Recent Avectra Blog Posts

Membership Practices of Associations With High Retention Rates

Deirdre Reid : July 16, 2014 6:00 am : Uncategorized

Do you ever wonder how your association’s membership practices stack up against others? Maybe you don’t because you know that every association is unique given the profession or industry it serves and its size, budget, location, culture, along with a host of other factors. But I can’t help but wonder what thriving associations are doing that others are not.

I found some answers in Marketing General Incorporated’s 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. This year’s benchmarking survey was completed by 865 association executives, with another 178 executives completing some portion of the survey for a grand total of 1,043 responses.

I’m going to focus on what’s happening at associations with renewal rates of 80 percent or higher, but if you haven’t already, check out Associations Now’s coverage of some of the major findings and interesting tidbits from the report. Download the report for yourself so you can get more detail (and ideas) on membership practices.

Associations with renewal rates of 80 percent or higher raise dues annually. Apparently, members don’t mind paying more when they know they’ll receive high value in return for their dues investment.

They’ve added member research and mobile apps to their benefits package. With the increase in competitors providing content to your members, find something unique and valuable to provide, like member research. If you deliver what your members seek to the palm of their hand, even better.

Their top methods for creating brand awareness are personal sales calls and association-sponsored events. The personal touch is always effective for making an impression and mobilizing members to action – as long as you can get past their voicemail! Look beyond your conference and trade show for branding opportunities. Become more open to your professional community by hosting happy hours, small group lunches or dinners, tours, community service events and free webinars. Don’t be so predictable and boring – experiment!

Word-of-mouth recommendations are the most effective method for recruiting new members. Members are your best ambassadors. Reward them for sending prospects and recruits your way. Share written and video testimonials on all your digital platforms.

Members join for discounts on products or meetings. That’s not usually the primary driver for joining an association but if you have these “golden handcuffs” then you’re likely to have a competitive edge.

They use volunteer or staff welcome phone calls and/or mailed welcome kits to welcome new members. MGI pointed out that fewer associations are using these methods — the email welcome is outpacing them — but those who do have higher retention rates than those who don’t. Test what works best with your new members.

Engagement doesn’t always mean committee service or volunteering. Associations that reported growth have also seen an increase in event, education and webinar attendance, purchases of products and services, and members-only website visits. The biggest percentages were for webinar attendance and visits to the members-only section of the website — online engagement makes a difference.

Increasing non-dues revenue from members is a top goal for them. Members who spend money, beyond dues, on webinars, subscriptions, products and event registrations are becoming more tied to your association — that’s engagement their way. If they rely on you for their professional and/or personal development, or for the tools that help them do their job or make more money, they’re engaged.

They start the renewal process three or more months prior to expiration. Emails get lost in the inbox. Or, they get forwarded to someone else to pay who also has a full inbox. Build some time into the process.

They extend renewal efforts more than three months after expiration. Give your expiring members time to second guess themselves. Make your case – they need you, right?

Direct mail is their most effective membership renewal channel. The inboxes on our desk aren’t nearly as cluttered as our email inboxes. Remember to test and to personalize direct mail.

They offer installment renewal payments and automatic annual Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). It should be as easy to pay your association bill as it is to pay your Visa bill – and hopefully a lot less painful.

 Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who loves benchmarking reports.

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AICPA 2014 – Five Takeaways To Help Your Organization Detect Fraud

Dan Murphy : July 14, 2014 4:50 pm : Accounting & Finance, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, Process

I recently attended the AICPA Not-For-Profit national conference and was able to speak to nonprofit leaders and auditors about fraud in their organizations. A common refrain I heard was that their organization was too small to have to worry about fraud. Others believe they can trust everyone in their organization, so there is no need to protect against fraud. Unfortunately, everyone who has had it happen to them felt the same way at one time.

Too often there are stories in the headlines about employees taking money from nonprofit organizations, overshadowing the efforts of other employees who are working diligently to move the organization’s mission forward. It is astounding to see how easily fraud is committed within these organizations when due diligence is not taken and available tools are not put in place to help detect this type of activity early on.

Don’t let fraudsters thwart you and your donors from achieving your mission!

