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Recognizing Success: Increasing Engagement for your Association

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In September 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Beckie MacDonald, M.L.I.S at the CSAE National Conference & Tradeshow in Saskatoon, SK.

Over several subsequent conversations, Beckie shared with me how their association’s engagement, in terms of attendance at events, paying memberships, etc.) is on the rise. This certainly piqued my interest, as many organizations are facing the exact opposite. Beckie agreed to share her trade secrets, which I am more than happy to pass along.

The Ontario Library Association (OLA) is the oldest and largest library association in Canada supporting those who work in and/or support all forms of library and information workplaces. Their key purpose is to provide their members with networking opportunities, educational programs, and a voice on provincial issues pertaining to their field as well as services and products that support the field. With 12 full-time employees & one part-time employee currently on-staff, and approximately 500 volunteers, they manage close to 5000 members. As an Ontario Association, their main membership base is in Ontario, Canada, but they also attract members from across Canada and internationally.

Appealing to younger generations has been a hot topic for some time. When I asked Beckie what the OLA is doing to remain relevant, I found that there is staff buy-in on social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Flickr). Multiple staff members are monitoring each of the accounts to engage in conversations with current and prospective members.

They have also established great relationships with the educational programs in the province of Ontario to be present and engage with the students of the field. The OLA offers a reduced fee for membership to these students, and provides full membership benefits. In addition, they offer career-specific services to these students, including résumé critiquing, mock interviews, and mentoring.

The students are invited to the annual conference, where they also have a unique opportunity to engage and learn from those who are experienced. They run what they call a “Human Library” where the “Human Books” – those members who are in high-level or unique positions – can be “borrowed” by members for a 20-30 minute conversation to hear their story. This is especially effective for students.

How has their members reacted to this? According to Beckie, the response has been very positive. Members have shared appreciation to the increased accessibility to staff members as well as the increase in methods of communication (via traditional channels and social media).

Communicating the increased engagement across all departments within the organization has increased staff-buy in as well.

For more information, please click here to be directed to the full interview. If you are interested in submitting a nomination for another organization to be recognized, please feel free to share it by email.

Congratulations to Beckie MacDonald and the rest of the OLA team – in a time where many associations are concerned about their survival and relevance, you are a shining star!