Building a Member Community Now

By Amanda Kaiser

During the last two weeks, all the events I was scheduled to speak at through May have been canceled, postponed, or moved online. Chapter meetings and annual conferences, even giant expos worldwide, will not be providing in-person connections this Spring.

One question associations are grappling with is how do we continue to build, foster, and nurture our member communities when in-person meetings, a key community driver, are suddenly gone?

We need to think about building communities in a new way. In the past, we provided the physical space and the setting, like a summer-time roof-top reception, for example, and some members would take the opportunity to connect and collaborate, then feel a sense of community. Now that won’t work. We can’t just publish our Zoom link, or launch an online community and expect members to suddenly interact.

Our job now is to create the space AND get the conversation started.

Just in the last two weeks, I am seeing associations figure out how to connect, curate, and cultivate community.

Connect – they are convening small groups of members virtually who care about the same issue.

Curate – associations are taking a more active role in framing the issues the community tackles.

Cultivate – they are, in many cases, starting, nurturing, and documenting the conversation for the benefit of a wider audience.

Since we are often online with our members during these conversations, we can help set the tone for the community’s culture. When we warmly welcome members to their first online meeting, they get a sense of how community members behave.

Many of us are trying new ways to convene our members online. Since this way of working is new to almost everyone, we have permission to try a series of experiments. Test new ways to do introductions, build in opportunities for more interaction, fiddle with the features, and when it is appropriate, encourage light-heartedness and humor.

Right now, your members might be craving their professional community. You can give it to them!

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