The summer wind, came blowin’ in…
The association events I go to in the summer tend to stay true to this easy-breezy summer feeling by taking on a more casual approach. I love the extra focus on networking at these outings because it gives me the chance to connect with colleagues in ways we don’t always get to during the rest of the year. Eventually, the conversation winds its way back to that age old topic: How to find new ways the association can continue to create value.
An interesting take on the topic makes the point that in the summer, this value can come in two forms: creating value for members by providing educational content, and creating value for the association by recruiting new members to take a more active role in events throughout the year.
If your association is looking for ways to make the most of your summer gatherings, here are some creative ways to add value for both your members and your association, while being mindful of a lighter summer schedule:
Education doesn’t need a summer recess
Some associations are able to turn their summer outings into educational sessions without anyone even realizing they are learning during the summer. The trick is to find the right topic for your summer events that can turn them from “can’t make it” to “can’t miss it”. A common recommendation is to choose a broad topic such as professional development to match the casual mood of the event.
It’s a fact, though, that when summer comes, vacations and other commitments make schedules less predictable than any other time of year. If your summer events do tend to have a smaller attendance than other programs, take advantage of the opportunity to let up-and-coming members have center stage as speakers.
Associations also say that to keep members learning during summer programming, they move some educational materials online. This gives members the ability to continue their professional development through the summer months but on their own time.
Reconnect with members
Another common theme is how summer networking events provide an opportunity to reconnect with members. These casual conversations can be the perfect starting point to finding volunteers that are willing to take a more active role in the association.
Think back over the course of the year to conversations you’ve had with members. Which ones have shown an interest in playing a larger part in the association’s activities? Maybe there are some that would be able to address a particular topic or deliver a presentation to the group? A summer networking event is the perfect low-stress way to start those preliminary discussions. Planting the idea in the summer can encourage members to become more active in the association, rather than saying they are too busy later in the year.
Meet new members
Hopefully, you’ve had new members join your organization over the last twelve months. If you are regularly involved in hosting the events throughout the year, other commitments may have kept you from talking with them as much as you would’ve liked. Make a pledge to change that this summer! New members provide new energy for your association, and just as importantly, new ideas. As you speak with them, gauge their interest in being a part of the strategic planning for the year. A good tactic is to ask new members to make small commitments at first. Don’t start by asking them to fill a two-year appointment. Associations report having better luck engaging new members by simply asking them for topic suggestions, or to help out in other limited ways.
If your association is like the others I talk with, odds are your summer programming schedule is different than the rest of the year. It’s important to stay front and center in the minds of your members, even if their schedules mean they aren’t able to be physically present as much as other times of the year. Adding in-person or online educational options is a common way for associations to continue delivering value.
We help associations every year assess their educational content and find the best way to make this valuable information available to their members online. Creating a dedicated website that houses all your educational content makes it easy for members to access your professional development resources on their own time.
What ideas has your association used to keep members engaged during the summer months? Have you found any good strategies for recruiting new members to take an active role in the association? Let us know in the comments below. Or, if you are interested in learning more about creating online educational materials, we’d be happy to help review your current resources.