Associations as diverse as the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Credit Union Executives Society, and the American Public Transportation Association have recently launched Resource Libraries on their websites to deepen the value of membership and to grow member loyalty using a more sustained engagement model.
Because the Resource Library model aggregates content from third-party industry authorities and thought leaders, associations are able to provide more informational resources to their members without straining the internal resources of their communications staff.
Just as an annual conference can serve as an important source of professional development, a Resource Library features content geared toward members’ challenges and professional aspirations. But unlike an event, which typically lasts a few days, a Resource Library is available to members 24/7/365 and provides exponentially more touchpoints with members throughout the calendar year, keeping associations front and center with a constant stream of new content offers specifically targeted to members’ informational needs.
More and more associations are now using their Resource Library as a distribution channel for their own content to help address the challenge of maintaining their stature as their industry’s No. 1 source of information.
While Resource Libraries are primarily utilized as a channel to aggregate and promote high-quality thought-leadership content from corporate sponsors and industry solution providers, they can also serve as a highly effective platform for associations to promote their own content.
Following are some ways that a Resource Library can be leveraged to engage members on a more consistent basis.
According to Association Adviser research, 31% of associations struggle with ways to promote their own content. A Resource Library provides an easy way for associations to feature their own content that might otherwise get lost on a website or buried in an email newsletter.
Integrating association resources with third-party content reinforces the ongoing value of membership, not to mention the leadership status of the organization they belong to.
The Nebraska State Bar Association (NSBA), for example, uses its Resource Library to promote its own webinars, guides, research reports, and more. Executive Director, Liz Neeley explains that the organization’s Resource Library offers “an immediate communication strategy where you are pushing out new content or highlighting resources — and it’s a constant reminder to our members about the resources we have available for them.”
A robust Resource Library platform should include a performance dashboard to track and analyze readership and member engagement in real-time. The analytics within an association dashboard offers insight into areas of need and the topics resonating most among members. Associations can leverage that insight to influence their own member programming. Melinda Bentley, for example, COO of the Texas Society of CPAs (TXCPA), regularly checks the analytics in TXCPA’s Resource Library dashboard and sends it to her communications staff to inform the organization’s own content planning.
By customizing content and providing white papers, reports, and other guidance that align with emerging member interests, associations can reinforce their expertise and authority while also building a steady stream of repeat site traffic.
For associations interested in hybrid events — and nearly all organizations should be looking at ways to future-proof their event strategy right now — a Resource Library offers a platform for associations to engage virtual attendees as well as a backstop should unforeseen events disrupt live event scheduling.
Associations can also leverage their Resource Library to build interest and momentum in the weeks leading up to their in-person event. A few weeks before its annual conference, for example, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) launched an event-specific area of its Resource Library where exhibitors could promote enrichment-based content to drive pre-event engagement.
“Our Knowledge Hub was a great way for us to start building anticipation for our event, now that we were finally going back to in-person,” said Jack Gonzalez, Senior Director of Marketing & Sales at APTA. “Plus, our exhibitors appreciated the ability to begin engaging with members weeks before the event started.”
One of the reasons members value in-person events is because of the educational experience compressed into a relatively short time period. The material generated at events offers a treasure trove of information, presentations, and workshops that can then be given extra mileage within a Resource Library.
By making that material accessible and reusable within a Resource Library platform, members can download their favorite sessions or catch up on material they might have missed. The extended shelf life of event content will also offer additional incentives for presenters and vendors to take part in future events.
Another idea for building member engagement via a Resource Library is to aggregate previously released content to develop pre-programmed learning paths for members that focus on a specific skill or an important topic.
For example, SME, a non-profit association supporting the manufacturing industry, recently worked with AWS to create an online learning center on smart manufacturing, featuring white papers, ebooks, and on-demand webinars to advance its members’ knowledge in an area that is becoming increasingly important within their professional field.
Blame generational trends or the overly busy lives of Millennial and Gen-Z professionals, but associations no longer have the immediate traction they once took for granted among previous generations. According to Association Adviser, 51% of associations say they have found it difficult to attract and engage new members. A mini-hub within a Resource Library specifically dedicated to younger professionals can be a valuable way to engage members who are in the early stages of their careers.
By building a virtual resource for younger members, Associations are likely to increase engagement and also bolster membership numbers. A mini-hub with content geared to early career stage members can foster connections that will draw those younger professionals to more in-person events and encourage them to engage in other ways.
To attract future members, for example, the Washington Society of CPAs (WSCPA) features a video series in its Resource Library that the organization created for students interested in a career in accounting. The series includes videos on scholarship opportunities and different career paths as well as the benefits of joining the organization.
When a disruptive event occurs, members need to be able to turn to their association for information and guidance on how to respond. This became especially evident for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), whose members are comprised of front-line transit workers charged with keeping public transportation operating during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 had just hit, and the world was changing. Our in-person meetings had ceased,” explains APTA’s Gonzalez. APTA responded by launching its Resource Library, which “puts our members at the forefront of the industry” at a time when they needed information and access to solution providers.
A Resource Library can be a readymade platform so that when the need arises, whether it's a black swan event or an emerging industry trend, an association can get their members timely content through an established channel where members are already accustomed to seeking useful resources.
Not only are Resource Libraries an effective way to add more value to your members, but they can also serve as a meaningful source of recurring non-dues revenue.
Perhaps best of all, when you partner with Lead Marvels, we will create a Resource Library for your website at no cost to your organization. Our association partners do not need to invest in new technology or staff because we fully manage the platform for your organization.