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Is Your Community Changing with the Times?

Written by Maddie Grant | on August 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM


Today’s “new normal” involves continuous change, which is something the Millennial generation has simply come to expect. But those of us who are older and running things inside associations (including our online communities) have always tried to build things that last. We like consistency. We like things to stay the same. This is a challenge.

We need our online communities to morph and shift with the changing landscape. For example, how is your community adapting to the following trends I see developing in the association space?

The Changing Face of Leadership

It’s not about being at the top of the hierarchy anymore—it’s about taking action to shape the future of the organization, even if you don’t have formal authority. Does your community empower people at all levels to take action? Are you changing the way you do your leadership development and integrating the community into that process?

Think about the way any great organization or company garners support from all sides, and takes everyone’s opinions into account. From growing tech giants like HubSpot to humble grocery chains like Trader Joe’s, it’s places like these that constantly ask for feedback and ideas through online communities and engagement channels.

The Changing Volunteer Model

The days of traveling along the volunteer “ladder” for a period of 15 years in order to get to the Board are disappearing. Today’s volunteers are looking for quicker access and not necessarily a long-term commitment. Can you use your community to give them access to these new kinds of “ad hoc” volunteering opportunities (micro-volunteering)? ASAE, for example, started a “Volunteer Town Hall” in their community where members and staff could post all kinds of large or small volunteer activities.

The Changing Relationship Between Online and Face-to-Face

Too many associations still use online interactions primarily to broadcast communications about the in-person events. How can you make them more seamless (which is what Millennials are expecting)? How are conversations that happen in your community being extended and enhanced at your in-person events? The Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN.org) creates a new community for each of its conferences, and ensures all registrants and speakers are opted into it long before the date of the event, so everyone can introduce themselves and start planning meet-ups.

The Changing Membership Business Model

The Internet elevated the status of an important word: free. It also gave us a new, related word: Freemium. People expect to get value out of a relationship BEFORE they join and pay membership dues—how are you leveraging your community to provide value to prospects?

A Higher Logic client way ahead of the open community curve was the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA). Both organizations offer open communities and social media platforms for anyone interested in learning more about the industry or checking out resources. With over 13,000 community members combined, there’s no need to be an association member to reap the benefits.

Engaging members and developing leaders—particularly at the local level—is starting to look a lot different than it used to. Associations that stay ahead of these curves and start leveraging their online communities in new and different ways are going to see some powerful results.

This post is part of a series about Millennials and Online Community. Join us in the conversation!  How are you changing your community strategy along these trend lines?

Original research explains the impact online communities have on businesses.

Topics: Millennials, Volunteer Management, Member Communities, Associations, Online Community

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