The Power of Community: Fostering Connections in 2021

This year, community has been difficult to uphold. Here’s how associations are helping members stay plugged in.

How do the U.S. military’s elite teams find success in the most chaotic circumstances? It comes down to the power of community, writes Retired U.S. Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Chad Storlie: “Teams share as much as they can on intelligence, operations, out-of-the-box ideas, and contingency plans”. They try to prepare for every way that a situation can go sideways, and “work constantly to share, update, and listen to new information and ideas.”

While most organizations don’t have actual bullets flying over their heads, it goes without saying that we are living in challenging times. The coronavirus pandemic has caused historic health and financial impacts on a global scale. And while we are starting to see a glimmer of hope that the war on Covid-19 will eventually be won, uncertainty still rules the day. Now, more than ever, professionals are turning to their associations to exchange ideas and information, and to find advice for navigating the unsteady months that lie ahead.

Many associations have answered the call for help by pivoting, innovating and working tirelessly to provide free resources and education to their members in real-time. And of all of the efforts put forth by associations this year, 92 percent of the more than 1,000 association members we surveyed for our Association Trends 2020: From Disruption to Opportunity study said they most valued those initiatives directed at community building through virtual networking and online forums.

The ability to connect online with like-minded people experiencing the exact same challenges, members said, is an invaluable resource and was the primary driver for new member acquisition, member engagement, and member retention.

Through forums, chat rooms and video calls, members are able to pose questions to one another on everything from budgeting tricks to the best design templates to the latest in safety regulations. And they are turning to association platforms because, unlike posing the same kinds of questions on open social media platforms like Facebook, they know that the answers coming back are from credible industry experts (i.e. people who actually know what they’re talking about.) In a world where facts are often twisted to suit agendas, association members are turning to one another to get reliable information that they can trust.

We saw a ten percent increase in associations using online forums this year and expect that to increase; because besides the incredible value online communities bring to members, they can also be a tremendous source of data and revenue on the association side. Rather than having members spend their time exchanging thoughts and ideas on LinkedIn, associations with active forums keep members engaged on their site in an ecosystem surrounded by their branding, product offerings and event announcements.

Strong communities bring the support and human connections that so many members are longing for as we head into winter. So whether it is providing a forum to exchange best practices or even podcast listening suggestions, associations that hope to grow new memberships and foster loyalties need to put their efforts into keeping their community connected.

This article was brought to you by Community Brands, the leading provider of cloud-based software to associations. Click here to read more about our Preparing for 2021 and Beyond Benchmark Report.

(Handout photo)