“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Members flock to the Educational Theatre Association’s (EdTA) public member community, the Theatre Education Community. EdTA uses the community to bring theatre educators and professionals all together, with the ultimate goals of boosting their careers, igniting their passion, and helping them help students pursue theatre.
We caught up with Ginny Butsch, community engagement manager at EdTA, to hear more about how the community connects and empowers members.
Act 1: Creating a Valuable Professional + Personal Member Benefit
School theatre departments are often a one-person show.
These educators do everything from run the soundboard to feed actors lines, and often are the only teacher of their kind on school staff. There’s no one for them to lean on and improve with, much less develop professionally as a theatre teacher. That’s why the member benefits that EdTA provides, like its online community, are so crucial.
[Praise from Critics] “Thank you all so very much for your advice. I have decided to use this as a learning experience for future productions. I want to let you all know that I will be speaking with my cast to discuss a mix of what I read in all your posts. Can I say how grateful I am to have this forum? I don't really have anyone to talk to in my personal or professional life that can really understand what I go through day to day. It helped tremendously - you have no idea.”
– Waleska M., Theatre Education Community Member
EdTA’s online community is built for members, but it’s open to the public. Why?
EdTA wanted to attract playwrights, theatre technicians, and those who simply can’t pay for membership to be part of the community. This way, the community could become as robust a resource as possible, supporting EdTA’s goals and helping it further empower theatre educators.
Act 2: Connecting Members for Success
Before community, Ginny and her colleagues heard from many members that they felt alone on an island and weren’t sure where to go for help or find resources.
Now that they have a community, members can navigate the website much more quickly, finding resources they need in the library or advice from members in the discussions.
Ginny said, “We often hear from our members that the community is one of their favorite things. It makes them aware of resources they didn’t know existed and helps make them better theatre teachers in general, which makes us happy.”
The community helps members form real relationships, so when they see each other at events, they’re already connected on a different level.
Ginny added, “Since we launched in February 2014, we have not had a day without a post. Theatre teachers are always working—summer, weekends, holidays, you name it. They’re always posting and there’s always someone there in the community ready to lend a hand.” In 2018, member posts in the community averaged around 17 posts per day.
[Praise from Critics] “I have lurked in the shadows reading almost every discussion that comes in the "Open Forum Digest for..." and I thank you for the tips, lesson plan ideas, and even attached documents!! (I get a strange comforting feeling when I see the digest in my inbox!) I consider this forum my best professional development. I am grateful for your spirit of generosity, which, by example, makes me a better teacher and human being!”
– Karen M., Theatre Education Community Member
The Theatre Education Community introduced valuable member benefits like networking, problem-solving, and professional development to EdTA’s members, available 24/7 on the online community. These benefits have improved member satisfaction and how they feel about EdTA overall.
Act 3: Strategically Improving Staff Efficiency + Member Satisfaction
Ginny was an early adopter of automation rules (a Higher Logic online community tool that uses logic rules to automate messages), and they’ve made her role much more manageable. They’ve also made time for her to focus on the big picture. For example, she was able to start advisory communities for feedback initiatives, made possible because she didn’t have to focus on tiny tasks.
Ginny said, “Automation rules have improved our customer service. They do a lot of that manual work for me, so I can focus on taking the next steps toward making the community even better.”
Her favorite automation rule is the “We Miss You!” rule, which has a 13.5% conversion rate. She set up the rule to send out a personalized, casual message to members who haven’t posted in the Theatre Education Community in a while. Ginny mentioned, “Members appreciate that you noticed their absence and really care. The personal message prompted by the rule adds a depth to the relationship that it might not have had.” Another automation rule asks members to add a profile picture, which has a 23.6% conversion rate.
While automation rules have lightened Ginny’s manual load, they’ve also made EdTA’s customer service a lot better. The Theatre Education Community has become a self-service option when members need help. Members consistently compliment EdTA on their service, often listing the community as one of the top membership benefits and noting how quickly EdTA’s staff is available to help them or respond.
“One of the things members report is that they’re impressed by our staff and how we're available to respond quickly. And with the community, they feel like there’s always someone here to help.” Ginny said.
[Praise from Critics] “As a first-time director, this group has been incredibly helpful in boosting my confidence and making this gargantuan task feel doable. So glad I stumbled upon it!”
– Carla M., Theatre Education Community Member
Finale: The Theatre Education Community is a Go-To Resource
EdTA’s online community is helping EdTA establish itself as the go-to resource for theatre educators.
“The community has improved how our members feel about us. It feels like we’re not just meeting, but exceeding, their expectations,” Ginny said. “They’re able to find things more easily because people are able to point them to different resources – I think they’re happy with the changes we’ve made and direction we’re going.”
If you're on the hunt for ways to engage your members, you're smart to be concerned. The Membership Marketing Benchmark Report from Marketing General Inc. reported that 41% of members did not renew membership because of a lack of engagement with the association. For nine low-cost ideas on improving member engagement, check out our eBook, below.