Imagine if you had the resources at your fingertips to help you organize and connect with all of your members at once. Look no further because the Internet has provided us with a plethora of virtual sidekick in the form of online tools.

There are three tools in particular that you need to start incorporating when connecting with your members: to create polls, to create surveys, and to send bulk emails.

The first tool is Doodle, an essential online app you can use to schedule a meeting. This tool is best used to coordinate a group of three to ten members. It allows you to customize meeting options by selecting a range of dates and times of day for your members to choose from. It possesses a great feature to also select a specific time zone for your members who live in different areas of the country to ensure they all have the same meeting time.

Once you have identified possible dates and times have been selected, the poll creator is given a link to send to meeting participants. This link will lead them directly to the poll that you have just created. To participate, they simply provide their name and the times that they are available. When a member participates, you are sent an email from doodle to notify you. This allows you to keep track of those who have participated. Once your members have shared their availability, confirm the date and start planning your meeting.

Unfortunately, a meeting is not always confirmed on the first try. It is difficult to pinpoint the ideal number of options to give your members. Too few options may limit the chances that everyone will be available. Conversely, too many options may be overwhelming and participants may not grasp the importance of making themselves available. If at first you don’t succeed, try restructuring your poll and sending it again.

The second tool is QuestionPro, another important online resource that is very useful to collect information from members. Depending on the purpose of the survey, this would be used to help coordinate a group larger than ten. This is primarily used to gather opinions and thoughts from members. It enables you to create surveys, evaluations and quizzes. Questions can be in the form of multiple choice, rankings, scales or written responses. Answers can be submitted anonymously or by an identified submitter.

When all participants have responded, the results are calculated into a report. This report shows how many members participated, what each member answered and even the average time it took to complete it. With this report, you can easily share your members’ thoughts by sending them all a copy. This will facilitate group discussions because responses will have been communicated with members ahead of time.

This is a free service with the option to purchase upgrades. The complimentary features provide you with more than enough customization for you to create a successful survey.

Campaign Monitor is the third online tool that you may find very helpful. This can be used to communicate with hundreds or thousands of members. It allows you to send an email to a specific list of members all at once. These lists can be exported from your member database and saved for when you need to send your next email. The email can be an announcement, a message from the president or a scheduled newsletter, to name a few. They can be sent in real time or, in the case of the newsletter, prepared in advance and released to your members at a set time every week or month. Multiple templates can also be saved. For example, if members in your association speak more than one language, you can have a template saved in English and another saved in French. This will ensure that your members will receive your message in their desired language.

When your campaign has been sent, a report identifies how many members have opened the email or clicked a link within the email and even how many emails bounced. This allows you to see exactly how your message was received and can help you redesign your message in the future.

Campaign Monitor charges a small monthly fee for its service and additional fees may apply once you have surpassed the allotted number of members within your saved lists. This can be easily managed if you are proactive about updating and removing lists. Another similar option that is completely free for your initial list is MailChimp. It allows you to have up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month at no cost.

As you can see, there are a number of online tools that can make managing the needs of your associations a lot easier than by emailing alone. With these three virtual sidekicks, communicating with your members can become the smoothest part of your day!