I was getting coffee with a friend of mine, and she was telling me that her association is at the point where it needs a community manager, but they don’t yet have enough work to make it a full-time position. She told me about a few of the options they had considered, including bringing on someone from another department to manage the community part-time. Rightly, though, she worried that injecting another department into the scenario could potentially derail the authentic member community she and her team had worked so hard to build.
So I suggested they find a retired member to fill the position until they had need of a full-timer. Maybe a retiree isn’t your first thought when you think of an online discussion board moderator, but there are a few reasons why retired members make ideal part-time community managers.
They have a willingness to give back to the industry
While this isn’t always a given, if you find the right retiree, they are usually willing to go above and beyond to help their fellow members. That member-oriented attitude is what makes a great community manager great. So before you just pick a name out of a hat, make sure you’ve gotten to know your ideal candidate and that they’ve got that je ne sais quoi.
They have a wealth of industry knowledge to share
If your member made it to retiree status and worked their way to the top of your industry, you can bet that they have a few nuggets to share with your members. This is exactly what you need when you have that pesky unanswered question that no one wants to take on. If your community manager can answer those questions–or tell you who can answer those questions–they will make your job easier on a regular basis. They will also make your community a more reliable source of information.
They generally know what members need (and don’t)
How often do you hear someone say, “well, I know our members are going to want this,” and how often has it been true? My guess is about 50 percent of the time or less. That’s because usually when we do something at an association, it’s a crap shoot. We often don’t do our research–favoring anecdotal instead of quantifiable information. And not that we should be blamed. It takes a lot of time and money to do proper market research–both of which are often in short supply at non-profit organizations. Unfortunately, though, that means we don’t really know our members as well as we think we do. If you don’t have the time or budget to do full-scale market research, a retiree on your staff can be a fairly reliable source of right and wrong in this regard–though not infallible, of course.
They can be forthright and transparent
Because of their status within the association, retired members can usually be totally (and sometimes brutally) forthright and honest with your staff and with your community members. With cache comes the ability to chastise and be taken seriously, and of all of the tools in a community manager’s toolkit, this is the rarest and most difficult to find. Even if you have a full-time community manager on your team, having someone on your team with this kind of golden touch can be a huge asset.
If you find a member willing to take on the job, you can probably bet they are smart, driven, and looking for something new. With the proper support, a retiree can quickly become a master of your community–if they’re not already. However, that drive often means a retired member will want to move on from your community position within a year or two. Make sure that you’ve got another member waiting in the wings when your community manager decides it’s time to take on their next project.
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