How Basingstoke Ladies' Choir transformed their communication and strengthened their community — Hazel Green shares their experience.
How did you manage the group before?
Our group had a very limited website, which made members feel a little distant from the choir; it wasn’t easy to use or edit and felt uninspiring, containing only three back-end sections.
We used to communicate via email, using sign-up lists and sharing messages at every choir rehearsal, but ended up finding this a little intense, with too many different elements in play. If you missed a Monday rehearsal, you wouldn't receive important group updates, so you had to check emails or ring someone for the latest news. All in all, it was difficult to stay in touch with what was going on.
Members would spend too much time consulting lists and signing up for events with pen and paper. This lack of digitisation meant that if a slip or cheque was lost, it was gone forever! This approach was also time-consuming and ended up affecting rehearsals, with people arriving at the last minute often disrupting our music making to pay for upcoming events or sort out admin.
The solution? MM Platform by Making Music. This all-in-one platform includes a group management tool, members’ area and customisable website.
Basingstoke Ladies' Choir's current homepage
How has MM Platform helped in the running of your group?
The question should be, 'How hasn’t it helped?!'
While our old website felt a little removed from our group, MM Platform provides a sense of belonging. It has allowed us all to communicate, comment and really feel part of the group! This community and family vibe helps keep all members together, and the way the site is interlinked is great – the user journey from one element to another, whether they be music, photos or events, is seamless. Clicking one song leads to a whole range of useful and related resources, whereas before, multiple steps were required to reach the content we wanted. The email facility is particularly useful, as anyone on the committee can send out important notices, and it's easy to email contacts without revealing their addresses, thus maintaining confidentiality.
Being able to track members' availability is also very handy. When arranging our online AGM, for example, we needed a quorum to discuss and agree to any changes. Chasing people to sign up wouldn’t have been possible without a functional website given there were no in-person meetings through lockdown!
'In a sense, MM Platform has revolutionised the running of our choir, as we all stay in touch and always feel part of the group.'
How have group members found using MM Platform?
I've had plenty of positive feedback, but I'd say it remains a work in progress! Committee members are keen to upload their own documents and share notices with others internally. They were a little tentative at the beginning due to a lack of experience with the admin side of the website, but they are now becoming quite adept and willing to find out and take on more.
Many choir members are not technically minded. Some members who have been with the choir since its inception just did not use technology in the way we do today, but these members – along with everyone else – soon discovered that MM Platform was easy to access. They could mostly find what they wanted immediately – and if not, after a bit of pottering and clicking, they get there!
Were there any unexpected advantages to using MM Platform?
One nice perk has been the ability to create any page you like, without it having to be related to singing. Near the start of the pandemic, we created one page linked to funny quotes, videos and memes to keep everyone's spirits up. We then used this idea for event pages too, and the fact we can create temporary pages allows for flexibility. Within a page, one tab takes you straight to different sections rather than having to navigate multiple windows, which is handy.
MM Platform will also be ideal for promoting events and selling tickets. We've never sold tickets online because the cost on our previous site was prohibitive. Once we set up Platform, however, we could see that sales would be much easier. We hope the ability to sell tickets in advance will discourage potential audience members from leaving it till the last minute and buying on the door. Having made the financial commitment, there is an incentive to attend, and it also means we have a better idea of the size of the audience.
'MM Platform has had a huge, positive impact on our choir. Developed with music groups in mind, Platform already had almost everything we wanted, and we were able to tailor it entirely to our needs.'
Over lockdown, we organised a virtual walk to raise funds for our chosen charity. We were able to spread the word simply by passing on the link for our 'Walk GB' page on our website. Entry fees and donations were all processed through the website. As well as having a choice of ways to donate, it was so easy to keep track of all the money coming in and how much was gift-aided. We were able to update our 'Walk GB' page each week with the amount we had raised and news of our progress. We created a gallery to post photos of the places we'd walked through, and this really helped with keeping everyone in touch and updating one another on how we were doing. Without MM Platform, we don't think the walk would have attracted so much attention or raised as much money!
The group's fundraising page
What was your own experience like working on the new website with MM Platform?
I'd consider myself self-taught! Though I had set up a website with some help for my own business, it was relatively basic: functional, but with very few pages. There was no need to know all the technical jargon, and I had some knowledge of HTML. The help from the Making Music team has always been excellent. Being able to just ring up and ask about various mistakes I made when I needed to – whether they were to do with an events calendar that erroneously appeared in every section, or a bulletin board that appeared on the wrong page – was great as they resolved everything quickly!
As for the future, we still have a few issues to iron out, but we're certain that with time we can sort them. Now that we can look ahead to more in-person events, our concert secretary is finding it especially useful to be able to post info about venues on our listings page and our MD is looking forward to our first concert since lockdown, when he can put us in our places on the riser stacks. Having all our meeting notes in one place will also make it easier to remember what's been discussed as we happily return to music making this summer!
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