Help Your Members Create More Effective Content

How should you approach your member volunteers when they present content ideas that are too narrow or not relevant to the larger community? Helping them understand the bigger picture will lead to more meaningful content and curb pushback, according to one expert.

Members and volunteers like to share their knowledge and insights with others in the industry, whether that’s through webinars, articles, or as conference speakers. But how can association staff help members produce content that is effective and beneficial to the audience?

For the American Psychological Association, that meant training their staff liaisons on ways to help members consider the ratio of resource input to impact when planning learning programs and other content.

“We had situations where volunteer leaders wanted to produce a webinar on a topic that would attract five or six participants,” said Aliza Epstein, CAE, director of volunteer leadership at APA. “Their reasoning is that if the people who attend the webinar get something out of it, then it’s worthwhile. We’re working to shift that thought process to considering overall impact.”

She shared how associations can help volunteer leaders create engaging content that will appeal to the intended audience.

It’s Not a No

When volunteer leaders have an idea for content that may be too niche and not applicable to the intended audience, it’s important that staff express initial support and then work with the members to rethink the concept.

“You want to show members you’re on their side and that you want to help them develop their ideas into successful content,” Epstein said. “Helping them dig deeper into their idea can lead to more fruitful conversations.’”

Sometimes volunteer leaders are excited to create a specific type of content but lose sight of the bigger picture. For example, a subcommittee may want to launch a webinar or podcast without a topic in mind.

“In these situations, talk to members about what they want users or attendees to take away or learn from the product,” Epstein said. “These types of conversations will help refocus members to think through how the content itself will help their peers first and then decide the best format for the content.”

Handling Pushback

It’s important to prepare for potential pushback from members who still want to pursue their original idea. Associations can help their staff liaisons build up their negotiation skills to know how much and how far to push members.

“If your volunteer leaders represent large constituencies and are pushing for a program that is just for one person, ask them if they are working to move forward your association’s values of equity and inclusivity,” Epstein said. “Ask them if this program will reach diverse voices in your association if it stays narrow. A program may be worthwhile if just one person attends but not impactful.”

She also recommends staff liaisons ask volunteer leaders if they know of at least 10 other members who would use the content. This question may help members recognize that their initial idea was too narrow and encourage them to redirect their focus.

But this work should not just fall on staff. This fall, Epstein intends to provide content impact training to new volunteers during APA’s onboarding period.

“We are going talk to new, incoming leaders about what impact means, the differences between impact and worthwhileness, and the importance of creating content that can reach a large audience,” she said.


Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

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