some have become obsolete, and new ones have emerged.

Related: Why Non-Profits use Consultants?

Developing a Highly Compelling Value Proposition

One of the lessons learned in the past year is that association members need a different membership experience. Some associations have switched to a higher gear creating virtual development opportunities and new products and services, but these moves lack a social and relational context. In other words, the membership experience should revolve around relationships, which carry a deeper and more engaging meaning than products or services.

Why Community Building Matters

Providing spaces where close-knit communities can thrive satisfies important social and professional needs. People often realise the value of growth and support when going through changes and challenges, like the ones experienced since 2020. Associations can show empathy and awareness by creating virtual spaces where private communities can connect and share.

Trust is an essential aspect of human connection. When designing upgraded membership experiences, associations should question whether delegating community building to third parties helps build trust or does the opposite. Although it is tempting to do this using social media, we should consider privacy issues and previous data breaches, as well as the lack of content and editorial control in these platforms. Private member communities could instill trust, as they offer members a space where the production and distribution of value is not dictated by algorithms. In other words, private communities do not only help people connect with each other, but also give them more control over their own membership experience.

RELATED: Online Learning And Member Engagement For 21st Century Associations

What are the motivating elements that led people to join an association? Networking comes first, followed by obtaining professional certifications or development opportunities and having access to specialised and up-to-date information. Creating an online community can support motivation by offering formal and informal learning in the form of peer-based learning, the exchange of insights, experiences, and hyper-relevant content from experts in the industry or like-minded professionals.

The contributions of different members accrue social capital, an intangible but valuable asset that can help associations become transformational social forces and boost their capacity for change.

Communities can be places for growth and therefore meet a key need irrespective of the membership lifecycle. Both first-timers and long-term members can contribute something valuable if given space to discover their unique roles as connectors, creators, enablers, collaborators, or sharers. The contributions of different members accrue social capital, an intangible but valuable asset that can help associations become transformational social forces and boost their capacity for change.


Giving members a space to build community is an effective strategy that promotes community-building from the bottom up. Focusing on relationships helps give members a meaningful experience so that membership is seen as more than just an annual expense.

Private communities can also nurture a sense of belonging, which is at the heart of strong communities, and drive organic growth by bringing like-minded groups of people together. One step at a time, associations can make a truly valuable social contribution and be central to the creation of vibrant communities committed to a shared purpose.

At Congrex we are passionate about finding personalised ways of boosting membership value. Get in touch with our team to explore the possibilities for your association.


Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings, including the management of hotel rooms and strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organizations, and corporations.

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