How to Strengthen Community Within Your Association

20 Oct 2023 By Guest Post

As an association leader, you know that building a sense of community within your organization is an essential, yet challenging, part of running a successful association. When your members feel connected to each other and the organization, they’ll be more inclined to attend conferences, participate in meetings and activities, and renew their membership.

In order to reap these benefits and inspire excitement, consider getting involved in a philanthropic effort. Taking on a charitable project to benefit a nonprofit or other cause-based organization will enable you to promote social good and strengthen your association’s community.

A robust association management platform can be what your association needs to help you engage members and plan successful philanthropic events. In this guide, we’ll cover a range of ideas for bringing your members together through charity work:

  • Host a hybrid fundraising event
  • Challenge members to an ongoing fundraiser
  • Partner with a nonprofit for an educational event
  • Engage members through your association management platform

These ideas can also be carried out in conjunction with your ongoing association activities. For example, if your association already has an online store for its merchandise, you might partner with a nonprofit for a month and donate a percentage of your store’s profits to their cause.

Host a hybrid fundraising event

As Swaim Strategies’ guide to hybrid events explains, these activities simply combine in-person and virtual elements into one, giving participants the option to experience the event live or to tune in remotely.

Consider trying one of these hybrid fundraising event ideas:

  • Livestream gala or auction: Hold a traditional fundraising gala or auction with a twist—livestream the entire event using video conferencing software. You can use the livestream to showcase your emcee or auctioneer and leverage a live chat function that automatically acknowledges all comments, bids, and donations. Be sure to plan a few ways to engage online viewers such as using polls or prompts that motivate them to utilize the chat feature.
  • Remote 5K or Fun Run: Create a customized donation page through a crowdfunding platform and plan a route at your location for local members to attend. For remote members, ask them to start running at the same time as your event and track their distance along the route of their choosing. On race day, participants can all start running at the same time no matter where they are. To make runners feel connected, ask them to post about their run on social media using a unique hashtag.
  • Hybrid concert: Find a local or even a well-known musician (depending on your event budget) to perform a fundraising concert for your association members. Sell both in-person and virtual tickets so members can choose how they’d like to attend. The virtual tickets could be priced lower for members who may be on a budget, or they might serve as overflow tickets if you hit capacity for the physical venue.

Once your event is over, make sure to send out post-fundraiser surveys that ask members about their engagement in the event. Make sure to analyze these metrics to see if you need to adjust the engagement strategies you use for future events.

Challenge members to an ongoing fundraiser

If your members are busy or your association doesn’t have the resources to plan an event, consider organizing an ongoing fundraising challenge that members can contribute to in their own time instead. This way, if members can’t make it to the event, they can still participate in a continuous collective effort.

Here are a few ideas for ongoing fundraising challenges for your association:

  • Matching gift drive: Your association might receive an additional contribution if one of your members works for a corporation with a matching gift program. In this case, the member would make a donation to your association, the company receives and reviews their matching gift request, and, if approved, your association receives a matched gift from the company. These programs typically only apply to nonprofits and higher education institutions, making it a great option for associations that are 501(c)(3) organizations.
  • Wishlist drive: Many nonprofits have specific goods or items they need to carry out their missions. For example, a nonprofit focused on eliminating hunger might need cooking supplies such as pots, pans, utensils, and containers to distribute food. A wishlist drive is a great way for your association members to directly assist your chosen nonprofit. Ask your nonprofit partner about which items they need, and create a wishlist on an online shopping site like Amazon. Association members can choose items to purchase and the goods are sent directly to the nonprofit. \

  • Monthly giving programs: One of the best ways for nonprofits to build a base of sustainable funding is by getting supporters to enroll as monthly donors. This way, they can count on a certain amount of funding each month. At the beginning of the fundraiser, motivate your members to sign up to contribute monthly. Continue to motivate them to keep signing up, donating, and even increasing their monthly donations as the fundraiser goes on.

Be sure to thank members who contribute to this fundraiser so they know the gift was received. By showing your appreciation for members’ donations and demonstrating their gifts’ impact, you’ll motivate them to donate again in the future.

Partner with a nonprofit for an educational event

For many nonprofits, spreading awareness of their cause or the issue they are hoping to address is a significant part of their mission. You can help them do so (and bring your members together in support of that cause) by holding an educational event.

Plan a speaker series or webinar with the nonprofit where members gain valuable insight into the nonprofit and learn about the cause. For example, you can:

  • Invite association members to a webinar to learn about a specific nonprofit organization and how they can help out or volunteer from home.
  • Ask your nonprofit partner to lead your association members on a virtual tour of the nonprofit grounds to give event attendees an inside look at the workings of a local charitable organization.
  • Partner with a nonprofit to create a customized leadership course that is relevant to the needs and goals of nonprofit staff and association members alike.

Keep in mind that to truly engage members and motivate them to donate or volunteer, it’s best to choose a cause they are interested in or passionate about. Consider choosing one related to your field—for example, if your association is for chefs and other members of the hospitality industry, you might partner with a nonprofit that battles food insecurity.

Engage members through your association management platform

Throughout your philanthropic efforts, it’s important to maintain communication with your members to update them on fundraising progress and keep them informed on upcoming events. Once you get people involved in fundraising, they will want (and deserve) to know about the progress made toward the goal.

Your association management software system can be one of your best communication tools to keep everyone on the same page.

Fonteva’s guide to member engagement offers a few key strategies for keeping members engaged through your association’s digital platform. These strategies help your association speak to members on a more personal level and create a two-way communication street.

For instance, your association should:

  • Send surveys after events. Offer members the chance to provide feedback on your organization’s activities. This shows members that their opinions are valued and their preferences are taken into account. Send surveys to your members after your philanthropic events to gauge success and gain valuable feedback on how to adjust your strategies moving forward.
  • Segment members based on interests. Using the information in your association constituent relationship management (CRM) system, you can create member groups based on shared interests. For example, create a group of members who have historically engaged in live virtual events to focus your marketing efforts on. By using this technique, members will only receive information that’s most relevant to them, increasing the chance they’ll engage.
  • Offer multiple ways for members to engage with each other. Send fundraising updates thorugh your community message boards and provide a space for members to chat about upcoming events. Many members join associations because of the networking opportunities they provide, so be sure to facilitate ongoing conversations through your membership platform.

Overall, promotion is the key to your fundraising and event success. Lean on the power of your association management software to help carry out these engagement strategies.

If you’re ready to commit to community building within your association, a charitable project is the perfect avenue for engaging members. You’ll accomplish some good in the world while allowing your members to continue their personal and professional development. Be sure to invest in the best membership management and event tools to streamline the planning process.