Members are the lifeblood of an association. Fully engaged, they make our associations thrive, have impact and offer a meaningful experience. But having active involvement can be hard – and when it dips, so do membership, morale, finances & results. So, how to boost engagement?
We’re investigating engagement strategies – what’s your association doing to ensure members grasp your purpose and are able to participate in your causes? Do you have a platform in place that makes collaboration easy? Are your members making progress together? How do you promote their contribution?
Jimena Gómez de la Flor speaks with Jeffer London about members teaming up to make progress. As communications director at the European Flavour Association (EFFA), Gómez de la Flor tells the story of their success.
PURPOSE How do members make sense of your raison d’etre?
EFFA is the voice of flavours in Europe. We give voice to our members, speaking as one to the European policy-makers and customer associations. Our association brings together the wide diversity of the flavour universe, from small flavour houses to global stock-market listed companies and we distill what we all have in common to create the essence of a very creative and dynamic industry, who has a lot to say. Our members perceive this community feeling and embrace it. The national associations' role is crucial in this, so we make sure that they are involved at all levels.
PARTICIPATION How do your members get involved?
Our members are at the core of what we do. They get involved in the committees and we work together in projects for the bene t of the entire industry. The challenge is that often volunteers are always the same people. Those who volunteer are very engaged in the association and at different levels: board, regulatory, communication and public affairs, are all the association's motor. But there are hundreds of other employees from our members' companies who are little or not familiar at all with the association. That changed with our Flavour Ambassador programme. We looked for volunteers, not only for association committees but for a large communication campaign. This allowed us to reach out to a much broader spectrum of our member's employees and the brand became a synonym of recognition and source of pride. This increased the interest in the association's activities and projects, and the members' participation in them exponentially.
PLATFORM How do your members connect and collaborate?
Most of the work done at committee's level is through the member network. We have several closed groups where committees or dedicated task forces work together. They can collaborate in documents, presentations or videos in real-time. These communities are managed by the secretariat and are very effective to get specific projects done. But we realised lately that also LinkedIn is a very helpful platform to connect and stay in touch with a larger base of our members, for example, with our flavour ambassadors. We use it as a powerful internal communication tool, tagging, sharing and commenting on our members' posts to create conversations around EFFA's projects. This has proven to be a very effective way to keep the members interested and develop synergies.
PROGRESS How do your members move things forward?
At the end of the day, internal and external communication are strongly interlinked. Our Flavour Ambassadors programme was an external communication campaign for which internal communication was key. We launched a powerful internal communication campaign to look for volunteers for the flavour ambassadors, so the community arising from this call was very strong and motivated. Everyone involved, not only the ambassadors but their colleagues, managers or friends, served as spokespersons of the campaign, turning it into a snowball effect that created a strong and united voice both internally and externally. The role of the flavour ambassadors was to explain in first person what flavours and the flavour industry are, setting an example of what a passionate industry is and how connected it is to memories and emotions. 49 flavour ambassadors, 19 companies, five languages and one common passion for flavours. This community feeling made the industry, its message and the association, stronger than ever.
PROMOTE How do you recognise member’s talents?
The members are the ones who know the industry, not us. They are the ones who live and breath flavours. We, as an association, serve only as catalysers of that passion, giving them the opportunity to communicate it to the outside world. I think that identifying those talents and giving them the right platform, is the best way for an association to thrive, so we base most of our communication projects on our own people. This creates loyalty and engagement beyond our own expectations. For our flavour ambassadors, we created a whole line of merchandising: pins, awards, person- alised signature, posters, etc. And they still use it in their own communication. Our members own the projects and the brand, which is the best way to move our plans forward.
POSTSCRIPT Any other advice for creating engagement?
Maybe it's easier for us because it's about food and flavours, but I really think that when planning any member's engagement project, we have to remember to have fun. To offer them the right set-up to just relax and enjoy, which will bring to meaningful connections. Before the shooting of our flavour ambassador video interviews, we had a chocolate atelier, a make-up artist preparing them and fun photos. By the time we got to the interviews, the atmosphere was relaxed and fun and they had been talking among them about what they share: the passion for food. As a result, the interviews were natural, spontaneous and totally on spot.
Jeffer London is on the board to the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and hosts the Facilitation Impact Awards. The IAF promotes facilitators and all who use facilitation to help people work together effectively. Looking for better facilitation? Check out IAF-world.org or talk to Jeffer directly about facilitating leadership teams and association-wide engagement initiatives.
More info: jeffer-london.com or @jefferlondon
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Jimena Gómez de la Flor is the communications director of EFFA, the European Flavour Association. EFFA represents flavour houses and national flavour associations across Europe. It is the voice of flavour in Europe, leading a Europe-wide strategy to the benefit of the flavour industry, its customers and consumers alike.
Supported by the Union of International Associations (UIA), the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO) and the Interel Group, the global public affairs and association management consultancy, Headquarters Magazines serve the needs of international associations organising worldwide congresses.