We don’t believe successful engagement, especially when fostered online, has to be a battle of new and old or good and evil. Associations can find what they need from past successes while still gaining traction. Whether you are trying to launch a full-fledged online community or just bolster your event and webinar attendance, online engagement will get you there if you strike the right balance. Engagement doesn’t have to be at odds with online activity and technology. See our three dichotomous relationships below for examples on perfecting your association’s engagement balance.
The print and digital partnership
Associations now have a duty to cater offerings to all members – a tall order in this day and age of blended generations and multitudes of ways to present content. As each individual member’s preferences will vary, in addition to the variances across generations, the only effective way to communicate with everyone is to adapt your content to every possible format, and let the member decide how they wish to consume and/or interact with it.
Using an online community as an example, members may be overwhelmed with daily digest emails, and so they often want the content delivered via different means. Those with long commutes and intermittent cell phone coverage may opt for mobile apps, while others may want an adaptive mobile website. Some may not want either and may be content with their regular “snail mail.” In all cases, those members are engaging with your organization, and being able to do so in the format that works for them keeps them engaged. So rather than resolving to switch to a mobile-only format or stubbornly resisting any digital formats at all, do what will benefit your association in the long run: provide good content that’s accessible in any format a person could want, and let the individual members choose how they’d like to consume it.
Membership welcomes community management
The traditional membership department in associations is rapidly changing. And for some, the focus has already shifted from membership to community. There’s no need to panic over the health and status of your membership department. Preexisting staff resources and new platforms can be leveraged.
Many organizations contemplate investing in an online community platform for their members, or even expanding their online social presence, but struggle with the concept of spreading already stretched staff resources to support such an initiative. Perhaps they launch an online community that they believe “lives” in just one department. Maybe they are convinced they must hire or outsource for what they assume is a complex new role, requiring an entirely different skill set than the existing staff possess.
Associations should try to identify traditional member management responsibilities that are time-consuming and provide less value, and alter those positions to include community or social media management-related responsibilities that provide more value, both now and in the future. Even when there’s more work, it’s usually an opportunity to prioritize. An online community or stronger social presence does require the investment of staff resources in order to be successful, but it can be surprising how easily an existing position or volunteer role can be repurposed, to bridge the gap between the way membership was always managed and a future where the online community will play an increasingly important role for member acquisition and retention.
Traditional turns to micro volunteerism
In an effort to become more member-centric while still differentiating yourselves from the competition, look for ways to improve relevancy and efficiency in your volunteer programs. Primary ways to do this are embracing different types of volunteerism and becoming more inclusive, thus improving member satisfaction and ultimately building a greater sense of community.
By looking outside of the “volunteer box,” associations are able to engage more volunteers with more flexible and targeted volunteer opportunities. Many associations already have volunteers giving their time and expertise in a micro-capacity, but until now they have received little to no recognition for their efforts. What about the more dynamic and unstructured volunteer opportunities that occur all the time and are rarely counted as volunteering? This constitutes Micro-volunteering and it works, because like the small financial gifts that add up, the small gift of time spent has the same impact if pooled.
When the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) launched its online volunteer management system, its goal was to facilitate micro and traditional volunteerism. In this case, success can easily be measured by the total number of members who have signed up to be notified of volunteer opportunities and the total number who subsequently signed up for an opportunity. ASAE’s report, “10 Lessons for Cultivating Member Commitment,” shares an astonishing fact: one simple volunteer role shifted a member’s value perception 6 points (from 38 to 44 percent in the Net Promoter Score). A deeper commitment, such as task force/committee or long-term volunteer roles, sets the value perception at 60 percent.
How are your associations balancing old and new engagement tactics when trying to improve online success?