Many associations have a mission that is partly focused on connecting members to one another and the outside world.
So for good reason, association websites often include a directory of members that helps connect website visitors to people within the association.
How do we create this directory? By combining experience with customization.
Let's look at an example: Brain surgeons like to get together. In fact, there are societies of neurosurgeons all over the world.
These societies are all linked together by the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS). In designing the WFNS site, Orbit aimed to connect visitors to these groups.
How best to design it? Start with a world map. Organize the list alphabetically by location. Make the list printable. In other words, keep it easy for the user.
This website doesn't show a complete list of the members of each society, and members don't have to share all their information with the public.
In some cases, we create member directories that are password protected - available to members only. And of course, access to the directory is managed by the association through Mighty-Site, Orbit's content-management system.
Member-Driven Directories and Database Integration
Large associations often manage their member information in databases. This might be something built in Microsoft Access, or it could be a piece of database-management software with the letters MIS in the name.
It's the central place where all member information is managed. In an ideal world, some data from this system is available on the association's site, in the public directory - and it gets there automatically.
This one-way stream of communication can save the time and energy of manually moving information from the association's database to the website database.
Or take it a step further: If a member's contact information changes, allow her to log in and make updates herself (rather than contacting the association). When members manage their own profiles, it creates two-way communication between the databases, saving the association time.
The Commission on Rehabilitation Councilor Certification (CRCC) sets the standards for rehabilitation councilors. In addition to keeping those standards high, they maintain a database of thousands of certified councilors.
This group needed a website that would connect visitors to councilors with various specialties and language skills. Need a mental health expert who speaks Bengali?
Orbit created the tools to open that two-way communication. The website grabs updated member information from the database; the database grabs member information that was updated on the website. It's like exchanging telegrams in the form of CSV files.
It's great when databases get along.
Website or Association-Management Tool? Both.
A directory is a logical feature for an association website. And it's a good idea to connect this directory to an existing database.
But what if the website is the database? No need for integration!
All it takes is little more planning and a little more programming; with good strategy and a strong development team, all kinds of things become possible.
Here is a list of features (beyond member directories) that Orbit has built into association websites:
Events are central to the Illinois Venture Capital Association (IVCA), so their website is event centric.
Calendars, registration tools, online payment, reports, and registration lists - together this set of website features drives the management of IVCA conferences, workshops, and seminars. The website even creates the name tags that registrants wear at these events.
What else does the site do? It manages newsletter content. The site administrator selects all dated information from the database (events, articles, job postings, etc.) to be included in the newsletter.
With a few clicks, the formatted newsletter appears. The content can then be modified, saved, copied, or pasted into an e-mail-delivery service like Constant Contact.
All of this is possible through an enhanced version of Orbit's Mighty-Site, so all association-related data and activity stays in a central location.
The site facilitates all kinds of communication and streamlines all sorts of processes. The website is more than marketing; it is management.
Interested? We would be happy to share with you our experiences and help you understand the potential opportunities involved in achieving your goals.
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