Faith Based Organizations Facing Social Distancing
How do FBOs drive member engagement?
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, governments, in response are declaring national emergencies, imposing travel and transportation restrictions, and erecting quarantine zones. This is forcing Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) to close their facilities and cancel activities. FBOs have responded by posting their lessons and sermons on their websites, so people can listen or watch. While, this certainly helps to give their members a way to hear messages, the experience is distinctly different from what they are used to and is challenging FBOs on how to keep their members emotionally engaged.
With the pervasive trend towards online universities, tertiary institutions have been ahead of the game broadcasting and holding live and recorded classes in virtual modes while keeping students engaged.
What can FBOs learn from Universities?
Depending on their engagement goals, FBOs have a few options.
In a one-to-many engagement mode, there is minimal interactivity. This mode is recommended for broadcasting, live streaming or recorded activities, allowing people to watch live or on their own time without a need to contribute to the experience. This allows leaders or organizations to provide content to their members en masse. In live sessions, the experience can be supported with polling, chat or comment functions to drive engagement among participants. Suitable online platforms include, Audible, Facebook, Podcasts, Vimeo and Youtube.
In a one-to-few tutorial mode there is a need for higher interactivity among participants. This mode is recommended where collaboration is necessary for the full experience and it is usually a facilitated or “leader paced” session. This could be great for small group gatherings and we can think of this in two modes. There is the “Members Only” mode which is a protected or “invitation only” space similar to digital workspaces for employees. “Members Only” mode lends itself to small groups in FBOs and employee collaboration as well. This mode supports the ability to create and edit content, collaborate on projects, and contribute ideas in a safe and secure manner but not necessarily in real-time. Suitable tools and service providers include, Box, Dropbox, and Microsoft Office 365 (One Drive). These tools allow people to leave comments on documents, do secure file transfers and allow all users to see what’s been done by other members. For more real time interaction and interface to the above tools, members can use or add chat/messaging through providers like Slack and Microsoft to their project.
To extend the one-to-few mode experience in a “Members Only” mode, where members can interact among themselves to see and hear each other’s physical gestures and facial expressions. Members can select tools using audio, video and screen sharing capabilities. Suitable service providers include, GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex, Skype and Zoom among others. These tools prioritize interactivity and simplify the technology needed. Zoom–type services are great for smaller and shorter group sessions while Skype-type can support larger and longer group sessions.
In contrast, there is a many-to-many or “Join by Interest” mode where members can interact with one another where FBOs can drive member engagement virtually given current limitations on physical gatherings and can do more outreach and encourage engagement among members. People voluntarily coalesce around a topic of interest with only very light facilitation to do the administration fo the virtual space. Suitable online platforms include, Facebook Groups, Slack Teams, and Virtual Meetup through Eventbrite,
How do FBOs set this up?
The good news is that some of these services can be free for small groups and limited use. For more secure and corporate use, you can expect features, plans and price ranges to fluctuate. FBOs need to understand and negotiate with various service providers on the following:
- Prices – Inquire about free and paid business, enterprise and individual plans. These plans are based on number of users per month using a fixed amount of bandwidth and storage. Typically, monthly prices range from $20-$500 per month.
- Scope – Determine when and if service plans offer appropriate bandwidth and storage, mobile, security and social media integration options.
- Features – Inquire about user friendly applications, interfaces, navigation and privacy options. Opt for cloud-based offerings.
- Training and Support – Inquire about options that should include 24/7 in-person, online and webinars.
Universities are able to successfully keep students engaged and productive for years and FBOs need not worry about the length of this disruption. Instead, FBOs should see the opportunity to leverage new ways to connect even after the effects of CoVID-19 dissipate.
What Do You Think?
I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I have no vested interest in any of the products, firms or institutions mentioned in this post. Nor does the Analyst Syndicate. This is not a sponsored post.