An association’s website is often its most valuable real estate. The website can serve as a bulletin board, a gathering spot for members, and a registration booth for memberships and events.
If you use an association management software (AMS) platform, your association website also becomes a repository for member interaction data: which member resources are the most used, which community forum discussions generate the most interest, and which events log the most registrations. This type of feedback can guide your member communication and programming decisions in addition to whatever surveys or qualitative feedback your association uses to set membership strategy. Furthermore, sharing information from your AMS on your public-facing website shows that your association is committed to transparency when it comes to how the association operates.
In short, using your AMS’s functions to support more interactions on your association website becomes a useful tool for members and staff. Especially in this unpredictable time with COVID-19, as many of your members may continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future and in-person events may not appear on calendars again until the early fall, your website serves as a central hub for information and connection.
But is your association maximizing use of your website for these purposes? Are you aware of the many ways to involve members on your website through your association’s AMS? Here are six ways to spark more interest in your association’s website through your association management software.
1. Host self-service member profiles
Start with a feature that members will be familiar with. Member profiles, similar to social media profiles, allow for members to control their online presence. Most AMS offer the ability to store member profiles. You can work with your CMS (if it is separate from your AMS) to display certain profile fields, such as name, company affiliation, job title, contact information and a photo, on your website.
- Ask members to help your association keep this online directory current by updating their profile as needed. In the name of member privacy, consider placing all or some of the fields behind a member login.
- Encourage members to have some fun with their profiles. Suggest they use profile pictures that show themselves in their favorite vacation spot or carrying out their favorite job task.
- Feature a different member each week in a Member Spotlight section of your website. Doing so can show members that everyone is appreciated individually, and can inspire members to make connections based on mutual interests or professional backgrounds.
2. Host community boards or forums
Want to know what members are thinking about your association, your industry, and the business climate in general? Give them a place to chat! Many AMS systems offer the ability to add a community forum section to your website. This is an effective way to keep members visiting your site weekly, or even daily, because they’ll want to check in on the latest discussions and make sure they’re not missing an interesting thread.
- Activate daily or weekly digest emails to help keep members activated around these forums. Have active moderators or a rotation of conversation starters so the chat stays lively.
- Keep the discussion boards active by rewarding active members with digital badges and promoting activity on the board in other places on your website. This will get member ideas flowing in new ways.
3. Exercise your right to vote
Hold online polls for everything from committee chairs, to what snacks to serve at your next conference. Online voting is a simple way to get members interacting with your site, and can use used for many purposes:
- Choosing a charity to support
- Naming an association mascot
- Picking a conference theme
- Voting on new board members (if your bylaws allow)
- Selecting a weekly/monthly meeting venue
In addition to helping your staff and board make decisions, online polls can show you ranked preferences that can supply ideas for future programming.
4. Make event registration easier
This one might seem obvious, but it bears repeating that associations using an AMS usually don’t need a separate event registration app or widget to host online registrations on their website. The benefits to running event registrations through your AMS are numerous:
- Individual member information can be automatically pulled in from your AMS to pre-populate registration fields, making the registration process faster for members. Plus, all registration data automatically connects to member profiles stored in your database.
- At the micro level, this means your staff can easily see an individual member’s registration history. At the macro level, you can compare event attendance and popularity.
5. Conduct committee meetings online
Use the forum feature inherent to many AMS systems to host virtual committee meetings. Similar to Slack or Lync, AMS-based chat boards hosted through your website can make committee meetings accessible to more members by allowing them to gather at any time that’s convenient for them without the hassle of having to travel somewhere.
- A tool like this might allow a wider spectrum of your membership to consider committee involvement because virtual meetings reduce barriers to participation such as travel distances, family commitments, or lack of time.
6. Host a job board
Having a full-fledged online career center is a great benefit for members, but if that type of resource is something your association doesn’t have the people power to maintain, or if your association wants to keep streamlining resources as much as possible, many AMS offer the ability to host a job board on your website through a job board module. Why add this to your website?
- Association members tend to be ambitious and want to know how to reach the next step in their careers! A job board can help keep them in the loop about what professional opportunities specific to your field are available. At the same time, a job board helps members who are hiring find the best talent – other association members!
- With 80% of job seekers estimated to be passive – that is, satisfied with their current job until they happen to stumble upon a better challenge/fit for their career ambitions – a web-based job board is an ideal way for members to engage with your association’s website on a regular basis. Before or after they peruse available job opportunities, they’ll likely check out your association’s news and events in other website sections, giving your website stats an ongoing boost.
Bonus: Create FOMO by posting information just for members behind a login
Create member-only pages behind your website login and use that space to push information from your AMS that might be of interest to your members. Info such as a breakdown of membership demographics, meeting minutes or survey results can be shared from your AMS database. Proactively sharing information like this cultivates an active membership while proving that your association believes in transparency.
How has your association integrated your AMS with your website? What innovative ways of sharing data between the two are you in the process of implementing?