7 Ways to Build a More Resilient Association
Online communities fuel the future of your association. Here’s how.
Emerging academic research on organizational resilience confirms what many leaders learned during the pandemic: Staying up to date with technology makes it possible for businesses to bend—rather than break—amid winds of change.
The association space is no different. Whether the goal is to enhance the member experience, build community, improve marketing, attract and retain members, or drive business outcomes, leaders who view technology through a future-forward lens are more prepared to weather the test of time.
Building a sustainable path forward requires engaging members in flexible, novel ways, protecting your association from reputational and financial risk, and putting leading-edge technologies to work. Follow these seven tips to start building a more resilient association now.
1. Transform digital spaces into vibrant, engaged communities.
Online communities have existed for decades via bulletin boards, forums, and listservs. Today’s software takes those concepts and supercharges them, empowering associations to turn data into valuable member insights.
While software helps build the foundation for an outstanding member experience, remember that community-building is not a one-and-done process.
Some online community members will observe conversations but not participate in them. Others will consider speaking up only after others lead the way. To model desired behavior, appoint a few active members and staff to kick off conversations—and others to keep them going.
2. Employ marketing automation.
The more engaged members are, the more likely they’ll stick around for the long haul. That’s where automation comes in, enabling time-strapped employees to eliminate time-consuming tasks and instead focus on innovation and strategy.
Start by automating marketing campaigns for smaller programs that typically don’t garner as much attention as an annual conference. Or boost authenticity by using automation to send emails from a relevant individual’s address (firstname.lastname@example.org) rather than something generic like email@example.com.
If you’re uncomfortable with automation, work with a provider that offers training and collaboration opportunities.
3. Ensure your digital tools coexist peacefully.
Predictability and dependability are the heart of any good member experience—and vital to renewals. But the siloed technical systems and data from which many association staff work make offering a seamless member experience challenging.
To maximize your software investments, look for member engagement and marketing platforms that seamlessly integrate with association management systems, merging disparate data into a single source of truth. With a 360-degree view of members in real-time, employees can track member engagement and derive insights more accurately.
Unifying data through integrations and expansions also enables associations to adopt new technologies in line with changing member demands. For example, an association might start with community and event software and add volunteer management and other relevant solutions as needed.
4. Democratize association access.
As people-powered organizations, associations know that there’s strength in numbers. Community coordination helps groups drive education, create standards, and influence government action—and that’s why member recruitment and retention are so important.
To welcome a broader range of members, associations should use community-enabling technology in conjunction with in-person events to create a best-of-both-worlds hybrid experience catered to diverse membership needs.
Online options improve accessibility by eliminating geographical barriers, travel costs, and schedule conflicts. The in-person component, on the other hand, provides opportunities to shake hands with industry peers at welcome receptions, trade show halls, and happy hours. Together, these components make for a holistic and inclusive experience that’s all about meeting members where they are.
5. Develop relevant content.
Don’t get stuck in the past. Digital communities harbor valuable information about what’s important to your members and should be used to examine whether your content is timely, relevant, and future-forward.
If you notice a lot of engagement with a specific blog post, consider producing follow-up content based on the conversation.
Start simple: Monitor online community discussions, check traffic on your website, and conduct topic and keyword research to determine what topics people are engaged with. And don’t be afraid of SEO. Even small organizations with limited resources can use free tools to conduct abbreviated SEO-driven content strategies.
6. Address cybersecurity risks.
Protecting your future means learning to navigate the threat landscape today. Many association software providers help protect assets through security controls, risk management programs, third-party audits, and vulnerability scans. But, because today’s attackers often seek to exploit human nature, associations also bear responsibility in this area.
At a minimum, association execs must ensure they meet cybersecurity standards per applicable laws and regulations. They should keep due diligence records, including proof of consent for processing sensitive member data, internal security procedures, and privacy policies. Finally, association execs should hold their teams accountable for the actions outlined in the documentation.
7. Use innovation to drive business outcomes.
Digital communities drive meaningful on-demand networking and learning opportunities, strengthen member acquisition and retention, and expand sponsorship opportunities—all of which keep associations in a healthier financial state.
The trick is to use your community-enabling software in unexpected ways. Consider hosting and marketing vendor-sponsored podcasts. Package existing educational videos and sell them as online events. Create an expansive library of audio, video, and PDF resources members can access on-demand without employee involvement.
Think outside the non-dues revenue box, and you’ll have a nice financial cushion for the future and all that it may bring.
Higher Logic Thrive is a member experience solution that provides a powerful but simple approach to community, marketing, and member engagement. For more information on how Higher Logic’s years of experience, research, and feedback can solve your challenges, visit thrive.higherlogic.com.