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.
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.
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.
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.
One thing that's always on the mind of component relations professionals (CRPs) is how to boost chapter performance. After all, improving chapter performance or helping a struggling component benefits the association as a whole, including the membership experience.
In my video, which is just two minutes and 30 seconds, I offer two helpful pro tips and go into some detail on how you can accomplish these:
Pro Tip 1: Stay in Touch with Struggling Chapter Reps
Pro Tip 2: Empower Your Chapters with the Tools They Need
Take a look at the full video below and let me know what you think!
Great trainers are naturally great leaders. And by definition, great leaders are those who inspire confidence, strength, and optimism. They are the folks who can motivate – not force – their administrators to reach their fullest potential as they ascend to a new role or take on greater responsibilities. And we all know how important a good trainer is during officer or staff transitions.
The term admin can be applied broadly – it can mean your committee heads, officers, or anyone you’ve put in charge of tasks that keep your organization running smoothly, whether it’s an association, chapter, or other type of membership-based group. As far as training the best admins goes, a great trainer/leader uses methods that can be boiled down to a few guiding principles. I call them 5 Keys to Training Your Staff Admins; master these, and your team will be set for success.
For every specific skill or task to be instructed to your team admins, explain first what it is you’re about to share. More importantly, explain why it is important for your organization. How does it work in its specific scope? How does it affect the overall team? It’s important to give a sense of the overall flowchart of the group and the admin’s role within it.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
You’ve provided the instructions to light the path. Now have your team show you how to do it. You’ll be able to see if how much they’ve retained from their training, and how well they apply their knowledge and adapt to different situations. Of course, knowing what you know, don’t keep them in the dark. Adjust the course when necessary. Encourage and empathize.
We are all individuals (maybe some are more like rebels) in the world, and personality will eventually be revealed, especially in the course of training. Make time to discover your admins’ own skills and experience. Do they enjoy a steady pace? Or do they work best at light speed? But be sure to recognize their different ways of learning, and be open to adapt to give each of them the answers they’ll need ongoing.
Grow your staff admins. As they navigate their new role, give them space to make mistakes – that’s how we really learn. Assign a project or task as a test (e.g. an upcoming social event, or a fundraising campaign, or a yearly calendar of projects) and see how they rise to the challenge. Let them own it. If they can construct it, it’s like a rite of passage.
Provide support and feedback. Work with each admin to set up short- and long-term goals for themselves and the organization and make sure they know how to use the tools available to them. On the feedback loop, too, show them what’s been done previously by their predecessors. Encourage them to find ways to innovate and improve efficiency while building on past successes and the great work that’s already been done.
Even after they’ve completed their training, seek out your staff admins’ feedback and listen to their perspectives. Learning is a two-way street, and hearing from them will bolster your own knowledge and help you further educate them.
When your admins are confident that you as their trainer/leader have their back and their interests at heart, they’ll operate at peak productivity, and they will lead the rest of the organization in the way they’ve been instructed. This is the way to build a lasting team and community.
“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”
Updated since original publication on 02/12/18.
Successful associations have more than occasional high-performing components or chapters; they’re built upon a base of overall achievement and solid quality control. However, if quality control is an issue, that could hinder chapter success. According to Mariner Marketing’s 2019 Chapter Benchmarking Report, 71 percent of survey respondents indicated that quality control is considered an issue by headquarters (HQ). Not surprisingly, 40 percent, which was the majority of survey respondents, described it as their top concern – namely, that chapter products and services, such as events, membership meetings, and the like, can be uneven or frequently low quality at worst. Let’s put those worries to rest and look at ways to engage all of your chapters and bring the overall quality and performance of them closer to that of your best. These 6 tips will show you how.
1. Foster friendly competition
Analyze the metrics you use to measure your chapters and identify your most consistent performers, then use that data to create a single yet realistic goal for chapters that are struggling. It can be tied to an annual membership drive or philanthropic event where participation within a chapter can boost its overall success. This allows for even your under-performing components a fair chance to succeed, while potentially inspiring them to see their potential going forward. You can also opt to reward creativity and offer the component with the freshest idea or concept for membership recruitment (for example) the chance to lead that event for an inter-chapter competition.
