Just received my latest AU Alumni
newsletter only to find that they have instituted a new tradition for the class of 2013. (I actually had a similar experience in 1991 when I started The Ohio State University so while AU's is good, it is not exactly cutting edge--props go to OSU). The new tradition can be translated into a whole new way to energize your New Member Welcome Experience or way to say thanks to donors, etc.
The idea is to praise your newbies BEFORE they really have done too much. AU's tradition probably started to appease/entice the Millennials that require near constant praise and hand-holding (according to a research professor at AU that I had the fortune to hear speak at a conference about a year ago) to thank them for coming and get them to engage. AU marched their new students around the campus and gave them the pomp and circumstance they deserve for committing to their school and placing them in the very spot where they (hopefully) will get their baccalaureate in a short 4 years.
Why is this a great idea? A couple reasons:
1) you just gave every kid/parent a visible, public display of gratitude
2) you showed respect to the kid/parent who has committed their time/resources to your school when they have so many options of where to spend their money. Higher Ed is no longer the student begging and will put up with being treated like a number anymore--colleges/universities are competing for ever shrinking dollars with every raising costs (hmm sounds like associations!)
3) you gave that kid a mental model and a visible path to their goal. they now know what it will feel like and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves
4) you've created more demand for the school and its legacy by showing acceptance/reward up front
Organizations may think about doing something similar as part of their onboarding process. What a difference it would make! I know that I recently was accepted into the National Association of Professional Women
and they called me to ask to do an interview and post my picture on homepage. they also sent me a very nice folder with my membership card. I was delighted and glad that they aren't one of those organizations that have cut out all branded giveaways. I find that in the world of virtual relationships, those tanglible items hold even greater value and predict to see a resurgence of these types of branded products and physical member welcome kits/awards.
Nonetheless, give it a think on how to best reward your new individuals that have made their first commitment to you. Don't lose the opportunity to sing their praises and thank them for their valued commitment to your cause.