Engagement. While the term means different things to different organizations (we have our own definition, too), you’re probably reading this because you understand how essential it is, especially during an economic crisis. Broadly defined, engagement is activity, and for your association, the activity between your organization and the member, as well as the member-to-member interaction your association provides that drives membership value.
When it’s time for a member to renew, engagement can mean the difference between leaving and staying. An engaged member is an active member, and the effort to keep members active is ongoing and ever evolving. Every organization is unique, so we’ve put together six different tactics any organization can try to ensure members don’t become stagnant, even in the midst of a pandemic.
Engage their brains
Discovering ways to engage your members in the electrical synapses of their brains isn’t as challenging as you might think. Members are already interested in going beyond their day-to-day activities since they’ve been moved to join your association.
1. Host an online video chat
An “online video chat” can be interpreted in different ways, and you have a lot of flexibility to do what works for your organization. This type of activity is great for sparking inspiration and thought-provoking ideas among your members. It can mean hosting a virtual Ted Talk-like event, or an informal video chat, or something in between. Whatever you choose to do, keep these pointers in mind:
2. Partner up for an online campaign
Another way to engage your members’ brains is to host an online campaign where your association and a partner or like-minded organization combine efforts. This can be a way to spread awareness for a variety of issues, celebrate an anniversary, promote a recent launch, or fundraise for a cause. Here are a few ideas:
Engage their hearts
Speaking to the core values of your members is a tactic for engagement that can work wonders.
3. Organize philanthropic activities
Volunteer opportunities can increase member interaction on several levels, even with safe social/physical distancing measures in place. Make sure to follow county guidelines for any gatherings and ensure members have the proper protective gear. Association leaders can utilize heavily involved volunteers with the opportunity to organize an event. Taking on a leadership role deepens their connection to the association. Organizing shifts for a trash cleanup at a park or a care package drive for those in need are excellent examples of philanthropy that bring members together for a cause larger than any single person.
4. Let members host a social media takeover
On a more direct level, each of your members has a personal journey and perhaps a strong reason for connecting with and joining your association. Increasing interaction by allowing them to share and promote those personal stories through a social media takeover for a day. This provides them with a way to feel the impact of their role within the association, as well as simply having fun controlling the messaging. Human interest stories are the most compelling, and there may be members who are unaware of each other’s story. Creating more natural bonds within your membership provides value in letting members connect with each other.
Engage their fun side
Everyone wants time to kick back and relax. That may mean something different for each of your members, but there’s almost always fun angle. Create some icebreaker activities that make it easy for members to interact in a group setting and let the good times roll.
5. Host a book club or virtual game night
Book clubs are often successful among members because they create a goal and a deadline while building itself into the routine of the participants. They also offer the added benefit of creating an online discussion. Members can interact via a forum or discussion board about each book. You can facilitate book selection using online polls. It’s an activity with multiple opportunities for engaging members.
If books aren’t a good fit and you’re dealing with a more tech savvy audience, try a virtual game night (or day). Members can vote on a game – the selection can range from Animal Crossing to pictionary via Zoom (we’ve tried it and made a few tweaks to make it work)! Check out games on Jackboxgames.com for more ideas.
Note: If you plan on doing a game night using webinar software, we recommend doing a practice run with a small group and picking a game that doesn’t require a lot of rules learning time.
6. Offer members-only giveaways or awards
Spice up those virtual game nights or any other event by including members-only giveaways and contests. Association leaders can gamify initiatives with awards and friendly competition. For example, a member is awarded for being the first to reach a goal for volunteer hours. If you really want to do something special, host a virtual awards show with customized award names to speak to your membership. You can choose to announce awards for all membership activities during an annual or quarterly meeting to highlight the period.
We know there are many more tactics that lead to improved member engagement. Read more: Tips to Engage Members in Uncertain Times.
Updated since original publication on 10/7/19.
In light of recent events that have caused civil unrest, organization leaders must take the initiative to ensure there’s a better tomorrow, not just for their organizations, members, and communities they serve, but also for the generations to come. As a leader of your organization, whether it’s a professional association, club, or any other type of group, you have the responsibility to uphold high ethical standards.
