Empower association volunteers to boost member engagement

Are you trying to address the elevated volume of work at your association? You’re not alone! Community Brands research found that 1 in 4 association professionals plan to solicit more volunteer participation from members to address increased workload at their organizations.  
Your association can mobilize your volunteer group into a high-energy team, helping your organization accomplish various tasks and freeing up staff to attend to more specialized roles.   
But did you know that you can also empower your association volunteers to boost member engagement? Here’s how to start transforming your member engagement strategy by mobilizing your volunteers.  

Five ways to increase member engagement with volunteers

Begin planning your member engagement strategy by hitting on these five vital areas with your volunteers:

1. Events 
Start building member engagement by empowering your volunteers to promote your next association event to their personal and professional connections. Utilizing volunteers to spread the word about your upcoming events will work to engage a wider audience and boost non-dues revenue.  
Make it easier for your volunteers to connect with more of your members (and non-members) by providing marketing collateral like brochures or posters, discount codes for early event registrations, and a social media campaign to guide digital posts. Consider involving volunteers as you plan your events by tasking them to guide the creation of a conference session or by asking them to lead an event session itself. When you empower volunteers to become more involved in your association events, you’ll encourage greater member participation and long-term engagement.

2. Online community
Your members want to connect! You can build member engagement by leveraging your association’s online community platform. Try creating roles in which volunteers can connect more members to your organization, like a moderator or ambassador. A moderator can begin conversations and ensure discussions adhere to your community guidelines. If something goes wrong, a volunteer moderator can intervene or report a discussion to a staff leader.

Ambassadors build member engagement within your online community platform by fostering conversation. You can strategize with your volunteer ambassadors to have them oversee specific community subgroups or member channels. Consider linking ambassadors to a subgroup based on their industry background, a personal hobby, or how long they’ve been at your association.   

The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) leverages Nimble Communities to boost member engagement at their association. The innovative Nimble Communities allows ACerS to adopt member engagement strategies like establishing online community volunteer opportunities and allowing member volunteers to adopt the roles of Moderator or Super Members.

3. Learning program
Increase opportunities for deeper member connections by empowering your volunteers to lead in your learning program. Encourage qualified volunteers to offer their specialized industry knowledge to create continuing education courses or webinars for your members. Subject matter experts (SMEs) can offer a wealth of industry information, save your staff time, and accelerate your learning program goals.

Empowering your volunteers to become SMEs for your learning program will help you generate quality content for your association. Because your SMEs are also members they’ll have a strong sense of which content is relevant to more of your members. When you create content that is both relevant and high quality, you’ll drive member engagement within your learning program.  

The American Urological Association (AUA) empowers volunteers through a detailed education content review process. Volunteers can serve on the Content Review Workgroup to ensure all educational courses, e-learning materials, and content are bias-free and scientifically valid. The review process helps establish AUA as an industry expert and builds member engagement with the association.

4. Mentoring program
A great way to increase member engagement in your organization is to develop your mentoring program. If you’re looking to build bridges with younger professionals, Gen Z and Millennial members are especially interested in mentoring opportunities. According to research conducted by Springtime Research Institute, 82% of Gen Z respondents believe that mentorships are vital to their professional and personal success, but only 38% had mentors. Gallup reported that 72% of the surveyed Millenials stated their engagement elevated when their supervisor took on a mentoring role.

To build member engagement at your association, begin by recruiting veteran member volunteers to mentor younger members. Build your diverse base of volunteer mentors, then begin recruiting mentees. Do your best to connect mentors and mentees based on professional background, industry interest, or personal hobbies to ensure the relationship is a good fit.

The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) offers various mentoring opportunities for volunteers to drive deeper member connections within its organization. SAME’s collaborative mentoring program connects 30,000 members located across 105 chapters internationally.

5. Thank and award volunteers 
Members will often volunteer for a variety of personal and professional reasons.  Personally, members want to make an impact, give back to a cause, demonstrate their commitment to an organization’s mission, or do something different from their job. Professionally, members might want to gain leadership skills, network within their industry, build their resume, or donate their professional skills. Make it easy for members to get plugged into volunteer positions and start serving today. 
Regardless of why a member volunteers, to build member engagement, you must thank members for their time and commitment to your organization. Ensure you routinely thank your members by sending a thank you note or acknowledging their hard work at a member event. Consider hosting a volunteer thank you party to celebrate their efforts. During the event, you can also give awards to members who go above and beyond normal volunteer duties. Be sure to shout out these members on your social media and in your online community to increase engagement.  

The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal (AWHONN) drives member engagement at their organization by showcasing the personal and professional benefits of volunteering. AWHONN also makes it easy to plug members into volunteer positions, helping them get involved at the local level faster.

Learn more about why volunteers are vital for member engagement at your association

Volunteers are essential to the success of your organization. Discover more tips when you download our free whitepaper: Manage your volunteer program to accelerate your association’s mission and goals!

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