In mid-April, membership directors and managers from across the country, representing institutions both large and small, gathered in Chicago for the 2016 American Museum Membership Conference. A volunteer-led forum, AMMC brings together a closely connected network of dedicated membership professionals to share information, collaborate on new ideas and review best practices in member service and fundraising.

Each day was packed with inspiration and ideas, including this big takeaway: the idea of “engagement.” Digital and social media play an enormous role in today’s fundraising, as nonprofits search for innovative strategies to reach new audiences and retain existing constituencies. So it’s critically important to find ways to connect with and engage your members and donors beyond your walls. The good news is that engagement doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it does take a commitment of time and planning to execute a well-developed plan.

One low-cost idea to engage members is to create a unique member hashtag (e.g., #S&WMember) that members can use when posting photos from their visit to your social media. This is not only a great way for your members to feel more engaged with your organization, but it also helps market visitation and membership to the larger network of your members’ peers. To be successful, it’s important to promote your hashtag anywhere and everywhere you can so members know about it. Also, be sure to respond to your members’ posts when they tag your institution, as a way to acknowledge their visit and thank them for their support.

This kind of economical engagement can have a big impact on member retention as your member’s develop a stronger sense of “belonging” to your community across multiple platforms.

Though “museum” is in the name, AMMC is not just for museum professionals. The learning opportunities and information shared are extremely valuable to any professional serving a nonprofit membership community, including those who work with zoos, aquariums, libraries, historical societies, botanical gardens, etc. The next AMMC conference will be held in fall 2017. Check the website at for more information. See you there!