Here are my top five takeaways from the AICPA Not-for-Profit Industry Conference on how your organization can easily detect fraud:

  1. Put the processes and tools in place to alert you of suspicious financial activity. This means that your accounting solution should be able to notify you when employees may be engaging in activities that could be detrimental toward your organization, such as when a vendor name is changed or when an employee writes a check to himself. Software automation can help turn good internal controls into great internal controls.

  2. Create a culture of transparency. In small organizations, employees may seem more like family members than business associates or employees. It must be a priority for leadership to create a culture of transparency within the organization. A few key components to creating a transparent culture is to ensure all leaders within the organization are onboard, communicating vital issues to employees on a regular basis, treating employees like adults when delivering bad news and preparing managers to answer tough questions. All employees should be subject to the same checks and balances, despite their title or tenure.

  3. People often steal money over a number of years from a series of small transactions. Headlines talk about the large amounts of money that fraudsters steal from an organization. Many times this is accomplished through a large number of small transactions. This means that it is important to have segregation of duties in place to ensure financial reports, bank and credit statements, expense reports, and any other important financial records are appropriately monitored by several people. Having the right technology available can make this easier for your organization.

  4. Checks and balances are extremely important to ensure that all employees, especially your most trusted employees, have their activity monitored within your accounting technology. Making sure that the security settings are appropriately configured within organizational technology is extremely important during set up and implementation. It is also important to audit these settings periodically, as business processes and internal roles change over the lifecycle of the organization. It is important to ensure that job titles appropriately align with the user rights within all organizational technology.

  5. Offer an anonymous hotline for staff members to report suspicious or unethical behavior. Especially in small organizations, employees may be reluctant to blow the whistle on other employees with whom they have a close relationship. Setting up third-party hotlines and/or e-mail addresses is easy, inexpensive, and could be the most effective option you have when it comes to exposing fraud from your most trusted employees.

For more information on detecting fraud in your organization register for this live webinar, Putting the Tools in Place to Detect and Deter Fraud.

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New Association Represents Reality TV

Lyn Slater : July 11, 2014 3:47 pm : Association

While there are numerous trade groups and associations with long histories in the entertainment business, most notably the Motion Picture Association of America, until recently no group has represented the interests of producers and crew working in the country’s bustling reality television industry. With new reality shows launching practically every week, unscripted television is big business in the U.S. For those working behind the scenes, finding a job on an unscripted show is often a way to get their foot in the door in an extremely crowded Hollywood job market.

Unfortunately, recent reports have surfaced of employees in reality television working under difficult circumstances. A series of reports on the popular entertainment blog Gawker has revealed that pay and working conditions have raised concerns among those in the industry. As one anonymous reality producer told Gawker, the situation is often quite dire: “My best hope is a huge lawsuit for production companies who set the working conditions…More people will have to die or get hurt in order to change the reality TV industry. If audiences quit watching reality shows, duh… the networks will make other kinds of shows. 

These troubling reports may have been one of the driving forces behind the news this week of a new association, the Nonfiction Producers Association, a new trade group designed to promote and grow the reality television industry.

As reported by Variety, “The launch of NPA comes on the heels of a deal-making frenzy during the past two years that has seen a slew of sizable independent unscripted producers scooped up by larger congloms in the U.S. and overseas, from Time Warner and Discovery Communications to U.K.’s ITV and Tinopolis to France’s Banijay. That process has been part of the maturation of unscripted business to a point where industry leaders believe that a trade org focused on the unique needs of the reality-docu sector was necessary.

‘These companies are all maturing at such a quick pace,’ Feldman told Variety. ‘The unscripted arena has gone from the Wild West to a mature business. In talking to people in the business, there was a real desire among some companies to figure out a way in which they could speak with one voice.’”

This new association will represent the interests of workers who have raised concerns about conditions, and also provide a platform for new complaints. Member companies will further benefit by having a voice for the broader industry when it comes to legislative issues, new innovations, and more.

The NPA has agreed that worker reality employee concerns regarding pay, benefits and other issues are valid concerns and have vowed to look into the issue. According to Associations Now coverage, “’Part of the motivation for doing this is to be a place where everybody can get together to find an intelligent, common-sense way to solve these problems,’ said Feldman, a former president and CEO of the National Association of Television Program Executives. ‘These companies have all had conversations with lawyers, and parameters are being set for the industry. We’d like to get everyone in an association to give their thoughts on the best way to handle these issues.’”


