10 Ways to Get Ready for the Membership of the Future Now

Membership Of The Future
Reading Time: 9 minutes
This report was originally published as Ten Ways to Futureproof Your Membership.

Are You Ready for the Membership of the Future?

To say the year 2020 was unprecedented is an understatement of epic proportions. The COVID-19  pandemic created global upheaval and unexpected change for all companies and organizations.

Membership-driven associations were severely impacted. These organizations were forced to transform their time-tested, tradition-steeped member operations and launch new content, education, and meetings with unprecedented speed.

And now, with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, associations are asking how member expectations have changed. What can they learn from the often painful lessons of the pandemic? How can they integrate newfound entrepreneurial spirit into their culture and continue to innovate new member benefits and experiences?

We conducted research with top executives from leading organizations that navigated the pandemic experience successfully towards the membership of the future. Here is what we learned.

Margaret Mueller Executives Club Of Chicago
“We Launched an new and explosively popular program at eight in the morning a few times a week. During ‘Coffee and Connect,’ members share peer to peer advice, connecting with one another.”

Margaret Meuller, PhD, CEO, Executives Club of Chicago

Do Digital First

Adopt a digital-first mentality with visionary leaders who can deliver great member experience.

The pandemic delivered the long-sought digital membership, but all the new digital engagement came at a high cost when the digital revolution came. Since the dawn of the Internet, associations have worked to improve digital engagement, striving for more web traffic, more email clicks, more video views, and more online forum discussions. However, with digital meetings and online education, members lost in-person interactions and a sense of community that had previously defined their experience.

Those who continue to treat the digital experience as a nice-to-have have already been left behind.

Membership organizations are sorting themselves into two classes: Leaders that are going all-in on the digital experience with new systems and content and laggards unable to overcome their system limitations and staff skill deficits.

Leaders recognize that their digital experience must be strategic now and prioritize the necessary and often painful changes. Real vision and strategic leadership are required to position an association to meet the escalating expectations of digital membership. Modern systems, updated staff skills, and agile processes are necessary to deliver the vision. Inevitably, leaders will need to re-evaluate their organizational design to meet the unique demands of a digital-first membership of the future.

Crank Up The Content

Build an online publishing engine that can deliver high-speed, high-quality, high-volume content to members.

Many organizations that prided themselves on peer-reviewed, committee-driven, printed publications with impeccable accuracy and prestige discovered that their content was ill-suited to members’ needs for relevant information in the moment. The past year ushered in a new velocity of content production and member value many organizations previously considered impossible. It was accomplished by abandoning time-honored traditions and demolishing inefficient processes that added little value.

The best Associations did more than digitize their printed magazines and move committee meetings online; they made important changes to content development workflows and experimented with gate and paywall strategies. Many organizations leaned into their missions and opened valuable COVID information to the public. Some eliminated fee gates to valuable content such as annual meetings or journals. These efforts vastly increased awareness and engagement with an ultimate hope of growth for the membership of the future.

Now, associations must continue to deliver increased content volume and variety to meet their needs. Member expectations have been reset. They will have to rethink long-established paywall approaches and re-engineer their digital platforms and processes to operate differently.

Ian King Apa
“Standalone in-person meetings are a thing of the past. You’re going to need an online and in-person offering, and they will be differentiated in some way.”

Ian King, Chief Membership Officer, American Psychological Association

Embrace Your Scrappy Side

Create a culture of rapid deployment and experimentation through simple solutions that spark member engagement.

Driven by the unprecedented pace of current events and a need to respond to unforeseen member demands, organizations turned to small-business commercial tools like Zoom or Eventbrite to deliver immediate member value. In addition, the COVID crisis pushed organizations to break the shackles of their long planning cycles, technology system limits, and bureaucratic management styles.

These technology solutions offer speed over structure with a low cost and learning curve for those associations with adaptable infrastructure. Organizations used these software solutions to deliver immediate and good-enough information in a good-enough format, “throwing things out there” and doubling down on the things that worked. This way of working was unthinkable before, but it has opened many Associations’ eyes to what’s possible and sparked their imagination about what they could do next in the membership of the future.

