Springtime is usually the season filled with renewal and growth—both in the world around us and with a lot of membership-based organizations. Our original plan for this issue of Member Centric was to focus on keeping your new members (renewal) and adding new ones (growth).
But this spring isn’t like most springs—in fact, it’s like no other spring we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes. The novel coronavirus has brought the global economy to its knees. Simple pleasures like meeting a friend for coffee are not possible as we stay inside—or at least away from each other—and limit the virus’s spread.
The abrupt shift has meant every organization must change. Working from home is now expected, wherever possible. The Grassroot team is maximizing this, with only our on-site production staff still going to our facility on a regular basis (and practicing aggressive social-distancing measures when they do). We’ve also shifted some of our quick-turn production priorities. We’re printing a lot fewer business cards, and a lot more COVID-19-related posters, signage and other information for use in lobbies, offices, and other places.
For many of our associations, similar shifts have taken place. Virtual meetings have replaced conference-room gatherings, and in-person events are postponed until the second half of the year, at the very least. Communicating with members has taken on an even higher priority. Perhaps your strategies need to shift based on what we’re learning during the novel coronavirus pandemic—distance learning may become a feature, and not an afterthought, for instance.
In this issue, we’ll share some of what we’re seeing, what we believe will help you get through a very trying time, and what long-term changes may be awaiting on the other side.
First Thing’s First: Funding
Before you talk about some ideas for managing and mitigating the disruption caused by the pandemic, you first have to get through it. If you’re like most nonprofits, finances and funding are your most pressing issues, and that’s only exacerbated now. Rather than diving into how to tackle this, we’re simply going to refer you to references put together by the National Council of Nonprofits. Here’s the link:
There, you will find resources that talk about possible funding sources at the national level, including the pandemic-related emergency funding. There are also links to state-level resources, as well as detailed analysis of some of the most common options.
Trying New Tools
If pandemic-influenced workplaces have one thing in common, it’s the rise of using technology to get people together. Maybe your organization already used collaboration software like Slack or video-conferencing tools to help keep everyone on the same page. If so, then you were a step ahead. If not, you now have plenty of opportunity.
Many service providers are offering extended trials of their products. While it’s a good marketing ploy, it’s also a great opportunity for your team to try out some new tools and see how they work. As we’re headed to press, popular video-focused tools that are available free for a time include Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Premium, and GoToMeeting. Also worth checking out: Dropbox Premium, for file organization and sharing.
A membership organization’s foundation is built on community. This has only grown more important during the current era of social distancing. Much like your workforce, your members are seeking outlets to stay more connected. This is an opportunity for your organization.
Hopefully, you have regular newsletters, social media feeds, and other communications tools that help you keep members engaged. Keep using them. You should also consider adding more ways for them to engage with each other, if you don’t have several already. Examples include dedicated Facebook or LinkedIn groups, where members can connect and share information.
Virtual meetings are another possibility. Along those lines, the folks at Higher Logic are offering their event-engagement tools free for any organization that had to cancel an in-person gathering this year.
Going online with meetings, conferences, and trade shows is a worthwhile opportunity, but it also presents some challenges, and requires some planning. Will you be charging for the event? Recording it for later consumption? Thankfully, the same vendors that offer software to help manage events and virtual meet-ups have a vested interest in satisfied customers. Tap into them—it may even be worth budgeting for both the software and some training.
Staying The Course
The pandemic will pass. Many things will be different, but your organization, and your members’ needs, probably won’t shift very much. Your members are surely dealing with pandemic-related challenges, just like you and your organization. But a major challenge does not push the rest of life—or work—to the side.
Remember this as you put together your near-term communications. Your members count on you to keep them informed and educated, as well as connected. By all means, communicating about how the novel coronavirus is impacting your association and your members is appropriate. But don’t forget the reason your members belong to you in the first place.
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