2. Utilize the buddy system
Take advantage of the metrics you use to measure quality control and take note of which components do well and those that have considerable work to do. Break it down by area to distinguish between member services, fundraising, and events. Pair top performers with struggling chapter reps. This will not only help build camaraderie and rapport between your chapters, but it will allow metric leaders to use their own words and approaches to be a resource to those who are underperforming. Sometimes help from peers can work wonders – it’s simply the way chapter leaders hear certain tips or approaches from someone in their shoes that can turn their own metrics around. Buddy up and let chapter-to-chapter leadership flourish.
3. Empower your chapters with the tools they need
Another way to boost chapter performance is to arm chapter reps with the necessary tools to effectively manage their chapters. Since many chapter reps are volunteers with full-time jobs – making the most of their limited time and resources is paramount. Make sure you cover the basics; every chapter should have a toolkit that includes a chapter website, communication, and marketing tools to promote the association’s brand while maintaining consistency. If you can, include event management tools and best practices for promoting activities and events. Make your toolkit even more robust by providing an online community for members to interact with each other that include online database management. A comprehensive association management system (AMS) maximizes the time of your chapter leaders while providing them the most useful tools to recruit and retain members.
4. Recognize stellar chapter performances
Provide your most successful chapters with the recognition their hard work deserves, and also recognize those who made an outstanding effort. You can host a short award ceremony at your annual/quarterly conferences to really highlight standout performances. Include a variety of categories and awards such as a Rising Star Award, Most Creative Event, etc. so that people can vote for the winner online prior to the ceremony. A comprehensive AMS will have secure, online polling functionality, so you can leave the voting up to national-level staff, or you can open it up to everyone, which will only further enhance the bond among your components. Everyone loves a moment in the spotlight, and it gives those who aren’t receiving awards reason to strive in the following year. You can also offer prizes in terms of discounted dues membership or a special section on your association’s homepage to more frequently highlight chapters that are striving to go above and beyond.
5. Create a system for officer transitions
Consistency is a key marker of ongoing success. One way to ensure chapters maintain their best elements year over year is starting with a standardized toolkit and support resources to onboard new leadership. A standardized toolkit will help officers keep all relevant documents and reports in an easily accessible place like an online portal, which would be a great start for an incoming officer. It goes without saying that outgoing officers should help train incoming officers. It’s also crucial to have an ongoing FAQ, ideally one passed down from officer to officer. It essentially becomes a success guidebook for each new officer to learn from mistakes or common questions previous leadership experienced and solved. Making sure your chapters have these support resources in place sets up incoming officers for success. You can also take time to speak with successful chapters about the strategies they employ during officer transitions and take advantage of what works for them by passing it along to all your other components.
6. Build strong chapter rep relationships
Your chapter reps are people who’ve volunteered to lead, who were willing to take on the responsibility of that role because they truly support and believe in the mission of your association. Strengthen your bond with them by reaching out; engage them by getting to know their interests and personal goals. Help them feel seen not only as a chapter rep but as a person you respect. Emails and text messages are fine, but phone calls and in-person meetings are better. Another suggestion before hopping on the phone is to send a simple chapter leadership poll to understand their needs and expectations. Review their responses on your call and use this connection to also clearly establish your expectations from them and the chapter; illuminate them by defining what success looks like to you. Share the metrics you’ll be using to measure their chapter success while also clearly stating your goals.
Following these tips will help you better support struggling chapters by maintaining quality control and offering a little more TLC when it’s needed. Consider implementing a solution that will empower you and your components to accomplish more, maintain visibility, and manage membership with ease.
memberplanet is exhibiting our membership management software at the 2019 FEA Annual Meeting, May 29 - May 31, at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.
What Your Fraternal Community Can Do With memberplanet
Come to Booth #219 to learn more!
See you in Las Vegas!