Monday, July 23, 2012

Member Engagement Solution #1: Don't Forget the Fun

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I've mentioned previously that I'm leading another innovation effort for WSAE, something we're calling an Innovation Circle. Ours is focused on member engagement, and you can get an overview of what it is and what we're trying to achieve with it here.

I've previously posted on some of the member engagement issues people in the Circle are wrestling with. Now, I want to share some of the solutions the group is coming forward with--strategies that have been demonstrated to work in at least one association environment. I'll share a number of these over an on-going series of posts, and would encourage you to add your thoughts and comments as we go along.


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Member Engagement Solution #1: Don't Forget the Fun

To be truly engaging, association activities and volunteer tasks must include an element of fun. Volunteers and members are people. By making the tasks you want them to perform fun, you have a better chance to engage their innovation and creativity. Fun is not necessarily frivolous. In fact, too much mindless fun can be detrimental as decision-makers may question the value of participation. Keeping things clearly tied to organizational objectives, but allowing people to openly explore and experiment, may be a way to create a balance between having fun with a fulfilling a serious purpose.

For me, one of the best lessons learned on this front is the need to couple exciting and engaging extra-curricular activities with any association business function. Sure, you can put Rubik's Cubes on the breakout tables and provide scented markers for the flipcharts, but let's face it; people can only have so much fun during a committee meeting or strategic planning exercise. You need to get them out of the four walls of the meeting room and help them experience something unique in the location they find themselves in.

In my current association, we've planned a number of different excursions like this, all designed to get people interacting with one another in a setting different from the one they may have shown up for. The surprise factor, the new experience, the sharing of personal reactions--they all combine to create heightened engagement opportunities, both between the participants and between the participants and the organization. They become a more cohesive team, and they do it while they're having fun.

What strategies have you successfully used to bring fun into volunteer tasks or your member engagement process?


  1. I wonder if it depends on the type of engagement you seek. I'm currently a part of a group planning TEDx Indianapolis. While I am sure we could be having a lot of fun what's keeping us engaged is the challenge of the even we are creating and the contributions each of us get to the planning.

    In A New Culture of Learning, the authors talk about the difference between a collective and a community."Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation."

    Engagement in a community is therefore somewhat different than engagement in a collective. Fun is important in both, but may flow from different sources or opportunities. Understanding whether you are creating a community or collective is important ... as is the expectations of those who've chosen to engage.

    1. TEDx Indianapolis! How exciting is that? Good for you, Jeffrey.

      But I'm not sure I get your distinction between "belonging" and "participation." Can you be more explicit?

  2. Also be sure you understand what you mean by "fun." It should be what your audience considers fun, not what you consider fun.