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mobiledeviceAssociations are constantly looking for new ways to connect and engage with members - so what if there was a way for organizations to get their attention from the moment they woke up in the morning? This is a possibility, since 35 percent of people in the US check their mobile apps before they even get out of bed, according to a recent Ericsson survey. It's clear that mobile apps are changing the way people interact today by allowing them to access information at any time and from anywhere.

Although mobile is still a relatively new strategy for the non-profit sector, most organizations have realized that it can be used as another channel to interact with their communities. Many fundraising organizations have started using mobile apps to collect donations and connect with donors, and there are a number of ways associations can take advantage of the mobile trend as well. Mobile apps are proving to be a great way for associations to increase member engagement - they can be used to share events or campaign content, keep members up-to-date with news and engage through social media.

With mobile apps, organizations can better manage their relationships and substantially increase the value of membership. To offer the best experience possible, associations should make sure their mission-critical information is clearly visible to both current and potential members. It's also important to ensure that when members access their profiles and update their information from their mobile devices, data is automatically updated in their membership management software systems. Associations should consider adding more fields, such as social network links, multiple email addresses and photos, and capture these directly in the central database. Additionally, organizations need to ensure that mobile apps are more user-driven so that can members can easily use them to engage and manage their memberships.

Texas Medical Association (TMA) is one example of an association that has taken advantage of this to drive community engagement with its mobile app. The organization's members-who use iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android devices-rely on the app to browse the real-time member directory and find, contact and connect with their peers. The association has found that its mobile app is being used for members to set up appointments, quickly get referrals and keep in touch with friends or business acquaintances. The organization has also discovered that the app also provides a recruitment benefit since only TMA members are allowed full access to use it. TMA has maintained a high quality experience for members who want to carry around and conveniently access the organization with them wherever and whenever.

Mobile apps can be used to take events to the next level. Whether it's a conference or webinar, organizations can provide event attendees with a unique and personal way to interact and exchange contact information with other users of the event app. Associations can create profiles for each event attendee that include a photo, employer name, title and social networking links, and that can be shared and viewed by other app users. This eliminates the need for attendees to collect, save, enter and update all of the business cards they might receive. With mobile technology, associations can also enable members to check in to events, organize their schedules, access venue and street maps, and receive live updates. Mobile devices are helping organizations with event management by allowing them to eliminate paper, and improve the donor and member experience with an interactive and real-time tool.

The Defense Research Institute (DRI) is an example of an association that decided to go mobile and put self-service capabilities directly in the hands of its members, allowing them to manage their presence at, and participation in, the organization's annual conference. DRI created a mobile app available to Blackberry users that enabled attendees to view the conference schedule and floor layout, while accessing session and speaker information via their Blackberry's. Members could also see who was attending, message their peers and create their own schedules for the conference. DRI saw success with its mobile app, with more than half of conference attendees using it to enhance their experience at the organization's flagship event.

With the growing popularity of mobile apps, associations have the opportunity to increase engagement with their communities by reaching them anywhere, anytime, and can also offer members the enhanced mobile experiences they are craving. Whether mobile apps are being used to provide members with up-to-date news on an ongoing basis or at a key event, they can take member engagement to a new level and are a great addition to associations' marketing strategies.

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