Association Membership Engagement in a Virtual Era

By Emily Mullin, CAE, Management Services Executive, The Core Management Company

In the past year, the entire world has been forced to stretch our limits, thinking, and creativity to operate in ways we have never considered in the past or frankly avoided because we didn’t perceive a need. In overcoming the struggles and being stretched outside of our comfort zones, lives immense opportunities.

How does an organization, which until now relied solely on in-person events/meetings/programs, exist in a virtual reality? Here are some strategies to support engaging membership in a virtual era.

Be Clear with the Intention of Each Virtual Event and Set Goals to Know Your Success

Members are busy, so it is vital to be mindful of their personal and professional bandwidth. They are in many cases adapting to new realities, and being pulled in several directions. It is therefore necessary to provide various types of events and clearly outline t their purpose (education, connection, forum/open conversations). Give members ample opportunity to participate in events that provide the maximum value to what they need at that time. Set realistic attendance/engagement goals for the Board to evaluate, adjust as needed, and celebrate successes along the way. 

Give Your Members a Voice

If you have not conducted a membership survey in the past year, now would be a great opportunity! Allow for input on topic suggestions, frequency, preferred time, etc. Empower them to have a pride of ownership with the association and give them an opportunity to provide feedback on what would provide the most value right now and in the future. 

Follow up with membership by providing a summary of the findings and communicate the new initiatives and/or actions that are a direct result of their feedback. This helps ensure that members feel heard.

Connect with Members on a Personal Level

Deep relationships are formed with authenticity and empathy. Every individual in the world has in some way been impacted by the events of the past year. Now is a great time to nourish an environment where authentic rapport can be built and expanse a deeper sense of community within the association. 

Recognize that some members are eager to jump on a Zoom and connect. For those members you have not heard from or seen in a while, send them a simple email, or utilize the tried, tested, and always   appreciated card in the mail, letting them know you are checking in on them and are interested in how they are doing. Some members may simply not have the bandwidth to engage at the moment…and that is completely accepted and understandable; however, you want them to know that when they are ready to reengage, the association community is always there for them.

Although it takes dedication and intention, making the time to genuinely connect with members and check in with them will go a long way. Invite your Board members and other volunteer leaders to do the same. Now is a great chance to elevate the association’s sense of community, so that when we are able to meet in person again, it will become more of a family reunion and celebration.

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