As the world bands together to fight injustice, there are ways to contribute to the cause. So how can organization leaders help? Briana McDaniel, a member of our success team, is also an active member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., a historically African American sorority. She offers these tips:
Keep the dialogue open. Don’t stay silent. We must speak up about injustice. Keep the conversation going about how we can all do our part. Many of us have platforms that we can utilize to promote change for the better, and we should do so responsibly. Send emails and texts – not just to members, but to city officials – create posts on social media, publish content on your websites. Getting out there and peacefully protesting is one way to make voices heard, but it’s not the only way. Use the communication channels and tools you have available, including tools on memberplanet.
Practice your code of conduct/ethics/bylaws. Your organization should have a one, or create one, if you don’t. Review it and update if necessary. Remind your members and officers to put it into practice so that your entire organization can stand in solidarity for the values it upholds. This is especially important if you and your members publicly represent your organization or are seen in public, wearing apparel that bears your organization’s logo. During tumultuous times, we must remember the reason we are part of an organization to begin with - whether it’s to be part of that community or to stand behind something that’s greater than oneself.
Stay informed and get educated. Modern technology has made a lot of information publicly available. We must be aware that a lot of misinformation, unbased claims, and rumors are also easy to access. It’s critical that you continually review where information is coming from, as well as how stats and data are being used, especially if you’re relaying resources and information to members. Encourage others to get educated as well. Read books, watch shows and films, subscribe to podcasts, and learn about racial equality and justice.
Take action. Every one of us has a responsibility to do our part. Racism and social injustice should have no place in our communities, organizations, and nation. Aside from what’s mentioned above, there is so much we can do to start:
As a member of an organization with rich history and high ethical standards, I’m reminded of how important it is to not lose sight of the principles that served as guiding flames to lead us to combat for causes that are bigger than us as individuals.
You may or may not be leading an organization that advocates for social change. Regardless, the way your organization addresses racism (which includes doing nothing to address it) will have an impact on future societies as a whole.
The movement taking place right now is more than a social media campaign or a hashtag, and we have the power to sustain its momentum. In this long-term fight against racism, let’s be committed to leading our organizations to be the change we want to see.
We, as a company, stand in solidarity against racism and support the individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to promote equality, diversity, and community. memberplanet helps leaders manage, engage, and grow their organizations - and it is also our hope that these tools will be used to do what is right.
Contactless payments are now the norm as they can be done online and in one’s own home, reducing virus spread during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now whenever someone submits a payment form, administrators can be alerted immediately by setting up a notification via SMS text message. While memberplanet has always had online payment forms for contactless payments, text message notifications make it easier to facilitate curbside, contactless pickup. (View payment form templates and other COVID-19 templates.)
Organizations using memberplanet have set up grab-and-go services with these features and have kept their restaurants, clubs, and operations going. Below are some specific examples:
View full support documentation to learn more about managing payment form alerts.
These are just a few of the ways organizations are utilizing memberplanet. Learn more about the ways fraternities, nonprofits, PTAs, and other groups are using the platform in response to COVID-19.
With COVID-19 disrupting almost every aspect of the way we live – from working to socializing to buying disinfectant wipes – it’s evident that organizations must reinvent the way they engage members and constituents to adapt to the new normal. They’re trying, too, along with schools, companies, and everyone else who’s social distancing. With worldwide lockdowns in place, video-conferencing app Zoom reported a surge in users from 10 million to 200 million in March. Despite the best intentions and increase in virtual activities, we’re witnessing online fatigue – users are complaining about lackluster online events, monotone webinars, mediocre content, and the like. Here’s how you can break the mold and keep your members engaged whether you run an association, chapter, or any other type of membership-based organization.
1. Take them off autopilot
It doesn’t matter what you do, but if you do it over and over again, people will get tired of it.
