When Laurie Matheson was brainstorming ways her community league could reduce volunteers’ time spent renewing memberships, she thought: “There should be an app for this!”
The Glastonbury Community League looked at the options currently on the market and decided to design its own app: Communibee.
The first order of business? A way to electronically renew memberships.
“We would have members not renew because they didn’t realize their membership had expired,” Matheson said. “It was just a constant battle to capture our membership base.
“Mainly, we wanted people to have access to a membership digitally — so they could see their card digitally on their phone — and also share a card. So, if I want to use the benefit but my husband is out and he has the (physical) card in his wallet, I can’t necessarily do that. This way, we both can have a version of the card.”
Communibee also has an auto-renew option that residents can turn on if they wish.
Glastonbury resident Graham Murray is also the president of ARC Business Solutions, an IT consulting and product company. The community league fundraised some cash and ARC helped out by developing the app members had envisioned.
“We want to make it available to all community leagues in Edmonton,” Murray said. “There’s 160 as of today. Today we have 40 signed up, hopefully, 80 we’re targeting by the end of the year, and ultimately our goal is to have all 160 signed up.”
With that goal in mind, ARC decided to make the app free to use for all community leagues, non-profits and charities.
“We like to give back to communities so this is one of the examples of us being able to give something back to the city of Edmonton,” Murray said.
“It’s a product that we can market and sell all over the world, so we will make some money eventually from this application, but for now it’s a great community giveback.”
Communibee launched in the summer of 2018. For the first few months, it was just Glastonbury using it to manage its communications. But in just one year, it’s built up quite the following.
“It’s just blown up,” Matheson said. “In terms of getting signed up, it’s a very low barrier. It’s easy to take your current membership data base and import it into the app. All your existing members would immediately have access to a digital membership card.”
Watch (May 13, 2019): The importance of community leagues in Edmonton
Community leagues can customize the app — only using the features that apply to their neighbourhood, including the event calendar, facility rentals and push notifications for things like a change in garbage day or a construction or traffic alert.
“We can send out surveys,” Murray added. “Say there’s a movie night that the community league is organizing four weeks from now. They can send out a survey that says, ‘Hey, we’ve got three movies we’re going to pick from. Make your pick and the majority one gets played.'”
Both Matheson and Murray feel the app is much more effective way to reach residents than social media platforms traditionally used by community leagues.
“It was a huge driver to be able to communicate better with our members,” Matheson said. “Social media is a huge way community leagues communicate and the problem with it is that not everybody sees our content.
“If we’re posting and making events and inviting people to things, maybe 30 per cent of our followers see it or engage with it. It’s tricky to get in touch with everybody. We can send out emails but we don’t know if everybody is seeing them or reading them.
“This way, we have the app, people can opt in to push notifications. If we put out a new event or a new fundraiser… everybody receives a buzz on their phone and they can click right in. It brings them right into that event.”
Murray believes Communibee has wider applications and could be used as an intranet for any type of community — from counties, small businesses, arts groups, property management companies to police forces or schools.