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We Are In Crisis Mode, and It's Unclear When We Will Be Out of It.

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?

We know how diligently associations are working to adapt during this pandemic and to engage members through virtual events. We commend associations for their resiliency and creativity!

But what’s next? It’s the question most of us are asking with a mix of trepidation and hope. We hope things will turn around, but we fear they won’t. We hope normal returns sooner rather than later, but we fear it won’t.

Hope and fear are necessary emotions for processing complicated feelings. They don’t help you come up with a good plan though. And what your association needs now is a good plan. Or put another way, a map that points the way to what comes after all of this.

We have some suggestions about who can lead you there, and what you can expect to find.


Young people are the bright spot

We hear all of the same things you hear about young people: they’re not joiners; they don’t want to pay for things; they can’t commit to one job or one organization; you can’t get their attention.

It’s not that we don’t believe these points. After all, we see the same data you see about Millennial job hopping. Rather, it’s that we know it isn’t the whole story.

When the coronavirus hit the U.S., there was an assumption for a few weeks that Millennials were defying the recommendations to stay home, especially as pictures of young people at parties and crowding Florida beaches started cropping up all over social media. Millennials were quick to point out the generational mistake: it was actually the oldest cohort of Generation Z that was partying it up. In fact, Millennials were growing increasingly frustrated with their Boomer parents who they felt weren’t taking the virus seriously enough (captured humorously in this “open letter” op-ed).

Even more interesting were the memes and Instagram graphics that Millennials and Generation X started posting to rally support and evoke the idea of duty. These posts said things like, “Your grandparents were asked to fight a world war. You are being asked to stay home,” or showed beleaguered healthcare workers on the front lines with captions like, “I stay home for them.”

There are, of course, individual and regional variations in how young professionals have responded (and continue to respond) to the COVID-19 situation, but the abiding response has been one of “We are in this together.”

Younger people may change jobs more often and be more reluctant to pay for a feature they can find for free, but they care deeply about being part of a movement. They care about identifying with a purpose greater than themselves.

And also this: they are adaptable, which is everything right now. For example, though young people deeply value face to face connection, they’ve embraced the virtual work arounds, eagerly participating in your Zoom happy hours, your webinars, and your cyber conferences.

This is the bright spot of this dark situation, because it means that younger people are ready to take up the mantle of your association. That is, if you give them something real and deep they can believe in—a true mission and purpose they can rally around.


Your plan for what’s next

Your engagement may be very high right now, because a crisis invites engagement and the desire to connect with one another.

What about when it passes? What will these younger members rally around next?

You can’t wait until the pandemic begins to lift to decide that rallying point—especially because it will likely leave a long, painful recession in its place. As hard as it is to think about what comes on the heels of this, you must start planning now.

FIRST, if you have an event scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2020, you must accept that it will be dramatically different than what you anticipated when you first planned the event—starting with the fact that it may not happen at all. Or if it does, some members still may not be comfortable traveling.

How will you replace that revenue stream? How can you still connect people around a message? Keep in mind that people will be fatigued from COVID-19 messaging by then. You need a NEW message—not a crisis message, and not the outdated value proposition you were using before the crisis hit.

What will that message be? How can it work either in-person or virtually? Be clear on that now, versus having to be reactionary and make decisions on-the-fly.

SECOND, what will you put in place now to ensure that your association is leading the way, rather than following or being reactive?

Our tendency when we see recession coming is to tighten our belts, to duck for cover and resort to a fear and scarcity mentality. Instead, how can you take this awesome engagement you have now and monetize and build on it? You can only do this successfully if you invest in true digital marketing tools right now.

We started our agency in 1999, which means we ran our business through two major recessions: 2001 and 2008. Both times, we saw it as an opportunity to pivot, to dive deeper into work that matters.

This is the same mindset we have now. We believe that a shifting economy is a chance to rethink everything. We know what this journey looks like, and we find ourselves once again staring down a path marked “before” and “after.”

Come with us to the “after.” You may not believe it, but it can be even better than the “before.”

Want a brainstorming call to talk about what’s next for your association? Schedule time to talk to us! We are sheltering in place, thinking hard, and creating some innovative and amazing campaigns for associations.

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Amid all the chaos and heartbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are truly inspiring stories of people coming together to help each other. Your association can be one of those stories. This is your opportunity to be a resource to your membership, to add value to their lives and businesses, and to help them through this difficult time.

Here are five ways you can help your members during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Provide COVID-19 information

Associations are reporting jampacked webinars with thousands of participants, a sure sign that your members are eager for information and guidance. Topics include CDC recommendations for hygiene and social distancing, how to apply for relief loans and grants, and how COVID-19 affects your industry specifically.

