With classes and orientation online this coming year and virtually no on-campus community, dozens of student organizations are restructuring their activities and rethinking how they can support students through virtual platforms.
Here are three outstanding cases in online student engagement at Concordia (with tips and resources from each organizations’ content creator!); perfect for if you’re looking to engage your online community or are interested to see how student associations keep providing their amazing services!
Organization: CASA Cares
Content Creator: Dahlia Matz
“At our biggest annual event, the fashion show, we raised over $40,000, with all money going to The Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.”
As CASA Cares is known for their incredibly successful fundraising events, you’d think Covid-19 social distancing measures would be a challenge for this ambitious organization, but the team has viewed it rather as an opportunity to increase their impact and expand their reach using online platforms!
“It was a blessing in disguise as it opened us up to other issues and charities around the world.”
Covid-19 hit Canada, right when their fashion show was scheduled. Although much disappointment came from it’s cancellation, the team remained optimistic.
“It was hard, seeing as it was a year long process to organise, but what was good about it [is it] also happened when it was time for our team to recruit new members. So for most of us, online events is all we know.”
With a brand new marketing strategy the team’s first post-pandemic activity was their “Clothing-19” drive that ended in April, where the community was tasked with putting on 19 items of clothing in under a minute and tagging 5 friends to attempt to beat your time. Through this challenge they raised over $300 for the Canadian Red Cross’s Covid-19 Emergency Response.
“In the past all we’ve done is promote events, but now our focus has shifted to awareness building. We really see it as an opportunity to change what we do, and definitely to expand.”
Throughout pride month, the team organized an educational campaign, where each letter of the word PRIDE highlighted prominent figures, interesting articles and stories from the LGBTQIA2+ community. They’ve also used their platform to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, sharing resources, documentaries, donation links and alternative ways to support the movement.
Their first post-pandemic event was “Revivin’ the Drive In”, a drive-in movie theatre that raised almost $13,000 for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation and was co-organized with the McGill Pediatric Fundraising Team.
“We sold out Mean Girls and sure it was hectic, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It was a great team bonding experience too, as we had only ever met through ZOOM.”
With various other successful campaigns and events under their belt, the team is eager to continue building their work in the coming semesters.
“I’m just so proud of what we know, I just want to let the world know what we’ve accomplished since Covid-19 started. You’d think it would be harder but no, it was just different.”
Tip: “Remain consistent and host events, workshops and panels.”
“Now everyone is seeking out different events that maybe they weren’t [before]. You have an opportunity to increase engagement with followers and gain followers, with everyone being online so much. Use this as an opportunity to get more people to learn about your association, this is the time to do it! I love the events that JSBA (John Molson Supply Chain and Business Technology Association – JSBA) has been organizing. It keeps everyone interested and active. It’s a way to find people with similar interests!”
“We use Slack. Everything is on Slack. We have our own little chats, documents, feeds, and brainstorm sessions. We have one for CASA Cares and we created a whole new one with McGill with various subteams. You get notifications if people ask questions. For us, it works. You can just talk to each other and it’s super clear. You can even react, call and message!”
Give them a follow:
Organization: Waste Not Want Not
Leading Member: Keroles Riad
Waste Not Want Not is a collaborative educational program that seeks to raise awareness on composting, while inciting more sustainable waste management habits. With many of their educational programming happening in classes and at in-person events, the team now has to focus on almost exclusively online sessions.
“We had to learn to do things differently. We can’t do in person activities, like sending ambassadors to events or host our own events either and what’s challenging is that the change was very sudden.”
So their team took to social media with conscious and very consistent content! If you haven’t seen it yet, the #CUcompost campaign is a fun awareness campaign where anyone can submit a picture of themselves with a message about sustainability and compost.
“Our message is very positive, and is not too focused on issues that could add to people’s current anxieties. It’s actually what I enjoy the most right now! At one point we had too many and people were participating everyday! There are around 70 pictures submitted now!”
This summer and fall semester they have been restarting their activities. By leveraging strong professor relationships they’ve managed to hop on ZOOM classes and provide their programming, adapting it to off-campus composting.
“It’s an advantage as we’re learning how to better provide our program from a distance, and moving forward we’ll use those skills post pandemic.”
One of the things that the team has been working on now, is how to replicate what they’ve done outside of Concordia and working online now has better prepared them for this transition.
Tip: “One of the challenges that I see [with student associations] is that there is an event happening and you make a lot of posts and then it passes and then you stop posting and people get disengaged. The worst thing you can do is have people come join your page and be engaged and then you leave them dry. I think this is because you don’t see the pay back right away. It takes a lot of patience. I’ve been posting consistently for three years now, and now I’m finally seeing real engagement. You just have to trust the process and you’ll eventually reach a lot more people that will hear your message and hopefully put it into action!”
Beyond Vanity Metrics (article)
“The main take away for me is that analytics are not there to make us feel good about ourselves. It should help us better understand our audience and what makes a message more effective because the goal is to ensure the message gets across and that people act on it in their own lives.”
Give them a follow:
Organization: The African Student Association of Concordia (ASAC)
VP Communications: Bilingwe Ngwakum
“This is the first time we’ve had to deal with a change like this, we can’t just ask previous execs how to do this.”
For cultural student clubs like ASAC, a lot of their focus is on community building through events and activities that allow members to connect based on shared interests and experiences.After an initial meeting on how to move their activities online, they made their priorities very clear.
“Our main focus was to keep up our presence, to stay active on IG and now we do so through our stories.”
They’ve since had a Black Montreal Business campaign, trivia games, and a meet-the-executive-team “a day in the life of” series to keep their community engaged.
ASAC is known for amazing events like Jukpa, their icebreakers and the cultural gala Uzuri, and with event restrictions still holding, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the academic year.
“For the school year we just don’t know what to expect yet, and we’re still figuring things out. We may have to end up doing a 360 on how we showcase our culture and engage the african community but we’re definitely very excited to put things into action in the fall.””
Normally ASAC isn’t very active in summer but given the current situation the team has decided to build on the momentum from previous years to ensure a strong community come fall!
Tip: “Whatever your association is based around, just keep posting relevant topics to your Instagram or feed.”
“Play games while keeping people informed. With our quizzes, I learned so much about African culture that I didn’t even know!”
Instagram’s Interactive Engagement Buttons (Poll, Questions, Quiz, etc.)
“For example when we promote our events, there is always something we do to boost engagement, so you’re not just tapping through the stories. It’s something that makes them stop and engage with our stories.”
Give them a follow:
If there is anything we’ve learned, it’s that the virtual world is not so different from the offline one. Relationships with people take time to build, people are attracted to authenticity and consistency and finally, creativity and adaptability are your friends! So get posting!
Are you or your organization up to something interesting? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer – Camina Harrison-Chery
CEED Concordia Communications Coordinator