Inside the American Optometric Association’s member-first crisis response plan.

The economy is beginning to re-open, but as business leaders know, we are far from escaping the devastating health and financial effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Some organizations closed up shop during the first uncertain months of the crisis, while others, like the American Optometric Association, lept into action. Adam Reider, Manager of Technical Training & Support at the AOA, explains how they implemented a member first crisis response plan that put members’ resiliency above all else.

Sharing Critical Information

“When COVID-19 started sweeping across the United States, we knew instantly that the doctors we advocate for would take a hard impact,” explains Reider. “Overnight, they went from seeing their patients regularly to ‘emergency-only’ scenarios.” The AOA knew that the first thing their members would need is information on navigating this new normal of health care: everything from getting set up for telemedicine visits to applying to Paycheck Protection Program Loans.”

Utilizing Personify360 as their Association Management Software solution, the AOA decided to host instructional webinars for their members and non-members and offer them to anyone seeking information, regardless of their membership status. “This pandemic is impacting every healthcare professional in the world,” explains Reider. “So we did not feel it was appropriate for us to throw up a giant firewall. We want to be able to look back after this crisis is over and know that we truly stood for this profession.”

Waiving Membership Fees

Reider says that the AOA recognized the economic hit doctors would take from not being able to see patients, and so decided to waive members’ fees for two months. And believe it or not, it was hardly as easy as it sounds.

“Our finance team and our IT staff met on a daily basis to figure out how we could do it and track it. With technology in place and collaboration from the team, we found a way to roll this out smoothly for all of our 54 affiliates—plus extending it to new members. Any doctor that joins this year is eligible for that two-month waiver.”

Planning for the Future

Having all of their information in one system allowed the AOA to be proactive and effective, says Reider. “Technology is our digital truth,” he says, “it unites all of our affiliates and allows them to work together.” That connectedness has allowed the AOA to do great things in the here and now—and to plan for tomorrow. “As doctors sign up for our webinars, we are collecting that information and cross-checking it with our member database. It is extremely helpful in planning what we do next: What topics should we cover for future webinars? How do we market them? Which are more engaging for members and for non-members?”

Having a system in place that allows for quick pivots in times of crisis not only helps the members, but the people behind-the-scenes at associations, says Reider. “It’s been very rewarding—the horizon has been very bleak these past couple of months, and it gives you a sense of pride knowing that the work you’re doing is helping the entire profession move forward in this landscape.”

This AOA profile was first published on Associations Now blog on June 18, 2020 as part of an ongoing series profiling the COVID response strategy of Associations. Republished with permission, all rights reserved.