While busy webinars indicate increased engagement, you can do even more. Many members are focused on immediate business needs and don’t have an hour to spend on a virtual event. Use webinar content to create quick resources like checklists, flow charts, infographics, or tip sheets. Your busy members will be grateful for curated content that helps them navigate this situation.

To further drive engagement, include time for live Q&A or provide a post-event feedback forum. This will help you gauge what issues are most important to your members and assure them that you’re listening and responding to their concerns.


Offer teleworking resources

Many of your members find themselves working from home for the first time. Help them navigate this new frontier by providing resources on setting a schedule, using video conferencing, maintaining cybersecurity, setting teleworking expectations for employees, and more. Consider hosting a virtual networking event via videoconferencing to demonstrate best practices and answer any questions.


Discounted membership for next year

COVID-19 will no doubt leave financial damage in its wake for a lot of your members, causing many to rethink membership and event participation to save money. Stay ahead of what could be a mass exodus from your organization by offering free or discounted membership for next year. What you do now will determine the success of your organization in the months and years to come.


Host mini virtual events

Going virtual can help you serve members and recover some lost revenue from cancelled in-person events. But be mindful of people’s time right now. Avoid shifting your entire event to the virtual space. Instead, see what you can break into bite-sized content for smaller individual events, for example a livecast from your keynote, online panel discussion, virtual networking session, or pieces of helpful content in a digital resource bundle.


Give people a platform to help

People want to help, whether it’s by donating masks, offering free services, or mobilizing in their own unique ways. Your association can provide a platform to connect the dots. Consider creating a special website or communications channel, such as COVIDResponseTeam@YourOrganization.com, to answer questions or match needs with resources.


Rise to the challenge

Instead of letting COVID-19 or some other crisis cripple your association, you can rise to the challenge and help your members get through it too. As a member-driven association, you’re already an expert at bringing people together and rallying around a cause. Right now, overcoming COVID-19 is the cause. The more you can serve as a resource for people or even a place for them to voice their fears, the more likely it is that members will stay loyal to your association now and long after this situation is over.

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5 Teleworking Best Practices for Associations

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about with COVID-19, you suddenly find yourself working from home. That means carving out space for an office, troubleshooting Zoom meetings, and trying to stay connected with your team and your membership…not to mention actually getting some work done! For many, this new reality can be overwhelming.

If teleworking has you flustered, here are 5 best practices to help you preserve your sanity and improve productivity.


1. Rise and shine

Trading your commute for a brief jaunt down the hall might leave you feeling lost in the mornings. It’s a good idea to maintain your regular morning rituals, such as setting your alarm clock and getting out of your pajamas. Enjoy coffee or breakfast with your spouse, kids, or roommates for social interaction and to ease into your day. Without a drive, you might even have extra time for exercise, meditation or chores. Avoid heading directly from your bed to your computer, which can blur the lines between your personal and professional lives.


2. Get some space

If work is staring you in the face day and night, you’re likely to feel stressed and stretched thin. Create a dedicated office space that you can leave behind at the end of the day—even if it means closing your laptop and moving it off the kitchen table. Let your family know that they should respect your office space during the day. Put up a sign if necessary (ex: Shhh! Mary’s Working 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) To help you focus, avoid cluttering your home office with food, toys, laundry, or other distractions.


3. Keep a set schedule

The best way to be successful while working from home is to have a set schedule. Determine when you will start each morning, when to break for lunch, and when to call it a day in the evening. Begin each day by reviewing any upcoming meetings or project deadlines. Consider holding a daily morning huddle with your team to check in, stay connected, and help everyone stay on track.


4. Establish boundaries

When your work and home are one in the same, you might feel pressured to be available 24/7. That will lead to burnout in a hurry. Once you have a set schedule, share it with colleagues so they have realistic expectations about your availability and responsiveness. Don’t forget to keep your members and industry partners informed about your operating hours as well. At the end of the day, sign off any chat programs and silence your phone so notifications don’t intrude into your personal time. Avoid responding to communications after hours or on weekends.


5. Stay connected

The isolation of teleworking can take a toll on morale, and productivity can suffer as a result. Use technology tools, such as video conferencing, to maintain human connections. Try a phone call instead of an email for more in-depth conversations. Check in with members and industry partners. Consider launching a brief daily e-newsletter to share positive news. Your association is united by a common cause. Reminding everyone of that cause can lift spirits and rally your team to keep moving forward despite these difficult times.

Share this post in LinkedIn:

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Part 6: Grit

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NOT ANOTHER SNOOZELETTER.

SIGN UP. BE INSPIRED.