Understanding your members no longer requires comprehensive surveying and analysis. test-and-learn approaches using simple tools empower membership leaders to try new ideas with little financial or reputational risk. This has opened the door for rapid-cycle innovation and accelerated member value for organizations that have embraced it.

What Is An Event Anyway?

Reinvent events without concern for traditions in order to grow membership through uniquely valuable digital experiences.

COVID quickly eliminated most organizations’ ability to hold large conferences. As the meetings were canceled, lost registration and sponsorship revenues compounded the Associations’ financial woes related to work-from-home expenses and softening membership renewals. A big conference’s reliable annual economic life ring disappeared nearly overnight for many organizations.

While some organizations create lackluster digital replicas of their traditional conferences, others looked to gather through technology in wholly new ways. The American Medical Association recognized they could secure top-tier event speakers freed from the need to travel commitments and reach a bigger audience and create more memorable experiences. The AMA hosted a nationwide medical school graduation ceremony online, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, past Surgeons General, and recognizable actors known for medical roles. More than a million people tuned in to watch.

More than any other association function, meetings will never be the same. Creating new digital events requires a creative mind and fluency with technology unhindered by the history of in-person conferences. Meeting planners traditionally lacked the digital expertise or project management skills necessary to produce a sizeable virtual event with a remote team. As a result, many meetings failed, with many more nearly falling. Associations would be wise to engage non-event experts to conceptualize new ideas and create unique and fun experiences for the membership of the future. 

Todd Unger Ama
“We believe the membership value proposition derives from the brand strategy. First, establish your overall strategy and then tell the proposition story colored with successes and facts.”

Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer, American Medical Association

Help Old Dogs Do New Tricks

Break down physical and departmental collaboration barriers for new membership ideas.

Unprepared and inexperienced with a   remote and distributed workforce to serve their members, associations stumbled into a new culture of employee trust and digital collaboration. Before COVID, many organizations had policies that prohibited or drastically limited remote work opportunities for employees. At the same time, as the power of digital tools to create things quickly and interact with members became apparent, a new world of opportunities opened up for organizations willing to try.

Often, unexpected cross-departmental collaborations produced surprising results. Inevitably, many associations tried to retain the top-down hierarchy, rigid silos, and long-standing ways of doing things of pre-pandemic life. Others seized the moment, adapted, and embraced the new way of decision-making. For example, leadership changed its management style to focus on outcomes instead of processes and encouraged employees to work in ad-hoc teams across the enterprise to get things done.

New organization models and incentives that support risk-taking and reward creativity will be necessary to cement these new behaviors into the long-term life of the organization for the membership of the future. As association workforces return to the office and the chaos of COVID subsides, leaders must carefully consider how to instill a culture that continues to encourage unique collaborations and creative ideas.

Come Together, Right Now

Enhance digital experiences with structured and informal member-to-member networking.

The pandemic locked Americans in their homes and isolated them from friends and family, creating a desperate need for human contact and connection. Many Associations were well-practiced in creating in-person networking opportunities. Still, they had little experience connecting members online and few tools and platforms to allow members to find each other themselves.

Lagging organizations lamented the lost networking opportunities of in-person meetings and attempted to recreate it through Zoom-powered cocktail hours. Others realized that they were in a unique position as a nexus of like-minded professionals eager for opportunities to talk to each other by hosting online education rich with group discussion. They scheduled drive time dial-in “Coffee and Connect” conversations. They reimagined their online discussion forums and added ways to connect around their web content personally.

Associations need to take a broad and unconventional view of member networking and understand the unique opportunities they can create in their forums, webinars, website, and e-commerce offerings. Growing opportunities to comment and contribute to live or static digital content will allow members to become recognizable and find other like-minded members. In the membership of the future, members will create communities around the passions they find in association digital content. The association’s role is to facilitate connection and get out of the way.

