In many associations, members look to the board for a stamp of approval. When your board noticeably supports something, your members view that initiative as important because it has the support of the ruling body.
That's why it's necessary to have your board's support for your online community so that it stands out as a solid, effective engagement tool. Without board support for your online community, members could ask why they should invest their time if the association's leadership is not entirely committed.
If members of your board share their excitement about the online community and then don't participate, it seems inauthentic to members looking in. You'll quickly lose whatever traction you had initially in getting your members on board with the private online community. However, when your board actively participates and promotes the community, your members will usually follow.
If you play your cards right, getting your association's board to support, promote, and participate in your online community should not be a heavy lift. Instead of asking, begging, and cajoling, there are a number of things you can do to increase your board's participation on your online community.
Asking someone to occasionally contribute or stop by is very different from assigning them a deliverable during a specific time frame.
Consider asking the board members to rotate posting to the blog each week or require that they participate in discussion forums at least twice a week. Circulate your online community content plan and set deadlines for deliverables that you can follow up on and track.
Asking them to provide a specific service or action will get them to participate a lot more effectively than just asking them to log on every week or so.
Each new community member typically receives some sort of welcome letter or email. Having it come from your board is a nice way for new members to feel like the board is involved and supporting the community. This simple change costs you nothing and makes a big impact on your member numbers.
If you already have an email coming from your association's president, consider drafting a follow-up communication from the board that members receive a week (or even a month) later touching base and inviting them to take part in certain activities within the online community.
If you have a large board, you may even consider a rotating assignment to send a warm welcome email to each new community member personally from a member of the board. The letter can be a template where 90% of it is standard and board members can customize 10% of it.
Provide the board with numbers, activity updates, and outline the ideas that are being exchanged in your online community on a regular basis. Hard data is the best way to sell anything to executives. By giving them tangible numbers and information, they will get a stronger grasp on just what it is that you are doing all day and how your private online community strategy impacts core organizational goals.
Additionally, this will build their curiosity and they'll want to see what's going on. If you're hosting an exciting event in the community that everyone is talking about, they'll want to be there, and will continue using the online community themselves.
Your board members may not be aware of why their participation is critical to your online community's success. It is your responsibility to communicate the impact of their online presence. In addition to helping you get what you need, you'll strengthen their personal brand and make them feel needed.
Tie the importance of an engaged membership to an engaged board using data. Start by analyzing the engagement of forums with board participation - did they have more activity than those without board participation? Additionally, consider launching a member survey or poll to ask your members how much they value your board's participation.
Ask your association's board members to help get the word out about your online community platform. This could include adding a line about the community into their email signature, or telling people at events about the community.
Make it easy for them by creating something your board members to use, such as a graphic or just a sentence that says, 'Join me and X other members in talking about X topic' that they add to their emails. The less effort required, the more likely it is your board will follow through and promote your community.
Most people are familiar with how an online community works and many who are not simply log in and explore. However, if your board is reticent to adopt technology and uncomfortable online, they may need reassurance and training to feel comfortable before getting involved. Don't let a lack of understanding and a fear of looking silly keep them from participating.
Depending on the resources available to you, there are a number of ways to train your board members. The simplest way is to segment off a section of the community, so that board members have access to share document files, have discussions, and collaborate on board business.
Another approach is to grant them early access to the community, so that they have some time to get acquainted with things before others join. This gives them time to ask questions and reduces concerns that they might â€œmake a mistakeâ€ while your association members are watching.
If you have the resources, create training videos or host webinar tutorials that can be provided not only to your board member, but also to your members. These are great resources, and if you do host webinars you can record and post them within the community for ongoing access.
Don't overlook the value in simply asking your board members for support. Being asked to contribute is flattering and conveys the importance of their participation. However, with the request must come the assignment. It's too easy to say yes to the nebulous concept of participation. Remember to ask for exactly what you need and follow up accordingly.
Securing board member participation will take energy on your behalf but it is critical to your association community's success. Reach out, connect, and ask for what you need and you're bound to get it.