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Will your organisation survive COVID-19?

When this pandemic is over, will your organisation still have a reason for being? Will all your members come back to meetings or events, or will they have found other ways to fill their needs?

Just before the crisis hit, I decided to join a garden club. I’d been to a couple of meetings with a friend and decided it was worth the small annual fee and the time to attend - for the speakers, the plant swaps, a friendly morning tea, the members’ displays, and the opportunity to meet people outside my existing social circles. And like many garden clubs, they have regular bus trips to visit gardens and nurseries. The annual membership fee covers costs like the hall for meetings.

COVID-19 put an end to all of that. No meetings, no bus trips.

While many businesses watched helplessly as their custom evaporated overnight, so too did the many local clubs and organisations that bring together people with a shared interest. Everything from bowls clubs to garden clubs to book clubs to artist collectives.

Those members who have made close friendships will likely find ways to keep in touch. They don’t need the club for that. But there will be no opportunities to make new acquaintances or friendships, or to create shared experience. They’ll have to find other ways of doing that.

Members with a primary goal of following their interest will find other outlets. There is a myriad of special interest websites and Facebook pages and discussion groups. There are countless Facebook groups on every aspect gardening - by location, plant preference, and gardening style.

Photos can be shared in Facebook groups or sites like Instagram. I can’t go on a bus trip to local gardens but this morning I went on a virtual tour of Kew Gardens.

My other real life gardening group, Brisbane Local Food continues on because it has always been an internet group with informal physical meetings as an added bonus. Being an informal group, it has no fees, no committees. It is run by a group of volunteers.

The imposed isolation is pushing more of your members into using online technology for work, for interests, and for socialising. While all these new options open up to them, how can your organisation remain an important enough part of their life for them to retain their membership?

As well as coping with the legal and economic hurdles, how do local organisations compete against the online players for their members' attention and loyalty?

When this pandemic is over, will your organisation still have a reason for being? Will all your members come back to meetings or events, or will they have found other ways to fill their needs?

Use your strengths to build something better

The strongest assets you have are the connections between your members and the history of providing a service to members. If you use the technology to protect and build on those, you could keep your members and come out of this crisis a much stronger club.

Some clubs are already starting to do this - with social media (Facebook, twitter, etc), videoconferencing, or websites.

These services are often free, or low cost, but they need clear strategies to decide which services suit your situation and how to use them.

Find out more on this free course, Online Technology and Your Club.

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