“A good analogy is an old can of paint all congealed over. Give it a good shake, and it is good to go.”

Ian King, Chief Membership Officer, American Psychological Association

Everyone Has a Strategy Until They Get Punched

Strategic planning is essential, but serving members in a crisis requires disaster preparation.

COVID was not part of any association’s five-year plans. Year after year, association boards engaged in strategic planning that carefully considered the competitive landscape, member needs, organization capabilities, and financial constraints, leading to detailed strategic plans. All organizations were forced to pivot and adapt, planning on the fly and replanning when the next thing hit.

The organizations that weathered the storm best kept their long-term goals firmly in view while shifting to a highly fluid planning style to drive business decisions on the ground. Is this the end of traditional strategic planning? Not necessarily. Some of the most successful strategies shifted to scenario plans: “If this thing happens, we will do that, and if another thing happens, we do something else.” Empowered with the ability to react rapidly and scale financial decisions, organizations learned the flexibility to survive and respond quickly to changing market conditions.

This style of leadership calls for changes in culture and organization. Volunteer Boards and other leaders must step back from tactical operations and refocus on outcomes. Organizations should implement and operationalize new strategic planning paradigms based on lessons learned from COVID, which allow for quick reaction time and rapid innovation while keeping the long-term goals front and center. They will be more successful in good times and more prepared for the next crisis in the membership of the future.

Keep Your Promise

During confusing times with member needs changing, following your purpose may be all the strategy you need.

The pandemic presented organizations with myriad decisions that had to be made in the moment, surrounded by chaos and uncertainty. Forced to abandon their drawn-out deliberative decision processes, successful associations doubled down on their purpose.

Your purpose is not the mission statement. It is who you are for and how you serve them. In business terminology, it is your Brand Strategy. It is the promise you make to your audience about who you will be for them. Every association has a mission and vision. Unfortunately, very few think seriously about their brand promise. Crucially, the successful leaders we spoke to had invested deeply in their brand strategies before COVID hit, which made all the difference. Their promise became the decision lens  — the stake in the ground for the organization to rally around.

Associations need to define and embrace their brand promise in the new membership of the future and align all their efforts to it. A saving grace in bad times is their competitive advantage in good times.

“The organizations that complete successful technology transitions focus on building capabilities and not investing in solving narrow business problems.”

Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer, American Medical Association

Let No Good Crisis Go To Waste

Drive future membership changes under the protection of chaos with reduced opposition and lower cost of failure.

The COVID crisis led to many wrong turns and failed projects–and all was forgiven. New ways of doing nearly everything were necessary, and organizations found themselves working in ways and delivering things they never thought possible before. Decisions got made faster. Innovation happened. Mistakes were forgiven. Pent-up demand for change was unleashed. Crisis flings open a window for change—a brief burst of energy and possibility that soon closes and reverts to old ways. The best organizations know this and have moved quickly not only to push change through but to build structures that will keep the changes in place long-term.

Organizations that would never consider virtual events or, God forbid, virtual Board meetings now do them routinely. Events that took years to organize now come together in weeks. Business units that worked happily in silos for decades collaborate daily. Offerings for members that would have never seen daylight because they might fail launch almost overnight. They work or don’t, and the failures count as learnings.

Now is the time to experiment with the membership of the future, while the window is still open and move quickly to protect your success. Try new communication channels, new content, and new formats. Pilot the ideas that have get rejected year after year. Find inspiration from other industries and adapt them to your association. You may never have this chance again.

Build Capabilities and Outcomes Will Follow

Meeting the new expectations of the membership of the future will require a bevy of new capabilities requiring investment and nurture.

COVID exposed shortcomings in most associations. Organizations were ill-equipped and well behind the commercial curve, from meetings to content publishing to strategic planning. While many associations have discovered new ways to make do temporarily, they lack the advanced digital skills and capabilities for permanent pivots that this moment requires.

