Association members' hands using data on mobile smartphones

Association Mobile App: 5 Steps to Gaining Member Acceptance, Downloads, & Engagement

Associations want to attract new and younger members. Members are increasingly accessing content from mobile devices (Varady, 2018). 90% of the time members are accessing content is in apps, not browsers (Kemp, 2021). What’s the solution? Build an association mobile engagement app.

Unfortunately, if you build an app, that does not mean members will download it. The organization needs to have a supportive vendor and proactive plan to create a truly engaging mobile app for its members. Here are five steps to simply get member acceptance, downloads, and engagement with a mobile app.

Step 1: Leverage Your Vendor

The vendor you choose is as important as the app you build. When it comes to vendor selection according to The Hartman Team (2020, para. 4), “it is important to properly screen candidates to determine which ones best fit the business’s unique needs.” Choose a vendor that has experience with associations. This helps to ensure your organizational needs are met. Leveraging their experience can get your app acceptance off to an incredible start.

Having launched numerous mobile apps for associations, the vendor can provide a strategy that includes a launch plan. The vendor should take time to listen to your goals and identify best practices to achieve those goals. The launch plan should consist of dates and milestones. This allows for realistic expectations.

You should expect your vendor to assist with:

Additionally, your vendor should provide ongoing strategy and training. Using statistics from the app, the vendor can make one-on-one recommendations to achieve your goals. The vendor should also offer periodic training, best practices, and strategy webinars. This is especially important for app upgrades to meet the association’s needs.

Step 2: Empower Your Team

The speed of the team is the speed of a leader. Do a soft launch of the app for internal staff and leadership. This will help work out the bugs without beta testing (Higher Logic, 2021). Getting leadership and staff to have input as well as accept and use the app will go a long way to getting membership to download the app.

A properly designed app will allow content to be available or restricted based on roles. This will enable your association to create targeted, personalized content. Specifically, content that is beneficial to staff or the executive team. As a result, they will see the value and demonstrate the need for the app.

Step 3: Start Small

Start with just some content. Too much content initially can be overwhelming to members. Pick content that is engaging and valuable to your membership. For example, your app could start with:

According to Ilona Danilova, (2019, para. 1), engagement should be an

ongoing communication strategy that begins right after the user has downloaded the app.

Use push notifications to highlight association benefits. Over time, add additional topics, menu items, and content. Introducing new content keeps the app fresh and relevant. It allows the member to experience the app in an engaging way.

Step 4: Use For Every Event

All events should be accessed through the year-round engagement app. This includes your virtual, hybrid, in-person, webinar, and on-demand events. Educational webinars, committee meetings, and even board meetings should be done using the app. An app designed for associations should have the ability to create numerous restrictions and deliver content with an entire event platform that includes a web component for content streaming.

Events create a massive spike in engagement. Capturing that engagement with the year-round app allows the association to market to the attendees all year long. Using content restrictions, menu items on the app can target attendees based on membership type. Thus, an organization can create highly segmented year-round content for its event attendees. Personalizing the content will increase engagement beyond the event(s).

Step 5: Promote, Promote, Promote

Promote the app. Focused, multi-channel marketing of the benefits to members will increase downloads (Danilova, 2019). Many organizations create small, short videos to promote their member app. Include how to download the app on your website, your emails, and even invoices. Any communication channel that you currently use should be promoting the app.

Have the app promotion include benefits. For example, some organizations have app-only content. Promote one-touch access to the website on a mobile device. Discuss the benefit of member-only content available on the app. These are just some examples; what is beneficial to your membership may differ. However, members are not concerned with features; they are concerned with benefits. As such, promote on all communication channels the benefits of the app.

Vendor selection, planning, and proper promotion will increase member acceptance, app downloads, and engagement. Following these five steps will immediately provide numerous downloads of your member app within months of launching.

J. Mark Wallach, MBA, is the CEO Emeritus of Engagement Mobile Strategies, a consulting agency committed to associations increasing member engagement, member retention, and non-dues revenue through mobile technology selection, strategy, and implementation.

Visit for more information about member engagement and mobile technology.


Danilova, I. (2019). Developing mobile app engagement among your community, Info Grove.

Higher Logic (2021). The 2021 Complete Guide to Online Community: Everything you need to know about virtual engagement. And we mean everything.

Kemp, K. (2021). Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, Hootsuite.

The Hartman Team (2020). Why Is Vendor Selection Important?, Hartman Executive Advisors

Varady, P. (2018). Mobile Apps Create Effective Member Engagement, ISG Solutions