One association's success story amid COVID-19
Communicating with members now looks very different than it did pre-COVID-19. As members and volunteers deal with disruption in their personal and professional lives, engagement with their professional association may suffer, leaving association leaders wondering how to connect with the members they serve. Some associations are utilizing virtual networking and education opportunities more heavily to unite members while others are implementing new communication tactics to connect with current and prospective members.
The American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI) found that COVID-19 pushed them to engage with their members differently. Katherine Giovetsis, executive director of ASHI, shares ASHI’s membership engagement success story.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way ASHI keeps its membership engaged?
COVID-19 changed the way we interact with our members by giving us the shove we needed to start producing our own webinars. Prior to COVID-19, ASHI provided the content and the expertise for other transplant-related societies’ webinars, but we hadn't produced our own. We now have four webinars under our belt and each was highly attended. We have also started a Journal Club for Directors in Training. Webinars and the Journal Club allow ASHI to provide much-needed online educational opportunities with CE credits, which are even more in demand since many medical meetings were canceled due to COVID-19.
We also adjusted to changing member needs by listening to our members. We posted the question on Facebook: "How is your lab being affected by COVID-19?" This post generated many responses and we saw an increased amount of very thoughtful and compassionate sharing. We watched as lab personnel shared how their labs are struggling to comply with new protocols.
How did ASHI adjust its programs to continue meeting member and industry demand while meeting public health and safety requirements during COVID-19?
ASHI sought guidance and permission from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to conduct virtual inspections of our accredited labs, as inspecting them in person was not a possibility. In order to maintain a lab's accreditation, they must be inspected biannually. Our Accreditation Review Board created a webinar to provide ASHI inspectors with the necessary training they'd need to conduct a virtual lab inspection. Finally, both of ASHI's Regional Education Workshops (REW) were canceled due to COVID-19. We polled our membership on whether they would attend a virtual workshop if ASHI offered this option. We asked their specific preferences on the timing of the live events and also how long they would have each day to devote to online learning. We wanted to ensure that younger techs with children at home would be able to attend. The virtual REW was held in August.
What do you see in ASHI’s future when it comes to communicating with members while the pandemic is still ongoing?
Something we implemented in response to COVID-19 that will continue in the future is producing more webinars/webcasts. Our first webinar had almost 500 attendees. They are proving to be an extremely popular way for ASHI to provide education and CE opportunities to our members.