Are You Meeting the Needs of Your Connected Members?

Management Software For Members & Membership Needs

From my perspective, marketing to customers (members) in the digital age has become an entirely different experience than what it was just a decade ago. Customer funnels have turned into customer lifecycles, touch points have expanded across multiple channels, and consumers are researching companies on mobile and through social media every day before interacting. In this article, I discuss findings from a recent report from Forrester and elements of membership systems needed to connect today.

For non-profit associations, the goal is not necessarily to “sell” a product per se, but to attract new members, retain members through providing valuable services and further their common missions. The concept of meeting the needs of connected members is still similar to traditional marketing.

Connecting Your Members with Membership Management

As mentioned, I read a recent Forrester study which looked at the behavior of consumers and how companies can adapt to changing patterns. While the study focuses on marketing for companies, the findings relate to non-profit associations nonetheless. In my opinion, the goal is the same whether company, nonprofit, or association: understanding your audience (connecting) and how to interact with it.

Cross-Platform Interactions

The study found that moments when you engage with your customer, known as touchpoints, are not longer isolated to a single channel. Google states that 90% of customers use multiple devices and platforms for shopping and other tasks. The same goes for non-profit associations. Attracting new members and interacting with existing ones shouldn’t be limited to just one platform. Your website should be easy to explore, whether on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

Consumer Behavior in 2016

What used to be known as the sales funnel has become the customer lifecycle. Companies need to inspire consumers to take steps in the journey, not push them down the funnel. This means catering your strategies to specific audiences and delivering the type of content they need when they need it most. As applied to non-profit associations, this means you need to develop an in-depth understanding of your member profiles, much like a for-profit company would develop buyer personas. By understanding the needs of your individual “customers,” you can identify how to best address them.

Understanding Your Members, Donors, & Constituents

How are associations supposed to understand their members and what they want as a customer experience? The same way a traditional marketer would but perhaps with a twist and some help of a membership system as well. Here are some thoughts:

  • Your membership manager needs to help analyze key decision points in the lifecycle of a member. Where are your members finding out about you? What is it that makes them “convert” and join the association? Don’t worry – an analytics platform within the membership software may likely (should) collect this data for you.
  • Membership Software for Nonprofits should offer simplicity and navigability in web design through a content management. This is important no matter the industry. Members want a streamlined experience that is aesthetically pleasing and easy on your website. Your membership site should be intuitive and should adapt to mobile effortlessly. Membership Management Software can and often does provide an integrated content management component (or integrates with one).
  • Nonprofit Membership systems should help your nonprofit manage it’s content. There is no changing the fact that content will remain king and needs to be treated as such. By understanding your members through data, you can create compelling, informative, and engaging content that they will find valuable. Progressive profiling, personalization of messaging, & storage of documents pertinent to your audience can be obtained in membership management software.

As the customer experience continues to change, so will marketing best practices. Though associations may not be trying to sell products or widgets, you’re still trying to sell something; events, services, education & training, & advocacy. Understanding how to engage with your members effectively with an association management software system will allow you to do just that.

Find out which member engagement software is right for you – contact us today. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Does Switching the “C” in CRM to Constituent Matter?

CRM Systems for Fundraising

Does switching the “C” for customer to constituent in CRM tools for nonprofits matter? Donor relationship management as a concept is an honorable one–without donors, nonprofits close their doors. Creating, maintaining, and strengthening donor relationships with constituents has always been the keystone of a viable nonprofit’s existence. In this article, I discuss the subtle difference in CRM solutions for for-profit organizations and nonprofits.

The Term Customer Relationship vs. Constituent Relationship  

Let me start out with putting a frame around CRM. In the for-profit world, there is a decades-long history of software aimed at for-profit customer relationship management. In the for-profit world, CRM (customer relationship management) includes all aspects of interactions that a company has with its customers, whether it is sales or service-related. While the phrase customer relationship management is most commonly used to describe a business-customer relationship (B2C), CRM is also used to manage business to business (B2B) relationships. Information tracked in a CRM system includes contacts, accounts, clients, history, opportunity management, contract wins, sales leads and more.

It’s interesting to note that using the term customer vs. constituent somehow makes a difference. To some in the nonprofit world, just changing out nomenclature or references to things rings true to them. As one of my professors would say, it brings verisimilitude. For many nonprofit executives, terms such as sales, opportunity management, & leads is too harsh to reference for donations, moves management, or donors.

