This is the fifth in a series of posts for Creating a Web Presence for your Community Group. In this post I will take a look at Event Management for your Community Group.
Community Groups exist for having events – whether they be committee meetings, fund raising or the gatherings that are the reason for the group. Community Groups also have members, and you need to keep in touch with the members, and invite them to the events.
This post will cover how to maintain membership lists, how to email members and people interested in your group, and software to help you run events. This post has been the hardest to do, as there are so many options and it is very hard to pick the best ones to recommend, and that are free, provide the level of features you need, and are not too difficult to use.
Where is your current membership list? it’s probably in an excel spreadsheet, on someone’s home PC, or worse still, hand written in an exercise book that gets handed to each new incoming secretary (and yes, that is a real scenario from a community group I belonged to).
Why do you need a membership list? It is probably part of the constitution of your group, and that probably says you need to keep the name, address and the date they joined, as minimum information. You probably also want to include Phone and Email details.
You can use a Google Docs spreadsheet via your Google Apps for Your Domain account to maintain a list and share it with other members of you committee, and you can even use a Google Form to collect information from your members.
But for full management of all aspects of your members you may want to go with a full CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. There are a few that have free plans such as BatchBook or Wild Apricot (specifically for membership management), and they could be enough for what you need. Wild Apricot is
the only one free online management system I have found that enables members to update their own profiles, but I have not tried it yet to be able to recommend it fully. But see below about MailChimp.
Emails to Members
You need to email members regularly, and unless you have under about 20 members it’s not a good idea to email your members using your email account. Often you can forget to BCC everyone, and you won’t comply with the Spam Act. This is where I recommend using MailChimp. It is a full email management system and it’s FREE for mailing lists of up to 1000 subscribers. You can import your contacts list from anywhere, and it will handle email bounces and unsubscribes for you. You can even put a link from your website to a sign up form to enable people to subscribe to your newsletter automatically.
The great thing about MailChimp is that the sign up form and lists can include most of the information that you need to keep about members, such as Name, Address, Phone Number, Date Joined etc
(however, they can not update this information themselves). So the MailChimp list could be your full membership database. MailChimp also has a powerful groups feature that allows people to sign up to receive information about specific topics.
I really don’t know how I missed this when I first wrote this post – but MailChimp does allow your members to update their own details via the Update Profile link included in each email. This is such a fantastic feature, that I would strongly recommend that you maintain your full membership list inside MailChimp and just let people update it as they wish. At any time you can export your current membership list into Excel or Google Docs to do something like print a list of names onto labels for nametags.
Basically, MailChimp is so good that I would not recommend any other app to do emails to your members or handle your membership lists.
When you run events, you may have large events that the general public can get or buy tickets to. There is a great range of web based apps for running and ticketing of events now. The original (and probably best) app is Eventbrite. The number of features of Eventbrite is quite amazing, including an iPhone app to check people in at the event. Eventbrite is free for free events, and it is simply the best way to organise, promote and manage free events. Unfortunately, for paid events it gets quite expensive. A cheaper option (that I have not tried) is TicketBud. They have a flat fee of US$19.99 to manage a paid event.
Of course, after your successful event, import the list of people who attended the event into your MailChimp subscribers list for emails of future events to those people (assuming you have told people that that’s what you will be doing with their email address when they give it to you).