Having worked with associations for several years now, one topic that continuously arises during most strategic conversations is how to accommodate corporate sponsors; not only as an organization, but also how the organization presents itself publicly (including digital marketing). One recent example comes to mind - a large health-based research association based in Washington DC. While membership remained steady for this organization financially, member dues was not a significant revenue generator. To continue to grow as an organization, and to grow member services, the association is now tasked with attracting more industry partners to support its work. While sponsors are eager to get involved with the organization, the organization's members are often resistant to their presence.
How does an organization use marketing and communications to accommodate the wishes of its members; while courting the financial support of industry partners to grow its reach and provide additional member value? This is a question many associations face and the answer very well lay in the ever-changing landscape of digital technologies.
An association's online presence is no longer simply focused on its website. While the website may be central to organization, its no longer the only online channel for your members to connect with your organization. Most associations now have some combination of a central website, social media channels, mobile apps, and campaign microsites.
One way to fold in corporate sponsors, while respecting the domain of the organization's central site as a repository for member information and services, is to craft an online experience through a range of channels that connect back to the organization's site. The health-based association, used as an example in this article, provides a great case study on how this can be done. This particular organization is approaching a 100 year anniversary - a significant milestone. They have done an excellent job at capturing their rich history in photos, video, and content (a member is currently writing a book on the history of the organization). As part of a strategic consultation with this organization, we proposed several ideas for them to consider that would help them leverage their digital ecosystem while accommodating corporate sponsors and provide member value.
- An interactive kiosk that would feature a timeline of their 100 year history. Visitors to their office in central DC would see this kiosk as they walk into main door. The kiosk could include video, interactive quiz, and today's agenda at the organization (anchoring in the present in the overall history of the organization).
- A mobile app that would allow the association members to type in the year they started their professional career and then see what was happening during that period in the history (both of the field, as well as history in general).
- Targeted to industry partners, we encouraged the organization to launch a campaign microsite on industry's role in the evolution of the field. Industry played a very important role in the growth of this particular field and this idea would not only attract strong corporate support, but would also show to the association members the positive role industry has on the fields evolution.
With this example, one can see how an organization can find opportunities outside of its central website to allow corporate sponsors to get involved, provide member benefit and support the overall awareness of an industry and its role in positively shaping fields of specialty.