Trends

Are You Sending Mixed Messages to Your Members?

Imagine this scenario: A supporter clicks the “donate” link in one of your emails and gives to your organ...

Imagine this scenario: A supporter clicks the “donate” link in one of your emails and gives to your organization through the website. Afterward, the supporter tweets her support and gets an enthusiastic re-tweet from your organization’s Twitter handle. She also receives an automated gift acknowledgement email from your donation system, as well as a mailed “Thank You” letter from your development department the following month.  Through this seemingly simple interaction, the donor has touched your communications, IT, and development departments.  

Even though members engage with your organization through multiple channels and interact with different departments, they desire the same level of communication and customer service across the board. If one of the three separate “thank yous” to your donor addresses her by the wrong first name (It’s Katherine not Katie, thank you very much), the donor will not assign blame to the communications coordinator who proofread the text; the whole organization may take a hit in her eyes for this lack of attention to her personal details.

Have you heard these comments before?

“I know I already changed my address in your system!”

“No, I haven’t had that job title for three years.”

“Our company categorization is wrong on your website.”

“Why are you sending me information on conference X—it’s nowhere close to my field?”

While you may view your organization as a collection of distinct, perhaps even siloed, departments, your member sees you as one entity and expects consistency and efficiency. For this reason, the member or supporter experience must be consistent organization-wide.

Understanding how your organization’s member data is collected and stored is the first step to achieving this aim.

For example, if someone updates their mailing address with your membership department and the membership team updates their record in the AMS, does this information ever make its way to the lists run by your marketing team? What about any of the demographic data you collect when people register for your events?

In a perfect world, departments throughout your organization would join forces in kumbaya fashion to provide a consistent member experience that recognizes the member’s entire identity, not just discrete interactions with one department. In reality, this task is often fraught with technical difficulties—how often have you requested a seemingly simple transfer of business intelligence only to be told, “But the systems don’t talk to each other.”  

If there is no one-click solution to updating the organization’s marketing lists or sharing demographic information collected elsewhere by the organization, disparate departments should work to find “out of the box” ways to pass this enhanced member intelligence onto other teams. While this may be a laborious process that requires some skill in data manipulation, it’s worth the effort to ensure that you make a consistently good impression with the organization’s members and supporters.

Using this data to tailor member engagement leads to a better member experience.

No matter which team engages with a member, a personalized interaction wins every time. Personalization is achieved when an organization utilizes the available information to make service efficient and to make members feel valued.

Once an organization commits to tearing down its informational siloes, all sorts of member insights emerge. By examining information and patterns of behavior on an organization-wide scale, you will get a fuller picture of your members by connecting the data dots you likely already have on hand. These insights can feed into the delivery of a more customized member experience.

Say that a supporter subscribes to your advocacy-focused digital publication and is a member of several committees focused on areas of legislation that are overseen by different departments in your organization.  Combining all of this engagement data yields a clear picture of a member who is very interested in advocacy. Instead of sending him general emails about every organizational webinar and event, you can tailor your offerings and messages to align with his values. Would he appreciate an invitation to your D.C. fly-in day? Absolutely. Does he want to know Five Tips For Landing a Job in Field X? Eh, maybe not.

This tailored messaging and engagement sends positive signals to members and supporters. Not only are you addressing your member by the correct first name and title, you are tailoring the content your member receives to his past behaviors and preferences. Instead of appearing like an unfeeling robot monolith, your organization is sending signals that say, “We remember you,” “You matter.”

Breaking down data siloes results in a staff that is more in touch with member profiles and member needs. By making member data-sharing an organization-wide priority, you will retain satisfied members and supporters. Additionally, as this approach pushes organizational goals to the forefront, you might just discover opportunities for growth and revenue that you never even knew existed!

Are You Sending Mixed Messages to Your Members? September 16, 2014, NTEN, by Marissa Maybee

Putting Data to Use for a Successful Nonprofit Event

One of the simultaneously most rewarding and most difficult aspects of nonprofit work is the reliance on community me...

One of the simultaneously most rewarding and most difficult aspects of nonprofit work is the reliance on community members to support an organization’s cause. It can be challenging to communicate the importance of a nonprofit’s work in a way that motivates action in others; however, when an organization does successfully reach those people, whether they be volunteers or simply curious parties, the results can be tremendous in terms of both generosity and support. For your group to see this kind of impact, you need to place an emphasis on helping outside individuals establish a personalized relationship with the cause at hand. The best time to create this one-one-one dynamic and instill a stronger connection with the issues at hand is your organization’s events. Fundraisers present valuable opportunities to generate a stronger understanding of and commitment to the given cause within the attendees. This may sound like a daunting task, but it all comes down to maximizing the available data and integrating it with existing customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Blackbaud to enhance the event experience for each individual.

The many uses of data for enhancing an event can be broken down into three categories: before, during, and after.

Planning the event

The planning and promotion of an event is your first opportunity to begin gathering valuable information about your invited guests. It’s your first point of contact with the attendees and, as we all know, a lot can be gained from a first impression.

As you collect the registration data, there are several beneficial methods of segmentation that can be implemented based on the information you receive. For example, has the attendee come to this event in the past? Better yet, has he been coming for the past several years and knows more about the event that the presenters? If this is the case, use that information to put a personalized touch on his event materials. He doesn’t need the background about the event itself, but might appreciate something more along the lines of a “Welcome back!”

Gaining this kind of valuable information ahead of time is simply a matter of asking the right questions. Initial submission and interest forms offer the opportunity to ask far more than simply names and titles. Use the chance to learn about an attendee’s background and goals, and you’ll be able to make strong connections with the right people before the event has even started.

At the show

When it comes to asking the right questions, it’s not all about learning how you can improve the pre-event experience; you can also use that data to personalize the event itself.

While larger components such as keynote speakers or auction items are often set in stone before registration data comes in, there are smaller finishing touches that can be put in place with less advance notice. Are some of your attendees vegan? They might appreciate some appetizers that reflect their dietary needs. Does someone go by her middle name? Show you paid attention by putting that on her nametag. Is there a group of people who spend their weekends hiking? Work your recent experience on the Appalachian Trail into the conversation when you introduce yourself.

The devil is in the details, and people will respond to that extra effort, or lack thereof. For nonprofits that run on the generosity of others, both in terms of time and money, personal connections can make all the difference. Data will open the doors to these more impactful gestures, which can lead to memorable nights for your attendees across the board.

The wrap-up

Your chance to put data to use isn’t over when the last guests leave. In the same way the pre-event registration questions create opportunities for customization, a well-crafted post-event questionnaire can be a valuable commodity. Your attendees appreciate personalized efforts before and during the show because it shows you’ve taken the time to appreciate their contributions; a survey following the event that asks for honest feedback — and then acts on it — demonstrates the same genuine interest and gratitude.

Which speaker was most well-received? What auction item motivated attendees to contribute their highest bids? Once your event data is fully integrated with your existing system, you can check which attendees are repeat donors, and whose average donations increased following the event. This information can help you gain a much clearer understanding of what worked and what didn’t, allowing you to reduce costs on unnecessary initiatives and ultimately improve the event’s overall effectiveness and return on investment. More importantly, these are the kind of highly beneficial adjustments that will result in even happier attendees the following year. Happy attendees are the same attendees who recruit their friends to come to the next event, and in the nonprofit community, that kind of word of mouth is the most valuable resource available. When you combine these sorts of customized touches before, during and after the event, you ensure your event becomes cost-effective and highly optimized to be more than just buzz; it becomes a catalyst for results. And all you need to make that happen is the right data.

Putting Data to Use for a Successful Nonprofit Event, September 15, 2014, NTEN, by Matthew Wainwright

Are You Listening to Your Board Members?

Many boards never understand and utilize the potential each member has to invest in the organization. Having committe...

Many boards never understand and utilize the potential each member has to invest in the organization. Having committed to a board, new members are often “on-boarded” out of any fresh, innovative, or challenging ideas they might have. Instead of grooming members to fill the usual skillset, I work to build stronger boards through understanding the value each member brings to the table.

As board members, we can work on building strength through a diversity of new members and a balance of ideas. I’m talking about bankers, artists, architects, techies, and venture capitalists just to mention a few. If we build our board from individuals who have different lenses on the world, who bring thought diversity, we will be able to approach our challenges from new perspectives.

I often remind organizations that board members made a commitment to the organization. Strength comes from honoring those commitments and listening for the interest and value each member has brought to the team. By listening to new members instead of telling them how we operate, I have found we are able to open our board up for change, to see the potential as well as new directions.

The Technique

I apply community-building techniques that re-examine the views and skills each member brings to the table. The method includes asking clarifying questions, active listening, and building understanding before approaching the challenges we face as board members. And, the technique has brought real impact. Through using it, one organization increased donations in one year by 400 percent. It all hinges on learning about each other, respecting our differing methods, and being open to new possibilities. Balancing the thought leaders on our board and allowing them to take ownership for their commitment to the organization builds real strength.

In the BLF session I will be leading on Building a Stronger Board, the participants will work in groups to explore this method. By asking clarifying questions and through active listening, the exercise helps uncover the value each member brings to the team. Commitment, diversity, perspective, and skills are explored in a more personal way that allows each member to get to know the other.

Part of strength also comes from solidifying commitment. Each board member may be able to contribute a range of skills. Each also has a number of commitments they balance. Understanding this ebb and flow can help increase the value your board members can bring to the organization. I have found it also helps in determining when a member should transition off. This type of personal examination can help members understand on their own when it’s time to move on.

How the board views and tells your organization’s story can also bring strength. What is it the board doesn’t know about me as a member? What value could I offer that has not been tapped into? The value and perspective each member has can enrich the way the organization’s message is relayed. As ambassadors for the organization, it’s important that we understand the organization’s story, but it’s equally important that as board member, I can own our part of it. Understanding how each member views the organization’s work will help us shape a stronger message.

The Method

The method I present is more about looking at board process and structure, not about solving problems like scarcity, need for funds, better leadership and how others should change. It focuses on replacing advice with curiosity and exploring an issue from all sides. It is in this search for deeper understanding that we are able to lift the cover on the root of our challenges. To learn what core issues are and how people outside the organization may see them. It leads to building a stronger board.

Are You Listening to Your Board Members?, September 25, 2014, Board Source, by Peter Zehren