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Electrifying Digital Relationships and Online Giving

Amy Quinn : July 10, 2014 4:34 pm : Fundraising, Grants & Giving, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights

Sometimes, for better or worse, we realize how connected we are to one other.  Fortunately, Acts of Kindness  seem to reverberate in the nicest way. Even the constant frenzy of digital activity on our cell phones, computers, or tablets serves to remind us that we’re always staying in touch, even if remotely and in some synthetic fashion.  When applied to fundraising, it’s worth asking if digital technology brings us closer, or perhaps farther apart, from our donors? From my point of view, with regard to online giving, I’ve got good news to share.

Let’s begin with the numbers. In 2013 online giving grew by 13 percent over the previous year. Monthly giving increased by 25 percent in 2013, accounting for 16 percent of total online giving. Nonprofit websites, third party online portals, employee giving campaigns and peer-to-peer platforms also experienced growth.  Although response rates were 11 percent less than in the previous year, email fundraising accounted for 33 percent of overall online giving. (Source: 2014 eNonprofit Benchmark Study)

As donors learn to make their gifts through a variety of online channels, technology is enabling charity. We are connecting with supporters through digital tools. We Are Social suggests that “digital connectivity is becoming increasingly like electricity”!

Do you have a high-voltage online giving program?

Here are four ways to spark your online interactions: 

1. No “One-Offs”

Study your overall online giving data versus just one campaign sourced by email. Identify the combination of outreach that touched your supporter using social media, email, website interactions, mobile, peer-to-peer, and third party sites. Consider which online channels worked most consistently over the year. Integrate your communication data for a more complete picture.

2. Branded Versus Generic – Personalize Landing Pages

According to the Network for Good Digital Giving Index, 2013, branded landing pages raised six times more money than a generic page, or $139 versus $105 for an average donation. Creating continuity through consistent messaging and visuals increases the chance of higher donations in addition to keeping your supporter emotionally connected.


3. Fluidity and MetricsGiving behavior graphic

In 2013 website visits grew by 16 percent. Make sure your website is easy to read and navigate, and that it offers a seamless mobile experience or, in other words, adopts “responsive design” practices. 

Understand your user by developing a website persona: “personas are fictional characters with real-world attributes that represent your customer/constituent base” (Source: Wikipedia).   

Your website is the “base of operations” for your constituents. Get to know how they interact with your site! Sean Hudson, COO, of Denver-based Vermillion, an interactive and design agency, recommends setting up Web analytics to track traffic, search queries, social demographics, social media use and advertising impact.

4. Raise Big Money on Small Screens

Abila’s recent infographic maintains that 49 percent of the general population use smartphones regularly. Nonprofits don’t want to be left behind. According to the 2013 Chronicles of Philanthropy Technology guide, “nonprofits are taking diverse approaches to make it easy for people on smartphones and tablets to give.” Consider text messaging, customized apps, integration with other digital mediums and gaming. For some inspiring examples see “Racing to Get Ahead of the Mobile Explosion” or “What every nonprofit should know about Mobile: Lessons from Global Development Nonprofits”. To test your email’s adaptability to mobile devices try Litmus.

Although nothing can replace face-to face opportunities, digital tools still electrify your interactions and augment donor relationships.  The more seamless the digital experience, the higher impact on charitable donations.

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Nonprofit Workplace Culture: Providing a Healthy Workplace

Lyn Slater : July 3, 2014 5:55 pm : Association Best Practices, Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, People & HR

We’ve talked before about the association and nonprofit organization as an employer and workplace, and steps you can take to promote a great workplace culture to attract and retain top quality employees. Now that the economy is doing better – the Dow just broke 17,000 for the first time and there were 288,000 new jobs created in June 2014 –employee recruitment and retention is going to be an even hotter topic. One aspect of workplace culture we have yet to discuss is promoting healthy living among your employees.

This is important for a number of reasons. With two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese, healthy living has become paramount—and promoting this topic in the workplace (where most of us spend eight- plus hours or more per day sitting at a desk) is vital. Additionally, workplace health programs are popular with employees. Thanks to the Internet, more information about healthy lifestyles is available than ever before, and health and fitness trends (such as Crossfit, juice cleanses, and gluten-free diets) are sweeping social media. Tap into this audience among your employees, and encourage everyone to improve their health.

