The Trade Association Forum (TAF) is the ‘association of associations’.
It helps UK trade associations lead their sectors, share best practice and it promotes the role of trade associations to government, industry and the wider public.
TAF's members represent more than 135,000 UK businesses and include the National Association of Jewellers, the Railway Industry Association, the Road Haulage Association, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, British Pest Control Association and the Federation of Master Builders.
CEO Emily Wallace and Chair Gaynor Pates wanted to give further value to TAF members beyond regular events, awards, resource library and directories by connecting members all year round in a community hub.
Emily and Gaynor explained why they chose Guild as their community platform and how the Trade Association Forum Guild community is improving member growth, engagement and retention.
Why was creating a membership community important to the Trade Association Forum?
“One of the most powerful things a membership organisation can do is help their members to connect directly with each other and share best practice, advice and support.
In TAF's case, they naturally did this at the in-person and virtual events we hosted, but we felt we needed a virtual community hub to provide a year round space to capture conversations and connections.
Our mission is to help our members learn and share best practice. Trade associations share similar operational challenges, even though their sectors vary immensely, and so connecting members to discuss these challenges year-round is hugely beneficial to all.
TAF members can access immensely valuable expertise with events, webinars and research. But sharing how things actually work in practice amongst peers is just as crucial.
One member giving another advice about something they have experienced or worked through is like gold dust.
We wanted to offer our members every opportunity to connect and speak to each other year-round, so we decided to create a virtual community and safe, private member space, that all members can access.
It's inclusive, accessible, supportive and means every member has an equal opportunity to take part.
Events like our Best Practice Exchange offer our members great opportunities to network and listen to business experts, politicians and each other. This year we faced a train strike, but because of our Guild community we were able to make sure that those members who couldn’t attend could still feel involved.”
How have you grown your community and how do you ensure that members stay involved?
“Our member community is at the heart of our membership offering. We list it alongside our social media profiles on our website. At our events we put a QR code in programmes and posters and we add links to our virtual events to make it easy to join.
We know that the more of our members that take part in the community, the more value they get out of it.
The community only launched recently, and half our members are in there. We don’t want people to miss out so we’re always raising awareness of the community by including it in our newsletters and social media - it’s a key TAF member benefit that is only going to grow in value.”
What do your members use your community for?
“The great thing about running a community is that the members get to talk about whatever matters to them, and we can learn from them in the community so that we can support them with events, resources and more.
If there’s something that matters to our members they know that the community is a reliable place to start their research.
For example, our members have been discussing economies of scale and office space collaboration as the WFH/hybrid revolution seems to be here to stay. They’ve shared supplier recommendations, advice on software like CRM, how to find and secure funding and grants, and tackling sustainability issues like carbon assessments."
How has the Trade Assocation Forum benefited from running a community?
“Our members say that TAF is an essential network and at the same time it gives them peace of mind that they’re doing things right.
We’re here to serve our members and through the virtual community they get to tell us what they need from us. They also feel connected to members from other associations experiencing similar challenges and trying out new ideas.
That means their membership is more valuable to them. We’re seeing increasing member satisfaction increase and renewal rates grow.
What tips would you give to other membership organisations wanting to start a member community on Guild?
“Go for it. It’s very difficult to find a one-size-fits-all community platform but Guild comes pretty close.
We considered WhatsApp groups but quickly realised that these were non GDPR compliant. Slack felt too noisy and Facebook and LinkedIn are just 'rented land' - we couldn't integrate them with our systems and at any time they can choose to not support Groups - then we would have had to think about re-platforming the community.
Our community on Guild is branded, it has professional look and feel which is important to our members, it’s easy to use and it's brilliant on mobile.
Our members tell us that it feels like a safe space to have quick chats and to also go deep in to conversations that matter. In a professional context the most important conversations need privacy and focus and that’s what hosting our community Guild offers to our members.”
If you're a Trade Association Forum member, join the community today: Join the Trade Association Forum community
If you are a UK Trade Association, find out more about member benefits on their website. Membership is open to any trade association based in the UK.
(header photo by Negative Space on Pexels)
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