1. Send Group Text Messages
If you have a teenager then you likely know about the importance that text messaging plays in their lives. But did you also know that 72% of all mobile phone users are subscribers to SMS text messaging and that on average text messages are read within 4 minutes compared to 48 hours with email? While text messaging doesn’t necessarily provide for collaboration between members, it does allow you, as an organizer, to hit them with a message right where they are. Send out a text message to your group leaders and let them know just how much you value their work. Hit your volunteers with a message about opportunities for them to serve. Deliver a message right to your member’s pocket encouraging them to continue with the program they’re involved with at your organization. SMS is great for last minute cancellations or important reminders but you should also consider sending encouraging messages via text message too.
2. Run an Online Photo Contest
Several organizations have done this over the last few years as a means to create buzz about their product, service or organization. Through the use of an online photo-sharing destination like Flickr.com participants are encouraged to upload photos and there is a tangible reward for their participation. While a company or brand might use a photo contest to help build awareness you can run a photo contest with the goal of having members get to know one another better. Pictures help people understand others better and when your members are actively sharing photos and browsing the images, the likelihood of people starting to recognize each other and building real relationship is increased?
3. Ask Members to “Check-in” with Location-Based Apps
This is a rather new technology and at the time of writing this, the fate of location based services and the trend of “checking-in” to locations is rather uncertain. Generally mobile in nature, applications like Foursquare, Gowalla and now Facebook Places allow users to “check-in” to their current location, for example, a restaurant or the YMCA. Usually a check-in is accompanied by a subsequent update to popular social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter where people will be alerted that “Tim just checked into Tony’s Pizza” for example. A nice little online map will be generated to help folks get a context of literally where they are located at that moment. Regardless of the benefits to the person and their friends, if you encourage your members to check in every time they come to your organization then those updates will not only give you the opportunity to go and speak with them in person, but lots of other folks will be reminded about your organization as the check-in appears in their social networks.
4. Make it Easy to Find and Signup For Events and Service Opportunities
You need your members, volunteers and constituents to serve, right? The easier you make it for them to find information about the event and signup to serve the more likely it will be to get folks engaged and giving back. There are several event management tools available to choose from. For some events there is a need for just a few volunteers in which case you can use a simple RSVP-type tool. If you happen to have all the email addresses of the people you’d like to target you can use your personal calendaring software, like Outlook or iCal to email an event invitation to them. Other times you may need to garner the attention of as many people as possible. In this case you can use broad event registration tools to help manage signups and you should make sure to use social networks to get the word out about the service opportunity.
5. Get Your Leaders Blogging
A blog is a tool and just like any other tool in your toolbox, you’ll use it with a specific goal in mind. It’s an excellent way to share insights from your organization and when you’re pumping out content that your members really care about, they’ll read the blog and start engaging. People are becoming more and more comfortable leaving comments on blogs. If you set your goals and learn the habits of effective blogging, you’ll find that your members will visit often, start leaving comments, and discussion will take place. This will certainly help you to get to know members and it can provide a great place to engage your readers.
6. Provide an Easy Place for Online Discussion
There are several types of tools that can facilitate online discussions. Facebook pages, online groups, blogs, private communication tools, collaboration tools, etc. The list is quite extensive. The point is, choose a tool and provide a place for members to have discussions. You might consider a private communication tool to make sure you can facilitate a tighter environment for the conversations. Giving your members and constituents a place to actively have discussions might seem unmanageable at first, but you will learn a lot and find more opportunities to serve them better. Sure, giving voice to everyone may bring up some challenging topics, but what will you do if you don’t know what your members are talking about?
7. Empower Your Leaders to Get Organized With Online Groups Tool
Organizations are made up of groups. Churches have ministries and community groups. Schools have classrooms and nonprofits have committees. It’s no doubt that many online software tools have a Groups feature. Here’s the kicker, find a tool that lets you manage lots of online groups easily and empower your leaders with their own group to manage. Give your leaders the tools they need to get organized and let the natural organizational communication channels foster an environment where everyone knows how to get plugged in. When everyone involved with your organization is using the same tool it not only centralizes communication and logistics but it also sends a message to your leaders that you need them to get organized with their particular area of responsibility.
8. Provide a Private Online Place for Members to Share Photos
We’ve already mentioned a few times the impact of sharing photos. Running an online photo contest where anyone can upload photos and sharing photos on Facebook has its clear objectives. But members will and should limit what photos are shared on public facing tools like these. You can also use a private online community tool to provide a safe place for members to share photos that are more sensitive; like those of children or a special ceremony. Group communication and private community tools have features to accommodate this private photo sharing.
9. Make it Easy for Members to Contact Each Other
For many organizations, like churches for example, it’s imperative that members know how to reach each other. Whether you’re trying to get people to serve or you just want to help facilitate meaning relationships among your members providing an online directory of your membership can really help with member engagement. This could be as simple as a spreadsheet but you should take advantage of software that provides an intuitive directory where members can search and print. An online member directory can provide an image of each member and even generate a map of where that person lives (if your organization would care to show that). Putting a face with a name is imperative for people to start engaging with each other.
10. Build an Active Facebook Page
Just like a blog, anyone can create a Facebook Page. But what are you doing with it? Do you have a plan? What are your goals? Perhaps instead of creating a blog you can focus your attention on a Facebook page. That’s fine, but you won’t engage anyone if you don’t create an active and encouraging place for people to share. Think about taking pictures at your events and upload them to the page. Create albums, tag your members in pictures, respond to comments and ask questions. Members will see the activity in their Facebook feeds and come back to the page and engage with others. Nothing facilitates real engagement like sharing good content through social networking sites and building an engaging Facebook page is excellent place to start.
So what about your organization? What technology are you using to engage your members?