To keep a 45-minute weekly phone call from getting mundane, change up the format. At the beginning, try asking a question that everyone (if time allows) needs to answer. Some examples: Who was your favorite teacher? What’s your favorite movie? What was the best concert you went to? If you have a video conference or webinar with more than 20 people, you can try doing online polls (preferably related to your webinar’s topic) every couple of slides to keep your audience on their toes. Doing what’s unexpected jolts people’s brains from autopilot to actively being engaged. Strive to infuse everyday activities, online meetings, and webinars with things to make them different. Don’t give your members a chance to think this: If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
2. Ask yourself whether your content is valuable
When you look at your own content, do you find that it’s worth your time? Is your content the result of a well-planned strategy? Did you benefit from producing and consuming your content? If you didn’t answer a confident “yes” to those questions, you’re missing the point of creating content in the first place. Maybe you threw something together last minute for the sake of meeting a deadline. It happens, but it shouldn’t be the norm, especially now when people are even pickier with how they spend their limited time. They could be working from home with kids or might be caring for someone who’s ill. One way organizations have delivered valuable content is to survey their members – ask them what they want and need during this time. Then, for the next newsletter, they deliver on the topics members have requested, which beats the guesswork.
3. Find a balance in engaging the heart and mind
Right now, many people are still in survival mode. While your organization’s strategy might incorporate producing educational content and networking opportunities, make sure you find that balance of appealing to people’s minds and hearts. Don’t shy away from telling someone’s inspiring story or create a forum for your members to share encouragement someone else needs to hear. One organization paired mentors with new grads (who didn’t get a ceremonial sendoff into post-grad life) – to equip them with advice and ideas to navigate our brave new world. Another invited its members to share stories of resiliency. And many more have launched fundraisers to help communities in need. Those are just a few examples, and here you can find many more real examples of organizations engaging their members with the right balance.
4. Pay attention to the delivery
As you take a look at the ways you’re engaging your members, don’t discount how you’re doing it. You could have the best content, but if it’s delivered in a boring webinar with a speaker who’s reading from a script in a monotone voice, your audience is going to zone out. Or worse, leave. Whatever format (blog, newsletter, video, infographic) it needs to be done well. Practice using your tech platform – so you don’t spend the first 10 minutes asking if everyone can hear – and rehearse your webinars. Have a friend or colleague you trust give honest feedback on how effective your speakers are. For slides and graphics, use eye-catching imagery and gifs. There are too many free resources available, such as Canva, to skimp out on this. For emails, blogs, e-books, and other longform content, remember to check that they’re mobile friendly.
5. Boost your social presence
The pandemic has ushered in an era of physical distancing, better known as social distancing. With many of us cooped up at home most of the day, we’re spending more time on social media to stay connected. Adults in the United States average 82 minutes a day, Statista estimates. This doesn’t mean, obviously, that your organization should post random videos on TikTok. Do what makes sense for your strategy and the value you’re striving to offer, then take into account the social platforms your target audience is using the most. The data so far points to Youtube and Facebook as the most popular social media platforms among adults. Using social platforms to connect with your audience and promote your content can be very effective when done properly.
Engaging with your members can take on many forms and now is a good time to get creative and brainstorm with your staff volunteers. We hope these tips provoke new ideas and ways to effectively connect with your members.
If you need a quick way to launch an online fundraiser, survey, or payment form in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve got templates you can use! You can customize them and publish in just a few minutes. For real examples, check out How Organizations Use memberplanet in Response to COVID-19.
Templates images (click to view a larger image):
Template (click to view a larger image):
Pro Tip: If you are selling items that need to be picked up, set up a payment notification via SMS text. That way, you will be alerted as soon as someone makes a payment. This is especially helpful for organizations that promote contactless pickup or have other situations wherein time is of the essence.
Template image (click to view a larger image):
Note: Collecting funds on the memberplanet platform incurs a platform fee and payment processing fee. Please see Pricing for details.
One of the bigger questions that leaders of membership-based organizations are asking themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic is, “How can we continue to support and serve our members during this time?” Even as government leaders announce plans to reopen, the fact remains that there are many crippling circumstances complicating each organization’s situation.
Regardless of the hurdles faced, we’ve seen many adapt – and continue to thrive! Organizations have converted their in-person events and fundraisers to virtual ones, they’ve continued to foster meaningful connections through online channels, and they’re resilient and resourceful even amidst constant chaos. Here are some examples of organizations using memberplanet who’ve gone above and beyond to serve their members – what they’ve done can be replicated for almost any organization.
