Through communities of their own creation, members have found new ways and new topics to connect with each other, and formed stronger relationships between themselves and the association. The most popular group? "Political discussions," where they get in heated debates over healthcare reform and all things Capital Hill. This is a group we probably never would have created for them just because of the contentious nature. And we wouldn't have been wrong; they get ugly with each other -- and they love it.
But we hoped, even expected, that to happen when we launched the community -- members finding and defining new ways to connect. That was its purpose.
The phenomenon that has surprised me? How the community has connected the members to the staff at MGMA. While perhaps not the biggest change, it has powerful potential.
Those of you who participate in the eGroups know that I recently left the Medical Group Management Association. When word got out to that I was leaving, I received an amazing outpouring from the Board and the membership at large. As the "face" of the community for the last two years, I'd had the opportunity to connect and build relationships with dozens of members. Members saw my name and picture out there on eGroup postings on a regular basis, and became totally comfortable reaching out to me when they needed help with anything -- not just community related questions, but finding a job after they’d been laid off, trouble with their membership, whatever.
Since my departure, I've even gotten thank you’s from handful of members for how much I helped them in their career. Really? That's so cool -- I was just doing my job! And the cherry on top: I was recently invited to the farewell luncheon for one of our military members who is leaving Colorado and moving to another base. It brought tears to my eyes to be included in his work "family."
I've been shocked at the depth of the relationships that have been built over the last couple of years -- and they all started with the community.
The lesson here? If you've launched a community or are considering it, make sure your approach includes getting staff involved. The more "faces" you have out there, the greater the chances that members will find someone they can reach out to when they have a question or concern. And that engagement point can be the start of a long and beautiful relationship. Giving a member the opportunity to personally connect with staff is an incredible way to increase retention -- one member at a time. With associations or any business, aren't you more likely to be loyal if you know someone who works there?