How an Idea Went From Pilot to Chapter Buy-In to Success
As boomer members retire, associations are experimenting with new ways to prove the value of membership to millennials. A couple of millennials at the American Nurses Association (ANA)came up with an innovative idea and plan to help ANA and its components connect with thousands of nurses of all generations.
Strategic, innovative and fun:#fitnursefriday
“We have a lot of great ideas we want to bring to the table, and this one was something we both had been thinking about,” said Natasha Bethea, Former Senior Specialist for Constituent/State Nurses Associations Membership Marketing at ANA.
Natasha, along with her colleague Nikki Brown, Former Senior Marketing Specialist at ANA, are part of a cross-functional team whose charge is to launch member engagement projects that can be integrated with other association-wide initiatives. These projects have to be easily and inexpensively implemented and result in a targeted impact and early success.
Nikki and Natasha proposed their idea to the team: #fitnursefriday, a social media campaign promoting a healthy lifestyle for nurses.
Every week, ANA shared social media posts with tips on how to be a fit nurse. Designed to be conversation starters for the nursing community, these posts covered exercise, healthy eating, motivation, hydration, sleep, and stress reduction.
They decided upon a social media initiative since ANA already had a large following on Facebook. Their goals for the #fitnursefriday campaign were:
- Drive community engagement
- Increase ANA’s visibility
- Spark member-to-member interaction
- Give members opportunities to participate in a community initiative
- Provide value to members
How to sell a new idea to your colleagues
It wasn’t so difficult to sell their idea to the member engagement team because their idea aligned with an ANA “grand challenge” already in the works: Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation, an initiative designed to transform the health of the nation by improving the health of America’s 3.6 million registered nurses.
And, with 2017 being named by ANA as the Year of the Healthy Nurse, #fitnursefriday fit right into the association’s strategy. Nikki said,
“We brought the team a fun idea that could positively impact our members and state associations. But, we also brought a concrete plan that included tactics for implementing our proposed program.”
The explosive growth of #fitnursefriday
One of the charges of ANA’s member engagement team is to start projects as Minimum Viable Products (MVPs)—products developed with only enough features to satisfy early adopters. These early adopters provide feedback that informs further product development. The team uses MVPs to test new engagement ideas, figure out how to measure success, and how to tie engagement back to ANA’s strategic goals.
#fitnursefriday started as a pilot that was supposed to run for only 90 days. “We weren’t even sure if members would be interested,” said Natasha. “But, after 90 days, engagement was really good so we were able to continue.”
“We were very deliberate with our goals and messaging,” said Nikki. “Our communications department helped us prepare something to share each Friday—posts with wellness tips and quotes—something to start a conversation, move our nurses, and nurture a community.”
Soon, #fitnursefriday took on a life of its own. “Nurses felt more connected because of this thing they do every Friday.” Natasha said.
Members and non-members posted photos taken after a run, healthy snack ideas, and other wellness tips. After the conversation stopped on Friday, nurses still had the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation group on Facebook where they could stay updated on what’s going on with each other.
The #fitnursefriday movement evolves
A little over a year after launching their #fitnursefriday campaign, their next fun idea was launched: #fitnursefriday5K. This virtual nationwide event was designed to encourage nurses to run in local 5Ks or run on their own time at their own pace.
The biggest skepticism they ran into this time was the budget. Since the #fitnursefriday initiative was only a social media campaign, it didn’t require much of a budget, but this one was different.
They wanted to develop resources for their components and a nationwide reporting tool that allowed nurses (both members and non-members) to record their 5K participation and allowed ANA to aggregate results by state (component). Luckily, as a result of the cross-departmental collaboration already in place, other ANA departments chipped in time and money.
How to get chapter buy-in to your idea
ANA wanted its components—50 constituent and state nurses associations—to support the #fitnursefriday programs and understand how to leverage them as part of their member recruitment and engagement efforts.
At the ASAE Annual Meeting this year, Natasha and Nikki shared advice for engaging and retaining millennial talent—advice that could also be applied to engaging chapters in a new initiative. Here’s a quick look at their tips.
#1 Bring chapters to the table
- Encourage a collaborative culture.
- Provide opportunities for them to contribute.
- Provide and allow focused feedback.
#2 Empower and challenge them to take the initiative
- Be results-focused: allow time for more project-based work, i.e., relieve their administrative duties.
- Adapt your management style: no one wants to be micromanaged.
- Listen: be objective and welcome new ideas.
- Do what you can to bridge the gap between national and chapters.
#3 Provide professional development opportunities
- Provide mentoring and education, like a chapter leader conference.
- Encourage cross-functional partnerships, or cross-network and association-chapter partnerships.
One more piece of advice from Natasha:
“Pilot, pilot, pilot. Sometimes you might only have three components that want to get onboard, that’s fine, work with those three. When great results start happening, everyone else is going to want to get on board.”
Helping chapters implement your idea
“I don’t think #fitnursefriday would have grown to be as big as it was without our state associations,” said Natasha. “They played a major role in promoting this program.” ANA made sure they could play that role by providing promotional resources.
They put together a tool kit for components that included graphics, sample social media posts, and sample emails—“all the key elements and messaging points we want the states to convey to their audiences,” said Nikki. “Although it’s an ANA initiative, we wanted the states to feel like they’re part of it. All the content in the tool kit was customizable so states could add additional messaging that reflected their organizational goals.”
ANA also hosted an online community where states could find help, get information, and download resources like the tool kit.
Tying #fitnursefriday’s success back to ANA’s strategic goals
The member engagement team established three goals for the #fitnursefriday programs:
- Discover innovative technology solutions to increase ANA’s digital presence.
- Drive engagement with the nursing community and its supporters, including the state associations.
- Increase ANA’s visibility and engagement across social media platforms.
They met those goals quickly. In the first 6 months of #fitnursefriday:
- They reached 4.5 million people on Facebook and Twitter
- #fitnursefriday5K had a goal of 500 nurses
- In 2016, 678 nurses participated
- In 2017, 2,244 nurses were out there running.
The collaborative role played by ANA’s components
“The #fitnursefriday5K program was very popular with our state associations,” said Natasha. “They even started organizing their own virtual 5Ks—that’s what we want, for them to feel empowered and know they could do it too.”
The state associations took ANA’s idea and ran with it. (Sorry, some puns can’t be resisted.) As a result, ANA’s visibility was increased all over the country. In 2016, 22% of the virtual 5K participants were non-members. And, this year, 42% were non-members.
Through the registration process, ANA can track which participants are members and which are nonmembers. They correspond with the non-members and tell them about the benefits of becoming an ANA member.
They also provide this registration data to the states so the components can talk to non-members about joining, and to members about ways to get more involved. Natasha said,
“We generated leads for our state associations—and let them see once more the value in working with us.”
If you want to create a better partnership with your chapters, find an idea that will energize them, like ANA did. Come up with a program your chapters can get behind and make their own—not something that’s focused on your association, but something that’s focused on the people in your industry or profession.