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Articles > Building Your Community > The new age of membership management: challenges & opportunities as a result of COVID-19

The new age of membership management: challenges & opportunities as a result of COVID-19

How membership associations have adapted to online engagement & preparing for different member needs

COVID has had a huge impact on the way that membership associations are able to engage members; with a lack of physical events and in-person networking opportunities, but an increased digital adoption. As a result, many membership organisations have had to adapt their approach to providing value and retaining members by pivoting towards online alternatives. This has provided opportunities for organisations to connect more easily with international members, as well as national members living outside of major cities, by democratising engagement through video calls and virtual meetings, enabling members to participate more regularly.

Adapting to new member needs

Members required different types of support during COVID; e.g. for trade associations, member organisations looked to their membership bodies for guidance on following COVID restrictions, or for professional associations, which facilitated networks sharing intel with one another on industry progress, pitfalls and customer insight. Now that restrictions are easing in some parts of the world but many industries remain in a state of flux depending on their location, membership organisations must plan for a future where the hybrid of digital and in-person is the norm. Member needs will be focused on replacing lost opportunities to network and create new business opportunities throughout COVID with online or smaller scale events that do not require as much travel, enabling members to engage with others while still working remotely. 

How can membership associations retain their value?

With membership expectations changing, as well as the practical ability to connect with fewer in-person events, how can membership associations retain their value (and thus their members!)? By offering a diversified range of ways to connect online, membership organisations can provide a variety of benefits to members. From careers support or professional development through mentoring and an online jobs board, to uploading resources which can be accessed by different groups of members and sharing industry updates on forums and news articles, membership associations can deliver on their promise to connect, support, inform and inspire people. Membership associations can also offer online or in-person events via their platform, to promote training or conferences, as well as opportunities to network with other members via a main discussion board, or in smaller groups for location, job title or sub-sector to glean knowledge from others. You can also offer value for supplier/vendor members by offering promotion on a business directory, brokering partnerships promoted via advertising panels on the website, and facilitating speaking slots in upcoming webinars.

Success stories through COVID

Several membership associations thrived and even grew during COVID, thanks to the ability to connect online more easily. One of these associations was HigherEdSocial, a professional association for social media professionals working in higher education. During the pandemic, they amassed over 6,000 new members during COVID, an increase of 200%. This increase was largely due to the ability to share discussions and resources between community members as they navigated the challenges of COVID, and they now participate in more online activities, including the world’s only mentoring programme for professionals in higher education and an international awards programme for members to nominate one another. These activities have increased participation and memberships, and they receive feedback from members about how valuable the association is to their learning and development. 

Many membership organisations have weathered the storm of COVID well, using it as a time to develop their online engagement and future proof their organisations, whilst also connecting with members internationally.ToucanTech is a community management software used by charities, nonprofits and companies for marketing, membership, donor engagement, moves management and fundraising activities. Combining a flexible website and powerful database/ CRM, it’s an easy, all-in-one system. If you’d like to find out more about how to use an all-in-one system for smarter community management, speak to a member of the ToucanTech team.

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