The associations that fared the best in the crisis had already invested in the right skills, technologies, capabilities, and strategies and only had to turn up the volume. Content creation, digital publishing, virtual events, e-commerce, and brand strategy proved crucial capabilities. They remain so today. One of the most important lessons of the COVID crisis is that we cannot predict events or outcomes. However, we can build the organizational brains and muscles to position ourselves to succeed, come what may.

The pandemic creates a short window to make broad changes with fewer organizational resisters. Organizations should unflinchingly evaluate their capabilities in light of the new reality they live in and make the necessary investments to fill their gaps and build on their strengths. Clear-eyed assessment and intelligent bets in the right places will allow you to seize this rare moment and win the next one for the membership of the future.

Innovation in Associations: How United Way Makes It Easy

Innovation In Associations
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Make Innovation in Associations Easy

Socrates called himself the “midwife of ideas.” Since he knew nothing, his work was to help bring out the truths locked up in others. This learning method is fine for philosophy, but what about for business? Does this attitude work to bring out good ideas and drive innovation in the context of an organization?

I spoke with Edwin Goutier, Vice President of Innovation for United Way Worldwide about that. United Way is a far-flung organization with a network of more than 1,800 independent United Ways worldwide. They work to improve people’s lives by mobilizing the catalytic power of communities. It is not a single-issue organization or even a single organization at all. 

Innovation poses challenges for United Way, which any large, highly distributed organization can relate to.

Equipping Innovation

Edwin’s team does not focus on being the most creative themselves to drive innovation. Instead, they focus on equipping innovators across the network with the tools they need to succeed and spread the wealth of their knowledge across their communities. They give them the necessary tools, space, and resources to create relevant innovation for their communities. 

They are constantly exploring new technology and ensuring United Way is aware of what could come next—keeping a keen eye on the value we can create in our communities and having a foot in the future. He is rarely the person who’s coming up with the idea. He says he is “constantly just stealing great ideas from others and trying my best to give them credit.”

Their “Moon Shot” project is a prime example of this idea in action. This project is helping local United Ways share data with their nonprofit partners. It seeks to build a 360-degree view of donors’ interests and those of the people United Way serves. It’s creating a comprehensive picture of the resources that they need in the community to produce the results the community itself wants to see. 

United Way can use this knowledge to highlight the needs they haven’t met yet, and to begin to understand what their jumping-off point for further innovation may be. Edwin’s team facilitated the funding and infrastructure for the United Ways bringing this framework to their communities.

Innovation As Facilitation

He sees his innovation team as facilitators. He points out that the root of “facilitate” is facile, which means easy. His team makes it easier for people to be innovative. They break down cultural barriers where the risk of being wrong appears detrimental to someone’s career. They provide platforms where people can launch their ideas into a public space. They ask how innovators in the United Way world could do things differently. 

Innovation in associations should be easy. It should work alongside the resources and networks you already have to produce results that will expand on the value already delivered by your organizational capital.

Prioritizing Innovation In Associations

Prioritization is key. Edwin’s approach to innovation in associations starts with the customer and focuses on the user experience as a prioritizing lens. Experience is concrete and a focal point for all stakeholders. Even when it is hard. Change happens from the inside out. To facilitate change that will speak to the customer, you must first understand where the customer is coming from and how they define value in their relationship with your organization.

United Way is unique in its ability to collaborate and navigate competing interests to serve a greater good. There is a lot to learn from how innovation happens in that environment.

To learn more, listen to our conversation here:

For more on Innovation in Assocations see:  The Two Best Practices for Innovation in Times of Crisis

4 Top Takeaways on the Membership of the Future

Membership Of The Future
Reading Time: 3 minutes
This article was originally published in Associations NOW as Top Takeaways on How Membership Will Survive the Great Reset.

4 Top Takeaways On the Membership of The Future

Our new report gives you advice from the top leaders of successful associations on the changes to make right now to create a thriving membership of the future.

The events that unfolded over 2020 and 2021 have brought about extraordinary change for organizations in nearly every industry. Associations in particular had to adapt quickly and assess old ways of doing things and determine the best path forward, while keeping up with evolving member expectations. The lessons associations learned in crisis will guide next steps.

Our latest report, “10 Ways to Get Ready for the Membership of the Future Nowdraws on research conducted with senior leaders of successful associations to highlight 12 changes you can make today to best prepare for the membership of the future.

Crank Up The Content

Speed up your cycle. Are you publishing engaging new content daily? It’s important to deliver content that adds value to your members every day

Reboot your process. If your content and communications process cannot work at that pace and scale, get a new one. Out with the old and in with the new—go digital with content.

Repurpose, repackage, recycle. Reformat long-form reports, huge PDFs, event content, and other resources into more digestible content.

Let your members create it for you. User-generated content can be some of the most meaningful content you can get. Think beyond guest blogs to other formats and channels to give your members the stage. For example, member-hosted forums (online or hybrid) or member-created video and photography.

“Putting a stake in the ground and marking clear organizational boundaries and goals that the entire organization can rally around will change the game.”

Create Member-to-Member Experiences

Do it small but often. Frequent—even weekly—small group, member-driven interactions have proven to be some of the most valuable things associations can do. The Executives Club of Chicago hosts an informal virtual “Coffee and Connect” for members every week.

Present less, discuss more. The most successful presentation formats now keep the presentation time to a minimum and maximize time for genuine discussion. The American Psychological Association has landed on a winning format of 10 minutes of expert presentation with 30 minutes for open discussion.

Create spaces to connect.What many people love most about membership is the impromptu conversations that happen in between scripted content and events. Members will create connections themselves if you create inviting spaces for them. Monthly discussion sessions for groups of like-minded members, private social media channels you provide but that members can create for themselves, and small, in-person local gatherings that build on your annual event themes are all good examples of how this is being done today.

Keep Your Promise

Lead with brand strategy. A brand strategy is not a vision or mission statement, and it is not a logo or tagline. It is a deeply felt promise about who you are, how you show up in the world, and a solid plan for how you will live it.

Stake your claim.Putting a stake in the ground and marking clear organizational boundaries and goals that the entire organization can rally around will change the game. Name your purpose and stick to it, especially when times get tough.

Walk the talk.Your mission statement might only live on your website, but your purpose should shine through in everything you do.

Build Capabilities and the Outcomes Will Follow

Get real. In each of the areas above, do you have what it takes to execute at the highest level? When the next huge disruption comes will you be able to adapt? Be honest about where you have gaps and get serious about necessary investments you should make for the membership of the future.

Prioritize capabilities over outcomes.This sounds like a break from the traditional “goals and metrics” approach to planning (which still has a place). Organizations that had invested in first-class systems and processes before the crisis found themselves innovating in ways they never thought of and achieving outcomes they could not have hoped for

One lesson we have all learned: Expect the unexpected. It will not always be a health crisis, but the pace and scale of disruptive events will only accelerate. The most forward-looking organizations think through all the possible scenarios as their primary strategic planning process. The traditional five-year plan has become a directional “north star.” Proactively anticipating disruptions builds agility and financial stability at the same time. The key to survival in the membership of the future, as we learned the hard way, is agility and responsiveness.

To learn more about exploring the future of membership, read our complete report, 10 Ways to Get Ready for the Membership of the  Future Now.

3 Steps to a Great Nonprofit Brand Strategy

Nonprofit Brand Strategy
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Think Fast: What is Your Nonprofit Brand Strategy?

It is not just a mission or vision. A nonprofit brand strategy is how your organization shows up in the world, and how you want existing and potential members to see and feel about you. It is a promise about who you will be to them, and a promise they expect you to fulfill. 

Far more than a logo or tagline, a great brand strategy is a compass by which you navigate your future. 

Our research has shown that most organizations never think about their brand promise, but high-performing organizations are invested in their brand strategy and intentionally orient to it in every big decision they make. 

In fact, our most recent research report found that 4 out of 5 organizations that came through 2020 the strongest did so by explicitly leaning into their brand promise as the No. 1 yardstick of what they would and would not do. 