Fraternal organizations keep members connected using surveys and email campaigns
The Madison Area Alumnae Association also created an email campaign to pair alumnae with sisters who are graduating; it’s a concerted effort to provide mentorship, career advice, and remote interviewing tips to those who are graduating during these uncertain times.
And its Oklahoma City Alumnae Chapter organized a team to make DIY fabric masks for healthcare providers, teachers, and other vulnerable populations in their community!
Organizations utilize event sites to go virtual
Organizations raise funds in response to and in spite of COVID-19
(Read More: Giving in Response to the Coronavirus Crisis)
Brownsville Elementary PTSA turned its annual jog-a-thon, which funds more than 50% of its annual budget, into a virtual exercise-a-thon!
And Viewlands PTSA continues to raise funds for its Grocery Gift Card Drive to help provide grocery gift cards for families in need.
The Alpha Omicron Chapter at Miami University launched a successful Anchor Bowl campaign to support the Delta Gamma Foundation.
The Beta Epsilon Chapter at American University is holding its Cycle for Sight campaign to positively impact the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.
And the Eta Rho Chapter at the University of California, Merced, had to cancel its Puppies and Pizza fundraising event, but still promoted an online fundraising campaign to benefit the Delta Gamma Foundation and the Center of Visual Enhancement.
As you strive to continue making a positive impact on your members and constituents, memberplanet is here to help. We have a library of templates available on the platform to help organizational leaders in the work they do. If you need assistance with our features, please visit our Support Center.
Our fun-filled days of group scouting activities and monthly meetings have been on pause. Adapting to the evolving COVID-19 situation has proved quite a challenge I’ve faced as a volunteer Cubmaster through Boy Scouts of America – a challenge I know many other volunteer leaders are still struggling to overcome during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few tips that’ve helped me and the organization I’m part of continue to provide value to members, plus some words of encouragement.
Keep people interested in what’s going on
You can continue to get in front of your members by pivoting with the resources you have available. While we can’t hold meetings in person, we’re adapting by going virtual. That could mean different things depending on your organization. For some, that might mean holding online conferences and events. For my Cub Scout pack, it meant uploading videos for members to watch later, or “going live” on social media for real-time engagement. Whatever you can do to keep members interested in what your organization is doing, go for it.
Provide value to your group and members in different formats
“Value” can be defined in a ton of ways, so get creative on finding ways to deliver it to members. While our Cub Scouts can’t go on group hikes for the time being, kids and their parents can still go on their own hikes to complete participation activities. Scouts need to complete scouting activities such as bike rides to achieve a new rank, which they can still do. We’re reminding our members that activities can be fun for the whole family, even while hunkered down. There are better ways to spend that time rather than being glued to the TV all day!
Give resources to members and volunteer leaders
One way to really support other volunteer leaders is to provide them with resources when you can. You’re competing with other necessary tasks in your volunteers’ and members’ schedules. For Cub Scouts, we constantly compete with sports activities, time, and energy. To help with that, our council has provided other activities that can be done for participation, such as a 30-day challenge and scout-themed bingo. Be accommodating and flexible where you can by extending deadlines and doing what works for your organization given the circumstances.
Staying in front of your members and continuing to provide value during this time will help your organization stay top of mind, especially when the time comes for members to renew.
About Matt Arnold
As our Vice President of Business Development, Matt is dedicated to serving member-based organizations and small to mid-sized associations. With over 10 years of experience wearing various leadership hats as an Alpha Tau Omega alumnus, Matt specializes in all fraternal organization matters. Whether a group is challenged with growing membership or engaging members, he's got a solution.
In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, we’ve witnessed businesses, organizations, economies, health care systems, individuals, and more suffer on a global scale. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a grim outlook on almost everything, many are still committed to doing good deeds. Take for example New York veterinarians donating ventilators to hospitals in need, or Disney executives taking salary cuts to sustain employees’ wages. These days, you don’t need to be a billionaire to make a difference. Whether you lead an organization or are simply an individual looking to do your part, online tools can help.