Why, you might ask? Well, for one thing, it can improve productivity. Studies have shown that regular exercise and a healthy diet improves sleep habits and accelerates focus and brain activity, which will lead to more productive employees bringing their best ideas and energy to the table. Additionally, healthier employees obviously means fewer sick days. We’ve all seen it before, the “domino effect” during cold and flu season: one person comes down with a bug and one by one employees start calling in sick. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that the flu alone costs U.S. employers over $10 billion per year.

Here are some ideas to get you started promoting health and wellness in the workplace?

Got a Meeting? Take a Walk!The West Wing, a popular show about staffers in the White House featured the infamous “walk and talk,” with characters walking briskly down a hallway while making decisions and crafting strategy. The creative team behind the program probably thought this approach was more visually interesting than watching people seated around a table, but it’s not a bad idea to get people up and moving during the day. While this approach may not be feasible for meetings with more than three or four staffers, it’s a no-brainer for smaller brainstorming sessions. Walking meetings are a great way to get out of the office for fresh air and exercise, and are endorsed by the American Heart Association.

Consider “Active” Workspaces – While most people have seen colleagues sitting at their desks on exercise balls before, there are a number of ways to integrate daily activity into the drudgery of a desk job. Many workplaces are now offering employees the opportunity to work at a “standing desk” for part or all of the day, as health experts agree that even standing still to work is better than sitting for the duration of the day. To take the idea even further, some offices have installed “treadmill desks” for employees who would like to keep moving throughout the day.

Organize Company Sports Clubs – Active workspaces and walking meetings are great ideas to encourage employees to move during the day, but they aren’t always convenient or possible for everyone. But never fear, there are other options that are not only great ways to encourage exercise, but also promote a fun and collaborative workplace culture. Why not start up sports clubs in the office? While many dread the idea of the company softball team, many other options exist these days. Running and triathlon events are more popular than ever, an office running club could meet before or after work to get in some miles and have fun. For the less athletic among your employees, many cities even offer leagues for adult kickball teams and other more casual sports that are less intimidating, but still get people moving.

What are some ways your office promotes health and fitness? Let us know in the comments!

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Adopt the Turnaround Mindset at Your Association

Deirdre Reid : July 2, 2014 9:00 am : Association, Association Best Practices, Social CRM for Associations, Strategy

The budget’s approved. The consultant’s contract is signed. Your existing data is clean. What else do you need to prepare for the successful selection and implementation of a new AMS? Yes, the title gives it away: you need a turnaround mindset.

Looking back several years to my last AMS selection and implementation, my association did not have a turnaround mindset – which probably explains why we drove our AMS support team crazy, and, even worse, imploded once the recession hit.

At the recent digitalNow conference in Nashville, Kevin Whorton (president, Whorton Marketing & Research) and Lance Clark (associate vice president of membership and student development, American Pharmacists Association) explained how to apply the turnaround mindset to association “business.”

Embrace your turnaround

The need for a turnaround is obvious when you’re faced with a challenge, for example, declining revenue or membership. Something has to be done if you’re going to remain in business. The need is not so obvious when leaders don’t see the gap between their perception of the association and the reality experienced by others.

Turnarounds also coincide with transitions, for example, governance restructuring, or a new CEO or new AMS. However, the opportunities that arise out of turnarounds will be squandered if you don’t invest appropriate resources – time and money – into them.  

In hindsight, I would have insisted on hiring a consultant with business analysis and project management skills to help me gather and document AMS requirements, analyze business processes, make the right selection, and oversee testing and implementation We missed the opportunity to improve processes, break down silos and get the best AMS for our needs.

Turnarounds can be times of great opportunity, but Kevin and Lance recommend having a turnaround mindset every day, not just in times of transition or distress. By adopting the turnaround mindset, staff becomes more adept and agile at responding to and embracing change, stretching their comfort zone and trying new things.

People, processes and technology

Any turnaround or change, including an AMS implementation, is affected by three factors – people, processes and technology. You must identify how each of these factors affect implementation and are affected by implementation.

