By: Amanda Busby, CCC
What a beautiful Saturday in October. The weather is perfect with the sun shining and a gentle breeze blowing. It’s a great day for an Annual Meeting of Members (AM). But wait! It’s 2020 and the world shut down! There’s no in-person AM today for GreyStone Power or any other co-op that I know of.
That was the recurring theme of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Co-ops, such as ours, were forced to use creativity to fulfill the obligations of the co-op bylaws to allow for board elections and obtain a meeting quorum. With the year behind us, co-ops have figured out how to make a pandemic AM work, but with a recurring question. What does a post-pandemic AM look like? Will co-ops return to the pre-pandemic model and incorporate newfound changes?
As I prepared to write this article, I posed this question to other communicators: Will co-ops incorporate new ideas that seemed to work in 2020, or will they go back to a pre-pandemic meeting, without any changes?
In the responses that I received, I found the pandemic has spurred a vast majority of co-ops to think outside the box. For many, it has been a leap into the 21st century by incorporating new ideas and technology into the traditional format. In 2020, co-ops hosted AM through a variety of methods, such as a drive-thru meeting broadcast over radio waves, or a virtual meeting in various forms with online or mail-in voting. While some virtual meetings were live, others were pre-recorded with only the board of directors present, or simply the CEO and board chair present. Regardless of how they met, many found their attendance numbers increased and members liked the new changes.
These changes have become a very important part in the Young Adult Member Engagement (YAME) movement. Finding a way to appeal to younger members can be a difficult task, especially when competing for their time against kids sports or activities, festivals, etc. By introducing a virtual component to the yearly event, younger members will have a more convenient way to participate and stay better informed about their co-ops.
So, as 2021 rolled around, co-ops began looking at ways to merge the new and the old formats, while still practicing social distancing. Many have reported sticking with the virtual format, while others are going back to in-person, but with some variations, such as a live stream for virtual viewers. For our co-op, we are also trying something new. Last year we moved from an in-person family fun event to a pre-recorded virtual meeting. This year, as we celebrate our 85th anniversary and the grand opening of our new headquarters, we will meet in person again, however, we will introduce drive-thru registration for our members. After they have registered, they will have the option of parking and joining the family fun festivities. Activities will include a free breakfast, live entertainment, kids activities, a health fair, linemen demonstrations and multiple booths, featuring EVs, ancillary services, residential energy and member services, and more. Some members may not be ready to participate in public events yet, so they will have the ability to leave after they have registered if they are not comfortable being in public yet.
I think the pandemic has taught us all that change can be good. In a time when we were forced to do things differently, we rose to the challenge and ultimately found new or better ways to engage with our members.
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