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Since the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, we have seen an unmistakable impact on not only public health, but also on the global economy. With the world attempting to sail through these uncharted waters, we know professionals will turn to their associations for answers. But how should associations handle the COVID-19 outbreak? 

Create distance.

Keeping in mind member and employee safety, many associations have postponed or canceled their annual conventions, began working from home, or have begun to furlough their employees. While none of these changes are optimal, they may be necessary for the survival of not only the association, but for its people, as well. 

Be a support system.

The most important way to handle the changes brought on by COVID-19 is to support your members and employees. Brand loyalty will be a key factor in retaining members during and after a crisis. Supporting your members, and employees, during this pandemic will reinforce the dependability and trustworthiness of your organization. Keep in mind: How would you want to be treated?

  • Reach out and acknowledge member concerns. Be proactive about asking how you can help.
  • Stay accessible. A reliable source of information is more valuable than ever right now.
  • Ensure your organization has the necessary technology to support an influx of online activity. Check in with your IT department to make sure an additional load of visitors to your LMS, forum or other digital assets is manageable. 

With the unexpected cancelations or postponements of conventions, meetings and more, many members may want to have access to the same information via online forums or video lectures. 

Michael Tatonetti, the Director of Certification and Education with the Professional Pricing Society, said his association is providing recession-specific content to its entire audience. 

“We actually compiled an email today that went out this morning with course recommendations, but also free content: webinars, seminars and podcasts that we had about this topic,” he said. “We sent that to our entire database, whether they were members or not.”

Don’t forget your employees. 

  • Create some semblance of normalcy. 
  • Set clear guidelines and expectations of employees while maintaining flexibility with deadlines, medical or family emergencies and mental health.
  • Stay transparent about the actions and decisions taking place within your organization, even if they’re difficult ones to make.
  • Be aware that “working from home does not equate to not working, but it does cause people to work differently,” according to TechRepublic’s Macy Bayern. 

Understand that the COVID-19 outbreak is not only a scary and confusing time, but also a chance to allow your employees to express themselves creatively, and this can benefit your association as a whole. Using time that was previously set aside for your in-person events can now be used for innovation or projects that had been postponed due to lack of time, funding or resources. Your employees will appreciate the chance to work on a project they may be passionate about. Keeping spirits high could mean the difference between your organization successfully or unsuccessfully navigating this pandemic.

How organizations handle the changes brought upon by the coronavirus will be vast and diverse, but they all have one thing in common: Change.

As TechRepublic’s Larry Dignan said, “One thing is certain: The coronavirus is likely to mean the definition of business, as usual, will change.”

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
March 25, 2020
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.