People: Who needs to be convinced of the need for change? Who are the influencers? Who needs to be involved in requirements gathering? Whose job will be affected by changes in process? Who needs additional training? Who needs to change their attitude?

Processes: Which existing processes are redundant or ridiculous? Where can streamlining or automation help? Which processes need a major overhaul?

Technology: Which existing systems need to integrate with the new AMS? Which existing systems will no longer be useful or necessary? Is the network infrastructure affected by this change?

Ingredients for a successful turnaround

Before embarking on a turnaround, establish a baseline so you can measure the effect of subsequent changes. You want to be able to prove that all the pain is worth the gain and show colleagues that change can be a good thing. The metrics you use will depend upon the project goals, but could include processing time reductions, expense reductions, user experience ratings, member renewals or satisfaction ratings, or Web traffic statistics. 
Politics and organizational culture play a huge role in change. Every turnaround needs a champion – a change agent – especially if you have to convince others of the need for change. Turnarounds must have leadership sponsorship and support and must be an enterprise-wide effort, otherwise staff will never become as invested as you’d like, and your AMS will always be the “membership database.”  

Communication will make or break a turnaround. Many stakeholders – staff, members and others – may not be aware of the need for change. Many of them may not like the idea of change – they were happy the way things were. You can’t communicate with them all in the same way. Your messaging content and style must vary depending upon your target audience and their relationship to the project.

  • Your staff project team have bought into the need for change – they’re easy.

  • Staff leadership must be encourage to continue their role as change agents and influencers.

  • The board and other member “insiders” have a different understanding and appreciation for the change.

  • Members and others who are “outside the tent” may not understand the need for and impact of the change. 

Have a communication plan in place for each of these audiences. Write as a human, not a legalese- or jargon-using institution. Be very clear about the purpose for change. Make no assumptions about members’ understanding of association goals, strategies and operations. They could be completely clueless.

Manage expectations. Don’t promise more than your AMS will deliver. Make sure everyone understands what will be delivered (the requirements) and what won’t be delivered (their wish list).

Change is easier to bear when you can show incremental improvements.  

  • “This process now only takes X minutes per member. That saves you X hours a month, and it will probably get even better.”

  • “We’re receiving only X member service calls a week instead of Y because of this new Web function.”

  • “Our email open rate has improved X% because we can now segment and target our blast emails.”

 Sustaining change is difficult. After a big turnaround (or implementation), take advantage of the momentum and find ways to continually improve processes and programs. 

If you aren’t in the position to move your association’s culture toward a turnaround mindset, you can reap its benefits in your own work. Sometimes, just doing the fundamentals better has a big pay-off. Innovation doesn’t have to cost anything – experiment where you can. Change one of your own processes or talk regularly to members about ways the association can help them improve their business or advance their career. 

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer who wishes she knew back then what she knows now. Sigh, don’t we all?



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Current Events – Associations Making Headlines This Month

Lyn Slater : June 27, 2014 9:00 am : Association

Whether it’s the continued fight over GMO labeling or the federal minimum wage debate, associations and nonprofits can wield major influence with lawmakers and the general public. On those two highly contentious issues alone, major associations have recently filed lawsuits against state and local governments, fighting for their positions in the wake of new legislation. Additionally, in the realm of public safety, many are questioning the work habits of long-haul truck drivers following the tragic accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan. Trucking associations are speaking out about the difficult balance between making their deliveries on time and pushing the limits of safety.

Grocery Association Files Suit over GMOs: The discussion and debate around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been swirling in this country for months. Many healthy eating enthusiasts argue that GMOs are harmful, and have been lobbying at the state and federal level for additional labeling guidelines for foods containing GMOs. The Grocery Manufacturers Association weighed in on this topic in a big way recently, filing suit against the state of Vermont for its recently passed legislation requiring GMO labeling. See coverage of this story.

“The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced the suit last week, which it filed jointly with the Snack Food Association, International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

‘Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law—Act 120—is a costly and misguided measure that will set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies that do nothing to advance the health and safety of consumers,’ the group said in a statement. ‘Act 120 exceeds the state’s authority under the United States Constitution, and in light of this, GMA has filed a complaint in federal district court in Vermont seeking to enjoin this senseless mandate.’”

Franchise Association Sues Seattle over Minimum Wage: As the debate in Washington over the minimum wage laws continues, Seattle recently took steps at the local level, increasing minimum wage within the city to $15.00 per hour. The International Franchise Association has filed suit against the new law, claiming it places undue burden on individual franchisees. From the coverage: “The association’s concern stems from the fact that the law puts franchisees under the same umbrella as their corporate parents, which the association argues goes against legal precedents. As a result, franchisees must comply with the $15 wage within the next three years, whereas independent companies have seven years to comply.

‘Not only is the Seattle ordinance unwise and unfair as a matter of economic policy, it is unlawful as a legal matter,’ the legal complaint states. ‘The irrational and discriminatory treatment of interstate commerce and small franchisees vis-à-vis their non-franchise competitors violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution as well as Article I, Section 12 of the Washington State Constitution.’”

Truckers, Safety, and Tracy Morgan – After a deadly collision that nearly killed comedian and Saturday Night Live alum Tracy Morgan in early June, and did claim the life of Morgan’s fellow passenger, comedian James McNair, many are scrutinizing the trucking industry. An overtired truck driver for Walmart was the cause of the accident, having fallen asleep behind the wheel of his big rig and slamming into Morgan’s limo bus. The American Trucking Association, among other groups, is speaking out about the incident, with ATA president Bill Graves noting that the industry cannot force truckers to sleep on their off time: “’[The rules] do not dictate what drivers do during that off-duty period. No rule can address what a driver does in his or her off-duty time. The industry—including ATA, our member fleets, our state associations and the millions of safe, professional truck drivers on the road today—strongly believes that drivers must take advantage of their off-duty periods for rest and that drivers should not drive if they are fatigued.’ Graves also noted ATA’s support for the use of electronic logging devices to track drivers’ compliance with regulations and the use of electronic speed governors to limit the speed of large trucks to 65 miles per hour. Despite the apparent role of fatigue in the crash involving Morgan, Graves emphasized that just 10 percent of truck crashes involve some sort of fatigue. The association ‘believes we need to do far more to address the other 90 percent of crashes,’ he said.”


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Add Nuance to Donor Relationships Through CRM

Amy Quinn : June 25, 2014 7:28 pm : Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, Social CRM for Nonprofits, Social CRM for Not-For-Profits


What role does technology play in helping us build relationships with our constituents? In recent blogs I’ve discussed the importance of providing relevant information and understanding donor preferences when communicating. Segmentation, visuals, video and social media also enable stronger connections with supporters. In this blog we will explore how our Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems may also augment donor relationships.

The Ideal Donor

SwimmingwithdafishesWhat do we really need to know about a donor? The power of a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system is that it can help us identify the common traits among our most loyal donors. These characteristics will be unique to each organization and a reflection of your donor population. Our relationships with donors start and pivot forward based on how we utilize the data in our CRM to define our ideal donors and then, using what we know, create the most appropriate personal outreach.

At a high level, when a development officer knows the needs of Major Gift supporters, he/she can determine the best-matched cultivation plan and giving opportunity. And, even when it’s not possible to reach every individual personally, such as during annual campaign solicitations, we can tag and automate activities to move our supporters towards more loyalty and involvement in our cause. 

Interests and Motivations

In all cases the more we reference and incorporate a donor’s “interest and motivations” including past participation, the stronger and more personal the relationship will feel to them. For example, when a donor makes a second donation or attends another event, their loyalty should be recognized with written acknowledgement. When we consider retention, a second gift is as big as the first and a donor deserves recognition, not a generic form letter that is sent to everyone. Are you with me? This type of data needs to be tracked and used to the benefit of the relationship.

Four Ways to Build Relationships Using Your CRM

  1. At a minimum, a CRM tracks basic data of multiple constituent groups such as board members, volunteers, major donors, foundations, corporations, legacy donors and event attendees. But we’re not collecting data just for the sake of having more information. We’re collecting it so that we can use it to improve our relationships.2

  2. Collect and track more than just basic data, go for information that will help identify patterns and define your ideal donor “persona”. Consider motivations for involvement. More and more Millennials rely on a referral as a reason for being involved. Where did the donor come from? Online, offline, or both?

        Here are some additional attributes to incorporate into your donor profile:

  • Event attendance

  • Open emails; conversion from one communication channel to the next

  • Participation in social media

  • Volunteer

3. Integrate the data from multiple touch points to gain a deeper understanding. Although this requires teamwork from different departments working together, it can be transformative internally, and increase conversations, in addition to augmenting our understanding of your best performing donors.

  1.  Automate so no one slips through. Every donor deserves attention no matter how small. Major donors, of course, require more personal touches.  Automation helps you achieve cultivation of large and small donors within the capacity of your organization.

        Here are some activities that, if automated, will strengthen your donor relationships:

  • New donor packages for first time donors

  • Repeat donor letter (the more we acknowledge loyalty, the better)

  • Thank you, but not just a standard thank you, personalize it based on the preferences of the donor. Perhaps an individual would appreciate receiving a letter from a past volunteer or client, for example

  • RSVP to an event that reflects past attendance

  • Post event follow-up (send an email and/or letter shortly after an event.  Repeat your message while the event is fresh in their minds.  Share results.)

Relationships - Amy picA CRM helps us understand the life-cycle of each donor as well as structuring the processes for moving your relationships forward.  Interacting thoughtfully with your supporters requires study and nuance of your CRM data. 

As recommended by a recent report on nonprofit digital engagement:

“…it’s the little picture, the details and nuance that really tells you how your program is doing, how your supporters are responding, and how your organization can thrive…(Understand) which numbers matter most and what your peers are experiencing – and then develop your own benchmarks to measure your progress, confront your challenges, and identify your best opportunities.”

Use your CRM to open doors to enduring relationships with all supporters.

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Engagenomics: The New Science of Member Engagement & Satisfaction

Deirdre Reid : June 18, 2014 9:00 am : Association, Association Best Practices, Industry Events

If you’re a membership geek like me, you eagerly anticipate the annual release of MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmark Report. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, I shared my favorite trends and tidbits from the report. But I’m not doing that again just yet. While we wait for the report’s release on June 17, I have related research findings to share from the recent digitalNow conference in Nashville. 

MGI vice president Erik Schonher and Higher Logic president Andy Steggles shared results from their joint study on member engagement and satisfaction. MGI provided member satisfaction data from their forthcoming report and Higher Logic provided engagement data from their client associations’ online communities. ASAE CIO Reggie Henry joined them to share data from the ASAE research department’s analysis of Collaborate, ASAE’s online community.

There was talk of variables, ratios, correlation analysis and a Composite Engagement Score, but I’m verbal, not mathematic, so I’m not equipped to discuss that. Ok, you got me. I spaced out a bit during that part of the session. I snapped back into it when Andy shared some of the joint study’s findings.

Surprising facts about online communities

Profile bios and photos increase engagement. But, bios are more important from an engagement perspective than photos.

Profile completeness levels don’t always have an impact unless your members are the type of people who feel compelled to complete their profile so they can achieve a 100 percent completed bar.

The smaller the organization, the more successful they are engaging members. It’s much easier to get 50 percent of 400 members to participate in a community than to get 50 percent of 40,000 members to participate. Set appropriate engagement expectations based on your organization’s size.

Open rates for discussion digest emails are higher (27 percent) than for regular marketing emails, perhaps because they are messages from peers.

Auto-subscribe members to relevant discussion groups. I know that might feel wrong, and Reggie originally felt the same way, but now he’s glad he followed Andy’s advice. Don’t worry — only 10 percent of members will probably opt out. Have the right communication plan in place and a one-click opt-out process.

Everyone emphasized that you need someone on staff to make a community work. It’s cliché but worth repeating: don’t expect to build it and think they will come.  

Preview of MGI’s Membership Marketing Benchmark Report

This year, 894 associations participated in MGI’s survey. That’s a 28 percent increase over last year’s 691 participants. Membership trends look good:

  • 53 Percent of participating associations reported a growth in membership.

  • 58 Percent of them acquired more members last year than the year before.

  • 31 Percent of them had a better retention rate.

  • The average retention rate was 85 percent for trade associations and 76 percent for individual membership organizations (IMO). 

However, for associations with online communities the retention rates were even higher — 92 percent for trades and 79 percent for IMOs. A 5 percent improved retention rate was correlated with online community engagement. Erik said the top reason for not renewing is no longer simply a question of ROI, it’s now a lack of engagement — that’s why communities play such a key role.