Ways to help with online fundraising
Coordinating an online fundraiser is one way to aid an organization or individuals in need. Online fundraising utilizes payments technology that makes it convenient for donors to give when they want, where they want, and how they want. For example, someone could give by accessing a donation website while sheltering in place using their credit card. Consider some of these different types of donation campaigns:
Day of giving: A giving day is a one-day donation campaign that raises funds in the span of 24 hours. The GivingTuesday organization recently announced May 5, 2020, as #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of giving and unity in response to unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. The organization is known for launching #GivingTuesday during the holiday season, however, its partners and leaders are actively galvanizing supporters to step up in any way they can right now. Giving days are successful for a variety of organizations and causes because concerted promotion efforts are focused on one day, usually on an anniversary. Examples of a day-of-giving campaign include a Founders’ Day for fraternal organizations, Pi Day (3/14), and #GivingTuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving holiday).
Note: memberplanet users can log in to use a #GivingTuesdayNow template.
Peer-to-peer fundraising: Also known as crowdfunding, this type of campaign leverages the reach of an individual’s relationships. Fundraising is personal; people donate because of their connection to an organization, whether that exists in the form of membership or someone they know who is affiliated with the organization. Usually, those who coordinate a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign will enlist the help of ambassadors – a volunteer or supporter – that can champion the fundraiser using their personal story on behalf of an organization. Utilizing social media, video, and photos help to drive the emotional connection with donors.
Online auction: In an effort to replace traditional jog-a-thons and live events that had to be canceled due to social distancing restrictions, some organizations have gotten more creative. Live online auctions can be facilitated using a technology solution that incorporates streaming or real-time updates, however, a silent online auction is a much simpler coordination effort that can be just as effective. One would only need to utilize a survey form to auction off merchandise, gift packages, and other items that can be delivered to winning bidders.
Ongoing donation campaigns: These types of campaigns can last for a few days, a school year, or continue indefinitely. To keep promotion efforts going over an extended period of time, it helps to tie in a theme to a fundraising initiative. Examples include Greek week, Autism Awareness Month, or a year-long centennial celebration. Organizations can increase their chances of receiving larger donations by offering installment payments. This allows donors to pay a sum of money in smaller parts over a fixed period of time. For a longer lasting donation campaign, installment payments are all the more appealing to both donors and charities.
Other ways to give
Giving monetarily is just one way of helping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some individuals have taken it upon themselves to create DIY face masks or organize grassroots efforts to create enough to donate to shorthanded hospitals. Even one of memberplanet’s team members put her sewing abilities to use to create face masks with HEPA filters to donate to a local hospital. Another team member is utilizing Nextdoor, an app that allows him to connect with neighbors and do grocery runs for the elderly and others who are at higher risk for COVID-19. Others are also donating snacks, food, and writing thank-you letters for their community hospital staff.
Whichever way you choose to do your part, whether it’s by donating money, goods, your time, or just sheltering in place, modern technology has a way of making it easier. memberplanet can simplify online fundraising efforts for organizations of all sizes. Fraternal organizations can utilize the Funds Multiplier, a fundraising solution for fraternal communities to manage campaigns, engage supporters, and grow donations. To learn more, schedule a chat with our team.
About Matt Arnold
As our Vice President of Business Development, Matt is dedicated to serving member-based organizations and small to mid-sized associations. With over 10 years of experience wearing various leadership hats as an Alpha Tau Omega alumnus, Matt specializes in all fraternal organization matters. Whether a group is challenged with growing membership or struggling to engage members, he's got a solution.
I’m used to working from home – and I’m fortunate that my work provides this opportunity – but many organization and association leaders are still getting accustomed to this new normal. Given that social distancing guidelines have recently been extended to fight the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), non-essential employees could be working from home for quite a while. I’ve compiled a few tips with resources and personal recommendations, especially for association leaders who’ve realized that teleworking has its own set of challenges.
1. Assign a separate tech lead for virtual meetings
Every organization is different in the way it conducts meetings, whether by video or phone conference. If you are meeting with more than five or six people, it’s easier when those who are facilitating assign someone to manage technical tools. This doesn’t have to be an IT professional, but anyone who is familiar with the tools you’re using. When the facilitator is freed up to not worry about technical aspects, he or she can focus on leading with strategy, Associations Now points out. When leading a conversation, it’s critical to understand who’s engaged as well as be strategic in engaging others to give feedback.
