In a blog post while back, we asked: “Should you offer a member’s forum”
to increase member engagement and interaction? A forum is an online
discussion site (or page on your website) where you and your members or
supporters can post messages, ask questions, start conversations, offer
and receive information .
This post talked about the first two C's - how a forum provides a place for your members to virtually congregate in order to communicate, discuss and share ideas.
A forum might help you meet your engagement and communications goals – whether these are to:
- attract new members or supporters;
- offer existing members an opportunity to interact with their member/peers
- enable members to offer feedback and dialogue with association staff and board members
And, as we noted in our earlier post, Wild Apricot users can easily create or add forums as part of your Membership Management Software.
Another role for forums - the third "C"
But there is at least one more function that a forum can fulfill, that we didn’t discuss in our earlier post: the third “C” – crowdsourcing.
This term is now often used to describe gathering large crowds online
and generally leveraging mass collaboration. But according to Jeff Howe (Wired Magazine) who originally coined the phrase, it is defined as “the
act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by
employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large)
network of people in the form of an open call.”
How can associations apply crowdsourcing?
While non-profits have been successfully using crowdsourcing
techniques for some time, Associations and other member-based
organizations can use a forum to encourage collaboration and
involvement on any number of issues or activities. You can apply
crowdsourcing to anything from encouraging members to share ideas and
collaborate on, for example, selecting conference themes, resource
topics, etc. It could also be used to source volunteers for particular
Aliza Sherman, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing, offered some examples of crowdsourcing applications in a SocialFish blog post earlier this summer -- Crowdsourcing for Organizations. She notes:
When it comes to resources, many nonprofits and associations feel
strapped or constrained by budget and capacity. Whether you’ve got
administrative tasks, marketing efforts, or other time-consuming or
costly initiatives, there are ways to get things done by leveraging the
Internet and tapping into large pools or talent, volunteers, or other
interested individuals. Crowdsourcing is one of those ways.
Simply put, crowdsourcing is a set of principles, processes and
platforms to get things done and includes putting out an open call to a
group and managing the responses and output....Crowdsourcing can be like
outsourcing on steroids because instead of contracting to one known
entity, you are putting a call out to a bigger group, often a global
online community, to either get many to participate or to find the
person you need by casting a much wider net.
Our experience crowdsourcing on our forums
At Wild Apricot, we understand the importance of building consensus
and crowdsourcing through forums. In fact, our company is built around
the philosophy of listening to customers and evolving the product based
on their needs and feedback. We actively seek input and collaborate with
customers in the development process, with customers voting and
commenting on others' suggestions.
But recently, we saw the power and immediacy of crowdsourcing through
forums first-hand. As our Chief Apricot noted in his August Software News post, “we have a number of active discussion forums which we use for technical support, source feedback for product development.”
What is amazing, however, is that our clients - Wild Apricot users -
frequently follow the forums and help each other out by crowdsourcing
some cool solutions and workarounds. Here's the example he offered of
client-to-client interaction on our General discussion and questions forum:
Many Wild Apricot users are clubs and associations who typically
have a number of rotating officer and board positions. One of the users
asked about the best way to track position assignments in Wild Apricot
and display them on the website. We do not have any special
functionality designed specifically for this -- so I said so in my
reply. However, within hours, one of our clients replied and posted a
detailed description of very nice workaround that they had created of
an automated Officer Directory on their Wild Apricot website. Shortly thereafter, another user posted a reply building further on the suggested workaround (see their finished directory).
Is it time your association had a forum?
So a forum can enable members to:
Those are my 3 C's. Are there any others I've forgotten?
- and collaborate through crowdsourcing.
If you think a forum might help you meet some of your member
engagement goals, check out the resources below for help in getting
From the Wild Apricot Blog:
For Wild Apricot Software users: