Skip to content
July 2, 2024

The Best of Super Forum: Get Creative with Ribbons and Badges

Among the many high-quality sessions presented at this year’s conference, Super Forum 2024, was a primer on how powerful it can be to use community ribbons and badges to recognize members for their accomplishments. One of our many association customers, ASIS International, is the world’s largest association for security professionals. Its Director of Member Engagement, Monica Escobar, outlined why and how these digital rewards can impact member engagement – and gave some examples of community ribbons and badges that ASIS International has set up in their Higher Logic Thrive Community.

Associations Need to Drive Member Engagement

For your association to experience maximum success, members must see your benefits as indispensable, valuable, and a consistent part of their professional lives. Engagement is crucial for member-to-member connections, learning and support, retention, new membership referrals, volunteer participation, advocacy participation, and more.

So your goal, throughout the member lifecycle, is to move members up the engagement ladder, all the way from new member to association ambassador. This is done by cultivating content, connections, and benefits, and delivering those things in meaningful and gratifying ways using tactics such as personalization, segmentation and targeting, interactivity, and robust discussions.

Encouraging active engagement in your online community is the key to achieving the member engagement you’re looking for. Community takes your association’s impact beyond just one event, an email, or the information they can get on your website. Your online community is where members, through participation, start forming deeper relationships with the organization.

How Does Gamification Improve Community Engagement?

So we’ve established that member engagement is important and that your online community is a key channel for driving that engagement. Now how do you get members engaged in that community?

Ever notice how games of all kinds rarely have a problem keeping players engaged and coming back? Associations have a lot to learn from game design and theory – you may have heard the term “gamification” which describes a strategy of applying game principles in non-game contexts.

Example: Think about how you may have studied a foreign language in school vs. How the Duolingo app approaches language learning through entertainment, rewards, and by creating a sort of “FOMO” or “fear of missing out” if you don’t keep up with your learning and lose your streak. Same goal, but two very different experiences.

Gamification taps into psychological aspects of human behavior such as our instincts for competition, achievement, rewards, and a sense of accomplishment. In this way, it can play a large role for associations in increasing member engagement and time spent with the organization.

  • It makes the routine exciting and fun.
  • It can steer members in the direction you (and they) want them to go.
  • It uses a structure of incentives and rewards tailored to your target audience.

Ideas for Ribbons and Badges You Can Use in Your Online Community

This brings us to the actual rewards and incentives: in this case, in the form of digital ribbons and badges. If you’ve ever been to an in-person event where attendees rush to the ribbon wall to load up their nametag with ribbons, it’s the same concept on their community profile – many members like displaying their accomplishments for their peers.

In her Super Forum 2024 session, Monica shared several types of ribbons and badges you can use to reward your members, gamify community engagement, and incentivize participation.

Membership Ribbons

ASIS International uses Membership ribbons to honor how long each member has been part of their association and dedicated to the organization. If you use a similar structure, your association could offer ribbons any set timepoints that work for you – such as every 1 to 5 years. These ribbons help other members easily identify peers in the online community who have been around the longest and have a high level of expertise, and peers who are new and might be looking for support and connections.

ASIS International’s membership ribbons reset if a member lapses, which incentivizes members not to let their membership lapse – and they offer members the option to pay back dues to restore their tenure. Monica shared that many members – as many as 98% – choose to pay their back dues to keep that ribbon because it gives them recognition in the community among their peers.

Recruitment Badges

Word of mouth is a powerful member acquisition strategy for associations. (People are more easily convinced when they hear from someone like them compared to getting a sales or marketing pitch).

If you’re looking to get members more involved in sharing the value of your association with their peers, think about offering a Recruitment Badge that rewards members for bringing new members into the association. This not only helps remind members to spread the word, and incentivize your word-of-mouth marketing, it can also help you measure (and share with leadership) how effective and active your member-to-prospect recruitment is.

Credential & Education Badges

ASIS uses Certificate Badges and Certification Badges to recognize each members’ continuing education and professional development (offering credentialing badges like these that members can share in the community and externally is even easier when you have Higher Logic Thrive Credentialing).

Certificate, Event, and Education Badges celebrate each member’s completion of association courses or events and call out the member’s proficiency in specific areas. The badges themselves can also link to the course’s webpage to encourage other members to take the classes and attain the certificate (and you could work with your marketing team to create UTM links that allow you to track how many people click from those badges).

Taking a course requires effort and dedication, so giving a badge when members complete it is gratifying for members – like how rewarding it feels to get a diploma or PDF certificate after you’ve completed a class. Not only does this recognition from the association reward your members and raise awareness for your educational programs, but it may also increase members’ stature within their wider industry because their peers, employers, and potential employers can see all their skills highlighted on their community profile.

Certification Badges serve as a visible acknowledgement of a member’s mastery of an industry body of knowledge. Certification is a major commitment and achievement for your members, so it’s something you should absolutely be recognizing and celebrating. Having a badge calling out members’ certification(s) can also serve as an endorsement of their expertise. If you have stacked credentials, think about making the badges increasingly flashy or having a capstone badge for individuals who achieve all the certifications in your stacked set – for example, ASIS International has a special “triple crown” badge for those who hold certain collections of certifications.

Just like with other badges in this list, having a certification badge can also increase other members’ (or even nonmembers’) awareness of your certification.

Volunteer & Committee Badges

For many associations, your volunteers (including volunteer committee members who help guide your organization) are the heart of the association. They dedicate their time to helping your association and their fellow members. Why wouldn’t you recognize them for all their hard work and their commitment to bettering their industry? One way to celebrate their contributions is through – you guessed it – a community badge or ribbon!

ASIS International, for example, has a Steering Committee Badge given in recognition of people who serve on the association’s various steering committees. The badges denote whether someone served as a Member, Chair, Vice-Chair, or even Emeritus after they’ve completed their service.

Again, these badges can link to the open volunteer opportunities, committees, or programs the committees oversee to increase awareness of your programs and foster participation. Committee badges, in particular, not only reward the members who receive them, but also help your association create transparency into who is leading your initiatives and how other members can take on leadership roles in the organization if they want to.

Chapter Ribbons

If you’re an association with chapters or regions, help members share their chapter/region pride and recognize other members in their area! Chapter ribbons are something you could set up to apply automatically upon membership, immediately personalizing each member’s experience in the community when they join.

Believe it or not, some members aren’t aware of which chapter they’re in (some associations have a lot of chapters – for example, ASIS International has over 240 chapters worldwide), so the designation also helps them keep track!

Leadership & Super User Badges

Taking the time to learn about your members AND give back is so important. One great application for community ribbons and badges is celebrating your organization’s leaders – whether they’re official leaders, like your president, board members, or trustees – or leaders within the online community, like your community administrators or Super Users.

  • Having leadership badges let’s all your members know who is helping guide the association forward, and helps members aspire to leadership.
  • Super User ribbons reward members for high levels of active and ongoing engagement and even help spark competition between members who may be inspired to ask what they need to do to start appearing on the leaderboard. (Plus, your association can build and maintain a list of super users for segmented communications that leverage them).

Staff Ribbons

Don’t be afraid to use ribbons and badges for simple identification too. If you want your members to be able to easily identify association staff in the community so they know who to reach out to for support, staff ribbons help accomplish this.

Community Ribbons and Badges – Low Effort, High Reward

How do you know badges and ribbons matter? Monica shared that it’s very common for ASIS International members to reach out if they’re not seeing a badge they’ve earned on their profile. The ribbons and badges MEAN something to the members, because ASIS International took the time to think through what experiences and accomplishments members take pride in.

Higher Logic Thrive, meanwhile, is built to make the staff and management side of ribbons and badges easy. Monica shared how much she loves setting up automation rules to automatically apply ribbons and badges when a member meets the criteria. So managing and delivering of badges and ribbons can be low effort, leaving staff more time to focus on positioning members to earn future acknowledgments.

Higher Logic Thrive Community makes engaging members easy. Learn more about our built-in community ribbons and badges, automation rules, and add-ons like Higher Logic Thrive Credentialing and see how we can help you!

Sarah Spinosa

Sarah Spinosa is the product marketing manager for the association line of business at Higher Logic. Sarah is a veteran of the association industry, with over 15 years of marketing experience. She had been using Higher Logic products for nearly a decade prior to joining the Orange Army in February 2022. She has also worked with SaaS organizations. Sarah served on the 2023 ASAE MMCC Program Advisory Council and as an ASAE Gold Circle Award judge.

Sarah holds a BA in Political Science from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two rescue dogs in northern Virginia.