So, how can you create your own nonprofit brand strategy?

It is not just a mission or vision. A nonprofit brand strategy is how your organization shows up in the world, and how you want existing and potential members to see and feel about you. It is a promise about who you will be to them, and a promise they expect you to fulfill. 

Far more than a logo or tagline, a great brand strategy is a compass by which you navigate your future. 

Our research has shown that most organizations never think about their brand promise, but high-performing organizations are invested in their brand strategy and intentionally orient to it in every big decision they make. 

In fact, our most recent research report found that 4 out of 5 organizations that came through 2020 the strongest did so by explicitly leaning into their brand promise as the No. 1 yardstick of what they would and would not do. 

So, how can you create your own nonprofit brand strategy?

Step 1: Build a Pyramid

When building your brand strategy from the ground up, think about it taking the shape of a pyramid, with a line drawn in the middle from top to bottom. 

On one side of the pyramid, you have the rational aspects — the “thinking” reasons a member would join. That is, your value exchange of benefits. Most organizations stop there with a list of what members get for their dues; that’s important, but it is only half of your brand story.

On the other side of the pyramid, you have the emotional aspects of your strategy — the “feeling” reasons members are drawn to you and want to belong. These are harder to think about but they are actually the first reasons members are drawn to you. It is why they even consider the benefits you offer. People want to belong, to connect, to have a sense of identity, to feel influential. How does your organization feel for potential members? How does it feel to belong?  

The way the rational and emotional converge at the peak of the pyramid is your brand promise. It should boil down to one clear, compelling umbrella statement that ties everything you do together. 

For example, Subaru tells us that “Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” Everything they say and do shows they don’t only care about making you love your Subaru, they care about supporting you in loving your family and community, as well. Subaru owners know that and they feel that. As a result, Subaru has some of the most loyal customers in the world. 

Great association brands have that power, too.

Step 2: Show, Don't Tell

Think about your brand promise and ask yourself, why should members believe you? 

What do you do every day that “pays off” on that promise? Our research shows that for more than 80% of associations, the overwhelming majority of members don’t really know what the organization does. But when they do learn about it, their feelings are far more positive and they are much more likely to belong.

Think about your “proof points” – strong, simple examples of how you deliver on your promise to your members. The most powerful proof you have is the great work you do. Most organizations underuse it. Tell stories about how you make a difference. Don’t just tell them who you are, show them.

Let’s go back to our Subaru example. Subaru shares not just their safety awards but stories of how their cars have protected real people. They show you examples of people doing what they love because their Subaru made it possible. They show you that love really does make a Subaru a Subaru. 

Highlighting your proof points makes your brand tangible and relatable. It helps your members “get” you and makes them feel drawn to know more.

Step 3: Live It

How do you put your promise and your proof points to work? 

Sure, you show it on your website but it goes much further than that. Your brand is not just about how you talk. It is about the things you choose to do. A great brand lives its strategy. Their people feel it and believe it and put it to work every day as they serve their members. This becomes crystal clear in times of crisis when tough choices must be made. The strongest organizations ask themselves out loud “what is the best way to keep our brand promise?” 

Before the crisis, the American Medical Association rebuilt their nonprofit brand strategy around the promise to be: “The Physician’s Powerful Ally in Health Care.”  They have 20 clear and compelling proof points of how they do that in their work fighting the opioid crisis, reducing hypertension, advocating for physician confidentiality and fair reimbursements, and much more. They make sure physicians hear them and give them reasons every day to believe them. Their renewed brand focus has led to a massive shift in physicians’ perceptions of AMA — and their strongest member growth ever.

The power of a strong nonprofit brand strategy is just one of the success lessons in our most recent research. You can read more about nonprofit brand strategy and other lessons in our full report.