Lessons from ASAE’s Collaborate community

About 62 percent of ASAE members are Collaborate users. ASAE used a net promoter methodology to survey its members, i.e., on a scale of 1-10 how likely would you recommend membership to someone else. Members who don’t use Collaborate had a net promoter score (NPS) of 0.1, Collaborate users had an NPS of 22 — yes, you read that correctly. Wow! Another sign of increased engagement among community users — 82 percent of survey respondents were Collaborate users.

Members who had a bio, photo, or both on their Collaborate profile had twice as high an NPS as others.
Members who reply to community posts have a higher NPS than members who initiate posts. Members who do both have the highest NPS of all.

Collaborate’s most successful groups are the Executive Management and CEO groups — debunking the myth that those types of members aren’t interested in online communities. If you create value, they’ll participate.

Forget what your organization has done in the past. Reggie suggests listening to the advice of association peers and consultants who have launched successful communities.

Your goal is to get the right level of engagement, not necessarily maximum engagement. Someone in the audience reported the results of a three-year survey they did: more of their passive community members self-identified as active members than their traditionally defined active members. What members perceive as engagement is what matters, not what you perceive.

Stay tuned for the release of MGI’s 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report on June 17 — the opening day of ASAE’s Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference. You can find the session PowerPoint with more numbers and findings on the digitalNow website.

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer and membership geek who highly recommends the digitalNow conference for association executives.

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Board Recruiting Never Sleeps

Amy Quinn : June 11, 2014 9:00 am : Non-Profit, Nonprofit Insights, Volunteering

Imagine your Board has examined the “big picture” needs of your nonprofit organization including the representation of younger members and different constituent groups to ensure long term viability. A grid has been created that identifies the required skills for meeting these strategic objectives. In addition, core working values have been defined so finding a cultural fit among prospective board members will be easier. Now the time has come to “recruit”! This blog post will focus on what actions to take when searching for new board members.

wind farmRecruiting requires energy, enthusiasm and constant effort. Why? Well, sometimes life  “happens” taking members away from their initial commitments. And, it’s not as if we can meet a person one day and ask them to join the board on the next. Due diligence and a clear process will assure there’s a good match from the start. It’s best to begin a dialog and deliberately introduce potential members to the nonprofit and its many worthwhile programs.  Be patient.  Don’t rush. 

Recruiting as an Ongoing Endeavor  

Organize a sub-committee or regularly add membership recruitment to board meeting agendas. Make recruitment an ongoing discussion. Regardless of structure, all board members should be “on the look out” for new members.

Create A Sphere of Influence List

Like any other type of “search”– for a job, a new employee, a reliable purchase –when looking for new board members start with your own “sphere of influence”, those layers of friends, acquaintances and professional contacts in our lives. As a group, identify “who you know” and or “who others know” and make a list of potential candidates. Then match it to the “what’s needed” matrix. Keep track of the board contact and or who will make introductions to the candidate.

Set up a process for recruitment

We want board members to feel at ease and set the right expectations when asking others to consider a board position. Once the qualifying pre-requisites have been met, what next? Perhaps:

  • A phone or in-person introduction from the co-chair or subcommittee chair

  • An invitation to a “get to know us” event;

  • A clear explanation of board responsibilities;

  • A specific ask around what we hope the new member might help us with.

 Determine what process makes sense for your board.


Consider the most logical “entry” points for new board members. Do new board members join once a year or more? Who is rotating off the board and when? Decide which timing makes the most sense for the work-flow and allows for sustainability in the board’s composition. Of course, make sure the time commitment is clear and that there are limits for everyone.

Out of the Box

Push your members to look beyond the obvious contributors. Sometimes people just need to be asked. Some individuals might be loyal supporters but not as vocal as others, causing them to be overlooked.  Think broadly!

Starting from Scratch?

Again, begin with who you know and who might have an affinity for your board and its work. There are some organizations that might be able to help:

Volunteer Match

A “Volunteer Action Center” in your community (Denver has Metro Volunteers and Volunteers of America, for example)

Since board recruitment offers a chance to talk about the cause and the board’s contributions, believe it or not, finding new members can be fun. The success of a nonprofit depends upon clear leadership and board recruitment should be at the top of the list.

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