Associations are rallying and coming up with solutions they might not have thought of before the pandemic. Here’s a look at what one small-staff association with a tight budget is doing to keep its community close in difficult times.

In a recent article, I covered member engagement strategies some larger associations with deeper pockets were using. I also wanted to see what smaller associations were doing to engage and retain members with fewer resources. I spoke with Lindsay Currie, CAE, executive officer of the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), who shared four ideas.

Talk it out. People are lonelier and more isolated than ever, she said. They don’t have typical pathways to interact with colleagues in their own organizations, and they aren’t meeting new people at in-person conferences. Recognizing that members were missing the connectivity of community, CUR established CUR Conversations, a low-cost way for members to connect on a video-calling platform.

Any member can propose a topic for the call, which is limited to a specific number of people. Members can join the casual forums to discuss hot topics, issues they are struggling with, success stories, and more. The calls connect members who don’t know each other, which eliminated a stumbling block for members who didn’t know who to contact, Currie said. CUR sends out an email inviting members of the community to get together and share ideas for an hour on the video calls.

“We don’t have to develop any content, and it’s not a heavy lift for us, but members are getting a lot of value out of being able to connect with their colleagues,” she said.

Take five. Knowing that people are short on time and overloaded with emails and articles, CUR developed Five in Five, videos that provide five tips, solutions, or answers to questions in five minutes. The association recently created a Five in Five video on how to better leverage their online community platform, and a member provided five tips on how to host a virtual symposium.

Since CUR’s small staff doesn’t have any video technical skills, Currie said they use an inexpensive platform called Animoto to produce polished videos very quickly. The videos are uploaded to CUR’s YouTube channel and then shared on various communication platforms, which allows CUR to find members where they are.

“We wanted to focus on things that would support our members when they had time and bring them together. They’re the experts. We’re the facilitator of the conversation,” she said.

Welcome aboard—again. Many of CUR’s members have been with the association for a long time, so they realized they needed to launch a re-onboarding campaign to update members on new benefits they might have missed.

They highlight one area of CUR benefits each month and explain how members can access the benefits and use them. They recently launched the first in a six-part series, and Currie said the click-through rate was very high. “We’re really trying to reengage our members and remind them of the benefits we have right now,” she said.

A month of thanks. In November, CUR will launch a month of thanks with a Twitter takeover. The association will ask members to share positive stories to provide an opportunity to celebrate within their community and exchange ideas.

The silver lining in all of this tumult, Currie said, is that associations are coming together and finding new ways to share. Another positive is that people are much more willing to test and try new things. “None of us are experts in this environment,” she said. “Being willing to test is critical.”

What is your association doing that is working right now to engage, retain, and recruit members? Share your thoughts in the comments or send me an email.

LISA BOYLAN

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE »