Associations were once at the heart of many professionals’ social lives. Take London’s Royal Society, for instance. Founded in 1660, the Royal Society published many of the world’s most crucial scientific papers in its signature peer-reviewed journal. From Isaac Newton to James Cook, the Royal Society’s members were responsible for paradigm-shifting discoveries.
Today, however, people have a seemingly endless array of groups to join and ways to discover new information. From local clubs to volunteer organizations, Facebook groups to Reddit communities, there’s no shortage of options for finding community and knowledge.
Exacerbating the issue, many of these groups are free to join, posing a challenge for associations that rely on membership dues.
Associations could expend needless energy fighting against this widespread pattern—or embrace and adapt to modern changes.
The Open Garden model proposes a shift away from focusing exclusively on attracting and retaining members. Instead, associations should focus on engagement as their North Star.
Read on to discover three compelling reasons why engagement should be any savvy association’s number one goal.
Engaging Content Can Educate the Public
Many organizations embrace opportunities to create educational resources that can lead their industries in new, innovative directions.
But taking the time to create these educational resources is only the first step. Unless an audience reads and shares your association’s hard work, your educational efforts aren’t as effective as they could be. Smart associations use digital marketing tactics to drive engagement.
For example, you could:
The key is to make sure the public has ample opportunities to discover — and learn from — your association’s work.
Engagement Can Support Your Core Purpose
If your association’s core purpose includes advocating for changes within society, attracting a highly engaged audience can directly advance your mission.
For example, Sunny Knoll Ecofarm serves as a living example of just how effective self-sustaining agriculture can be. Unlike commercial farming, Sunny Knoll Ecofarm uses free range livestock to manage a thriving, productive, and sustainable farm.
As more members of the general public become invested in Sunny Knoll Ecofarm’s journey, their attitudes toward commercial farming may begin to shift. With time, they may also start to prioritize purchasing groceries from sustainable farms, advancing Sunny Knoll Ecofarm’s overall core purpose.
Engagement Can Turn Into Membership
While many members of your audience might only engage with your content occasionally, some will connect on a deeper level — and seek out more ways to engage. With time, these core fans will become your biggest advocates, sharing your association’s content with their networks and encouraging others to engage.
Though the Open Garden model encourages associations to prioritize engagement as a key metric for success, memberships still matter. Your biggest fans may derive enough value from engaging with your content that they take the membership plunge themselves.
Making engagement your association’s top priority doesn’t mean ignoring your other goals — it often means accomplishing them more effectively.
If you’re ready to increase your membership organization’s revenue, connect with an entire community of purpose-driven leaders and grow yourself, we’re ready to help you do it.Learn More
Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A soon-to-be graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work and education with her love of dogs. Taking her three dogs — Scooby, Pipsqueak and Moose — to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.