Summer Work: Short-Term Projects With Long-Term Benefits

By Dawn Sparks

Summer is a great time to get to work on those “parking lot projects” that get squeezed out of your calendar by annual conference planning and membership renewal campaigns. It’s also an excellent time to reconnect with members without asking for anything but engagement in return.  

If you’re finding yourself with a little breathing room before budget planning begins, here are a few short-term projects that could keep you connected to your members throughout the year and save you time and money when things get hectic again.  

Clean up your email lists.

Yes, it's incredibly tactical but well worth the effort. Inactive subscribers and inaccurate emails look an awful lot like unengaged members, tilting the scales on bounce rates and open rates right out of the gate.

Scrubbing your email lists will result in more accurate reporting, which means you’ll have a more precise picture of how your members feel about the content you’ve been sending them.

Which list should you scrub first? According to OptinMonster, “start with your most active list because those are the ones driving conversions, leads and sales.” We love their advice for how to make one last attempt to engage inactive subscribers before taking them off your list.

Rework and recycle content.  

Get ahead of fall content needs and keep members engaged and informed with these easy content workarounds.

  • If you’ve published long-form content like blogs, newsletters, or survey results in the past two years that are still relevant today, break them up into ready to serve social posts.

    Look for existing content that features a list (like this one) and add an eye-catching photo or graphic. Boom! You’re ready to post and post again.

  • Haven’t produced any long-form content recently? Try the opposite approach.  Say you’ve been posting pro tips on Instagram for first-year members. Pull them together into a downloadable e-book and send new members the link, so they have all of that member goodness in one place.

Next level: Turn those tips into a fun welcome gift like a set of customized beverage coasters to keep membership benefits top of mind.

Shop around.

The worst time to negotiate with a vendor is when you’re in urgent mode. Reach out to vendors you’ve used for more than five years or “because we always have,” as well as a few of their competitors.

Find out what new solutions they have to the ongoing needs of the association and ask for competitive bids. Ask existing vendors to show you something completely different than what you’ve been doing. Like Steve Jobs said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

If it’s been a while since you’ve had to negotiate with a vendor or you want to pick up some pro tips for negotiating with your board, check out this video of Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator and author of Never Split the Difference.  Repeat after me, “This seems like it’s important to you.

Lunch with the leaders.

When talking with association members, one of the common complaints we hear is that members only hear from leadership when it’s time to renew or when they’re “pitching something.” If this is you (and you probably know if it is), you may be on the way to an engagement problem.

Turn the conversation around by inviting members to “log in at lunch” and hear from your executive staff or board members about their vision for the organization or the industry and what challenges they’re currently tackling.

Keep it casual, and DON’T ASK MEMBERS FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT QUESTIONS. Invite members to submit questions in advance and plan to take more questions in real time.  Members are people. You’re people. And they need to be acknowledged.

Share the love.

Speaking of acknowledgment. Why wait until annual conference awards to send kudos to your members? Now that your staff isn’t running around with their hair on fire, it’s a great time to connect with your members and model the community you’re trying to build.

Dedicate a few staff hours a week to exploring the blogs and social media accounts of your members. Ask staff to post encouraging comments and kudos; ask questions, and make suggestions.  Be sure to share member or organization posts with your audience for a real win/win/win.

The key here is dedicated time. This should be a structured group activity. Try Friday afternoons from 2 p to 4p, for example. Put other work on hold and invite staff to bring their laptops into a shared space. Provide snacks if that’s your thing. Maybe some background music.  Be a model for member engagement by cultivating appreciation and building community.

Pro Tip: Create a shared doc for your staff to note unique member activities, creative solutions, and everyday challenges they learn about in their social surfing. It will be a great go-to resource for creating content and conference session ideas in the future.

Have other ideas for connecting with members during seasonal downtimes?  Completed a short-term project that had long-term benefits? Turned a short-term project into a long-term habit?  We’d love to hear about it. Please share!
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