This article originally appeared Sidecar as 3 Steps to a Great Nonprofit Brand Strategy

The 4 Most Important Questions to Up Your Content Game Now

Association Content
Reading Time: 3 minutes

How Can You Up Your Association Content Game? Four Big Questions to Ask Now

The online content your nonprofit creates tells a story. It highlights the importance of your work and accomplishments. Done well, it can further your mission by attracting new members and inspiring constituents to action.

Now that the pandemic has moved so much of our lives online, your association content strategy is more important than ever. And your audience expects more than ever: a static website, monthly newsletter, and occasional Facebook post are not enough..

Sequence Consulting recently conducted a survey of national and Chicago-area associations to find out how the pandemic had changed their members’ expectations for online content. What we found almost certainly applies to most nonprofits, regardless of size and mission: the demand for timely and useful information is increasing and will likely remain high in a post-pandemic world. To decide if your nonprofit needs to level up its content strategy, ask yourself the following four questions:

1. Do You Publish New Association Content Often?

If not, you need to! In the past year, organizations that prided themselves on highly-produced, in-depth publications learned that this content style no longer worked for their members.

Todd Unger, chief experience officer of the American Medical Association, said that members were now asking for more frequent contact, and cared less about the production value of content than its timeliness. “‘We want to see you more and hear from you more,’” members told the AMA.

All nonprofits should make new online content a priority, but the frequency depends on your goals. If your mission. like the AMA’s, includes being an up-to-date source of relevant news, then you should publish new association content daily. Advocacy organizations which aim to inspire members to immediate action on important issues should produce content daily, even if just through a social media post or a tweet. Even the smallest nonprofits shouldn’t neglect to communicate weekly if they want to be remembered. Fortunately, frequent communication has never been easier, and you no longer need to spend time and resources on perfectly polished content—members and contributors prefer content that meets their immediate needs.

2. Are You Taking Full Advantage of Technology?

Thanks to the unprecedented use of web conferencing platforms like Zoom, you now have the opportunity to secure higher-caliber speakers for digital events. Speakers and members can attend from anywhere, providing opportunities that would be impossible with in-person events. Whether virtual or in-person, there is significant value in live events. Margaret Mueller, CEO of the Executives Club of Chicago, finds that having high-quality speakers interact with members live allows “the connection to become more raw and real.”

These events don’t need to be elaborate to be effective. One of the hallmarks of The Executives’ Club’s new content strategy is Coffee and Connect, where members can log on at the same time a few mornings a week to get advice from an expert in residence about the issues their business is currently facing.

Ask yourself what information would be most engaging to your constituents, and what experts they would most like to hear from. Find a way to deliver that information to them quickly, in a live format. 

3. Are You Publishing Your Events As Association Content?

When the pandemic hit, many nonprofits had to quickly abandon traditional event formats and go digital with their conferences, trainings, and fundraising events. One benefit: any online event, large or small, can be recorded and repackaged as content. Quick highlights from a longer video can be excerpted and shared via social media, email, and your website. Key points can be summarized in a blog post or a great quote shared with a tweet. The recorded event itself can be made available online. By taking your event content, repackaging it, and distributing it online to those who couldn’t attend live, you can provide significant value. Again, video doesn’t need to be highly produced to be engaging and effective.

4. Are You Highlighting Constituent Stories?

Ultimately, people want to be part of organizations making a difference. Members of professional associations want to read stories about colleagues who have excelled while simultaneously making an impact. Supporters of any nonprofit would value hearing from staff and those they impact talk about challenges and victories.

Some highly successful associations have already adopted this approach. For example, the AMA publishes a short-form digital magazine that focuses on members who are moving medicine forward. Some of the American Bar Association’s most popular content consists of members telling stories about other members. The Executive’s Club of Chicago shares members’ stories online through short video segments.

There are many ways to incorporate personal stories into your association content strategy. Find the strategies that work best for your nonprofit. You will see engagement, membership, and revenue grow when you do.

For more information on how top associations are using lessons learned during the pandemic to transform content marketing for associations, read our complete research report, Ten Ways to Get Ready for the Future of Membership Now.

This article was originally published by the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits