Make Engagement More Fun With Digital Badges

Digital badges and ribbons put a twist on a traditional form of member recognition to incentivize small acts of engagement. Associations and their members are sharing them across community and social networks, adding an element of competition that spurs involvement.

How do you get a professional society of accountants excited about member engagement? It’s simple—create a membership scoreboard and assign points to actions that merit a reward.

The North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants (NCACPA) is in the process of implementing a digital leaderboard in its online community that counts everything from membership tenure to volunteering and other forms of service. Those points add up to recognition.

For example, let’s say you’ve been an NCACPA member for a year and complete a four-hour volunteer task; you might be awarded five points. But a 10-year member who completes the same task might get 15 points. Eventually, NCACPA’s Connect platform will have a new leaderboard feature which ranks the most-engaged members.

“We assign points for simple actions, such as uploading a profile picture on your Connect profile or posting a thread for the first time on the online discussion board,” says Moira Gill, a communications strategist with NCACPA. “While it will help members start accruing for when we implement the leaderboard, it also helps increase community participation and keep the engagement momentum going.”

There are many examples of how gamification can boost member or customer engagement. NCACPA’s platform might be fun for certified public accountants with a competitive streak, but it’s also an effective way to track personal growth. Actions earn members digital ribbons that recognize volunteering, community service, speaking at a conference, and more.

A lot of associations are beginning to test the value of a digital badge or ribbon, says Denise Roosendaal, CAE, executive director of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). While they’ve been used most often in credentialing or certification, membership teams are starting to see the benefits of rewarding smaller actions, like updating a member profile. Digital badges and ribbons also travel easily across online networks.

“Wherever a member’s digital presence is, a badge can be shared or posted,” Roosendaal says. “These badges hold the power of reward and recognition for the individual and awareness for the organization in a new digital environment.”

LinkedIn is a popular place for sharing digital badges, Roosendaal says, and they can be synched to membership databases, making it easier to verify a member’s status, credential, or certification.

Younger members seem to be particularly interested in adding badges to their digital footprint, she adds. It’s a big reason why her association recently expanded digital badging to students completing certification courses at ICE Academy. The certificate program badge is by far the most popular ICE badge, Roosendaal says.

But before implementing digital badging, gamification, or another form of small-scale recognition, it’s important to think about the member activity that you want to incentivize. Amy Dufrane, CAE, CEO of the HR Certification Institute, says badges should be designed to meet a specific business goal, such as driving event attendance, increasing forum participation, or supporting a credentialing or certification program.

A key piece of advice for starting out: Make your digital badging program achievable and shareable. Small engagements should add up to bigger badges or ribbons, which can then be displayed in what Gill calls “a personal trophy case.”

“We try to remind members that they can set and achieve a variety of goals,” Gill says. “It’s not just the big commitments, like serving on the board or a committee. We want to make it known that there are a lot of little ways to get involved.”


Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!