The Subtle Difference in Terminology

Thinking about the software as “constituent relationship management,” seems to help move the concepts to the nonprofit lexicon. Think about the following concepts we use in the nonprofit world and the corresponding equivalents in the for-profit sector:

  • Moves Management = Conversion of Prospects
  • Sales=Donations or Dues
  • Membership or Donor Development Officer= Sales Adviser or Account Executive
  • Contribution Reporting of Donors = Financial Sales Management
  • Demographic Management = Profile

In my mind, it should not matter if we call it “Customer” vs. “Constituent”. So, if we can get past the nuances of CRM vs. Constituent Relationship for fundraising why should you explore a relationship managment system. In other words, what are some compelling reasons your nonprofit may consider making the move to CRM tool (Or, whatever you want to call it).

Here are some market reasons your nonprofit may consider CRM tools for donor or member relationship management:

The Competition for a Constituent:

It seems that this is something a lot of nonprofits don’t want to talk about today. Every government cut contributes to the growing set of nonprofits who are competing for a shrinking set of donor dollars. Further, in the membership sector of nonprofits, every association is vying for the attention of their members and competing with a multitude of for-profit entities and even public social networking sites. It doesn’t matter which sector you are in today, competition is fierce. CRM tools help you be more competitive.

Social Intelligence Insight of Constituents:

Finding new donors means going where they are and finding out what they do so that you can appear in the places where they live online. For instance, millennials say they want to give, and they have the disposable income, but mailing campaigns are not enough anymore. Many CRM tools today incorporate the profile of various social channels your donors are participating in. And, you can easily determine which channels of spending time on and understanding what’s important to your constituents with these features.

Lower technology risk:

If a for-profit executive has been around for a while, they heard an earful in the early days about CRM failures. Today, CRM software has been in the market long enough to eliminate the risk of buying a CRM tool that simply doesn’t work for your organization. Even new CRM Software designed for nonprofits just entering the market have a plethora of features and functionality which are able to benefit your goals of developing strong relationships. To a degree, I believe that both the for-profit sector and nonprofit sector are apprehensive about spending money on CRM. But, shouldn’t be with the success found today.

Application Revolution:

Making donations easy through apps has become the next need for any nonprofit. If a potential donor can become an actual donor through an app on their phone, the amount of data gathered can become as valuable as the dollars they give. If you can connect your nonprofit to a forward-thinking, community-invested for-profit’s app, even better. This is one area where CRM tools may differ in terms of use case. But, still prevalent scenario in both sectors.

Does switching the “C” in CRM to constituent matter? I think it may be summed up with the old saying “You stay tomato, I say tomato!” Certainly, not every horizontal CRM tool (those designed for a generic organization) will have the key ingredients your nonprofit needs to take the next step. A vertical CRM system designed for your particular needs may be more appropriate.

What is the best fit for you? Contact us today for advice and consultation to help you make the smart software decision for your organization.


Software reviews for Nonprofits

Retention: How Can Membership Software Help?

Copy of ecommerce nonprofits

Can your membership management software provide the data you need and the features required to know the who, what, why about membership retention and trends? In this article, I underscore the value of using your membership management system to take a closer look at the value of retention data, the impact of segmentation and an example of aligning features back to goals using modern membership systems.

Membership Software Retention 

Needless to say, I can only postulate that high on the list of topics up at many association nonprofit conferences across the country they will be focused on how to improve member retention—how tos, new approaches, benefits, what works. Recently, Joe Rominiecki, senior editor at Associations Now, made the rounds and summed up the conclusions here. Suffice it to say, an association’s success lives and dies by member retention rates. And, in many associations the membership system lives the data and features  you need to help make sense of membership retention. Let’s start with the importance of data.

The Value of Retention Revealed

So, what is the story that your data reveals about your association’s member retention? You must be able to use your data to know:

  • Who, specifically, is staying on as a long-term member?
  • Who just dips a toe into the water and leaves?
  • Who has stayed on and then suddenly leaves?

Further, can you utilize data to go deeper and ask these other questions of your membership retention trends:

  • Why do retained members stay for three years? Five years?
  • Why does the group that simply samples membership not stay on?
  • What causes members with some longevity to leave suddenly? and,
  • Are there job trends, sub-industry trends, age trends, geographical trends, or other segmented trends which you can point to as related causes?

Can your membership system handle slicing your data more thinly to get a clearer picture of retention numbers and trends? A membership software should house the answers to these questions.

The New Normal: Segmenting Retention Rates and Trends

If not, perhaps you need better segmenting capabilities. Rominiecki’s Association Now article cites experts who make the case that in order to understand how to boost your member retention rate, you first need to ask more of your membership retention data than simply how many members the association retains and loses annually. So, you need to go further than just answering the questions above.

That makes good sense, right? If, for example, you manage a healthcare association and currently have 200 insurers, 50 MDs, and 15 dentists, your ability to identify retention rates and retention trends within each member subset matters to the long-term health of your association. That signals the need and ability to segment and track both retention rates and trends point to more than just member retention—it also provides data you need to bring in new members and even renew past memberships.

Membership Retention Goals 

This article sparked my thoughts about a recent meeting with an association seeking a new online membership software system. And, as outlined above, retention was an important aspect of their success. Here is a summary of their retention strategy expressed to me during our software selection engagement:

GOAL: Expand awareness of member services and carry out membership retention activities to achieve a year-end retention rate of 80%.

To achieve this goal, they concluded that they needed to successfully perform the following:

1. Contact members two months before membership lapses to prompt renewal and, in some cases, help the member renew. (CRM Features). 

2. Send electronic emails along with handwritten welcome notes to each new member. (Email Marketing Features)

3. Call or e-mail new members on a monthly basis and invite them to sit with a Membership Committee member or Board member at the next luncheon. (CRM and Email Marketing Features)

4. Contact lapsed members one month after membership is lapsed. Final follow-up to encourage renewal. (Activity Tracking) 

5. Attend all luncheons. Work with Member Involvement Chair to have Board and Membership Committee members sit at all tables and engage members and guests.(Event Calendar, Activity Management, & Committee Management).

6. Focus on retention of second year introductory members. Reduce drop-off rate after second year of membership by calling these people first. (Dashboards with Data Views)

7. Every six months, invite a new member to join the Membership Committee. (CRM Activity Tracking including To Do’s, Follow up Management) 

This was the plan of attack, and they wanted to obtain a membership management system which managed the data well, and also contained the features which would help them execute it. While a membership system won’t be the only component, it certainly was viewed as a way to help with strengthening their ability to implement their objectives.

Retention Goals Tied To Membership Software Features

After our discussions, we outlined some basic features which were deemed must haves in order to support the membership retention goal. Here are few:

Customer (Membership) Management:

In all of the tasks above, the membership system needed to be able to support the ability to track history activities, notes, demographic information on the members. And, your follow up to get things done.

Membership Specific Dashboard:

The ability to review your members retention rate and view suggestions for improvement, and take a quick look at incoming members for the week, month, and year. Check in on your current campaign’s success, build and knock out that “to-do” list, and access recent reports and accounts within the membership system. And, the ability to have unique dashboards for each department was key too!

Participation Information:

With a membership system, you should be able to get an at-a-glance view of an individual constituent’s participation level, as well as their engagement level – which is based on past interactions. Member engagement could be measured in “cold,” “warm,” “hot,” and “on fire!”

Email Design & Distribution:

Build and deploy emails using templates and get rich analytics on their performance throughout your retention campaigns.

Letters & Mailings:

A membership system could help the above retention campaign by helping with the design and printing of direct mail pieces like letters, gift acknowledgements and other solicitations all from the membership application.

Social Networking:

One exciting feature of membership systems today is the powerful website integration features which includes social networking.  With a membership system be able to connect your organization’s social media such as Twitter account for powerful social media monitoring. In some instances, you can even match tweets to constituents in your database, or add new constituents who are tweeting about you.

Committee Management: 

In order to select and notify committee members about upcoming events, they needed to have an integrated solution for handling this. With membership systems today, you can now have a place to store your committee lists, including sub-committees. All members, chairs and secretaries can be identified and listed, and have their own directory listing. So, you can place people strategically with those you desire and work them to advise them on upcoming events.

Further, with a built in email message center, there’s no need to worry that your message will be sent to the incorrect audience. For the committee that you wish to correspond with, in membership systems you can simply select that committee and you will only have the option to email all or some of the members who belong to that group. No problemo amigo!

When member retention rates are higher, less effort and fewer marketing dollars are spent in members acquisition, and greater focus can be placed on upgrading existing members. Members who are contained longer tend to participate more and contribute more. Your long-term members tend to recruit new members at a faster pace, especially those who move up the engagement ladder over time.

So does your member management CRM reinforce best practices in member retention? If not, you might not see those retention campaigns bear fruit.

Please consider contacting us to start your search for a membership management software to boost retention. Until next time, Keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Online Membership Software