2. Establish a regular routine, but be flexible
Distractions can run rampant when working from home. Limited childcare options might mean you have young children to take care of while you work. There may be times when your next-door neighbor is doing some noisy yardwork. Whatever the case, setting boundaries and following your regular routine as much as possible will help minimize distractions and be more productive. Communicating your routine to others in your household, as well as to other colleagues if necessary, will help you stay the course. When you do find yourself derailed by an unexpected distraction, be flexible (with your colleagues as well). Everyone is acclimating to this unprecedented situation in different ways, so it’s OK to cut yourself some slack.
3. Set up a workspace
Working from an in-home office is ideal, but if you don’t have that option, consider making a space for yourself where you’ll have some privacy and a desk or table that is well lit. I would not recommend working from the bed or couch – places that are less likely to be ergonomically friendly when you need to be in front of a computer – and it’s too tempting for our brains to be in relaxation mode in those areas. Designating a workstation for yourself will help you increase productivity and maintain a better work-life balance, Forbes suggests.
4. Build trust with transparency
If you’re managing staff, checking in occasionally is fine, but overdoing it can be counterproductive. How do you know if your staff isn’t bingeing on Netflix’s “Tiger King” all day? Inc. says the opposite is usually true – people tend to work more from home because it’s harder to “leave” work. To build trust, lead by example. Exhibit the work ethic you expect from your staff and promote transparency by openly sharing information.
5. Strengthen rapport
My last tip is essential to foster meaningful connections with your staff and colleagues. If your organization hosted regular activities to encourage camaraderie among coworkers, carry that over to virtual events. Not every activity has crossover characteristics, but you can still recognize birthdays and host virtual happy hours (memberplanet recently had its first virtual happy hour, too!) while practicing social distancing. Friendly banter in chat channels can also work to spark creativity. Consider designating a few channels for coworkers to have conversations that would usually take place at the water cooler.
We’re all still adjusting to the new normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and now that many people across the United States are hunkered down, sheltering in place, you’ve probably done some thinking about what to do about your upcoming association event later this year. There are still a lot of unknowns about the new coronavirus, including how long this pandemic will last. If you’re considering canceling/postponing your event or going virtual, we summed up a few of the best resources widely shared among event organizers for you. (You can peruse them as you enjoy your beans.)
Postpone or cancel your event
Bevy’s CMX Hub comprehensive list: This 9-minute read packs plenty of links to resources and advice from reputable sources. We love how this list includes force majeure language and real examples of communication sent to communities regarding COVID-19.
World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations: This is helpful as a follow-up after a COVID-19 outbreak has ended in your community, and the downloadable document lists must-do tasks: Designate a liaison to establish communication with local and national public health authorities, conduct risk assessment, and more.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General guidelines and resources can be found here, including recommendations for businesses, schools, and institutes of higher learning. As the situation develops, we expect more info to be posted regarding large events and mass gatherings.
Associations Now tips: The article recounts how a major organization canceled its international annual summit, then offered its members a two-day virtual event that addressed business continuity topics in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Associations Now also offers tips on how to get meeting participants more comfortable with virtual events.
Virtual’s key considerations, part 2 of 3: The association management company’s three-part articles detail the decision process in deciding whether to go online, how to create an engaging experience, and how their staff transformed their annual meeting into a virtual event.
Hootsuite’s virtual events how-to: The guide takes you through multiple social media tools to help boost interaction and engagement on social, and also lists different webinar, livestream, and conference platforms with descriptions.
Overcommunicate – some people may get annoyed with an influx of COVID-19 emails, but if they paid for a ticket to your event, this is not the time to be skimping out on details. If you haven’t decided whether to postpone or cancel, at the very least, let them know through multiple channels (mass email, your website, etc.) that you’re still deciding as the situation continues to develop.
Promote with caution – If your event is farther out than the Olympics and you’re confident you’ll be able to host your event as planned, survey the situation so your promotion efforts remain tactful.
With technology (much of it free) at our fingertips, event organizers find that going virtual is one of the easiest ways to stay connected and still host their event during these uncertain times.