How To Rock With Automation In Your Software Programs

Business Process Management requires workflow automation software

It’s always crunch time in the world of Association and Nonprofit leaders: time to drive membership, mission, & sustainability. In this article, I cover workflow automation features which may bring extreme value to your Nonprofit or Association.

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” – David Packard

Insight is Everything in Attracting An Audience 

I know few Associations that have enough staff to continuously and thoroughly sort out which strategy has worked (and which has not worked) on a personalized level for every prospect segment in terms of timing and content. I believe that most would agree that it’s important to know which of your marketing strategies has worked (and which failed) for which segment of your prospective members. Don’t you?

But, do you have the capabilities to do it? Here is the good news. Many marketing automation software programs have built in workflow automation features which can do the analytics and workload of many staff members. They have the power to provide those key data points, and more to bring your data to life.

Why Workflow Automation Works 

Why automate business processes? According to Act-On, a marketing automation software technology, it offers these benefits for bringing your prospects on board through scheduled programs:

  • It ensures that the rubber meets the road: it automatically aligns what you say with who your prospects are and their level of interest in your Association.
  • It employs “if-then” logic to follow up with prospects using messages that speak to each prospect in a personalized and appropriate way based on their previous interactions with your Association or Nonprofit.
  • It keeps your other strategic marketing steps in play while it churns out more effective campaigns to land new leads.

Business Process Management is a Blessing

Today, I believe that workflow automation features should be paramount in all software selection projects not just marketing automation programs. This includes CRM, AMS, and even Community Software too.

Simply put, I do not believe that setting up automated workflow programs to run on their own should not be relegated to just “attracting” new constituents to your community (the tribe).

One of the key things to remember with any software expenditure is that staff should think about “what’s in it for me”. Nonprofits are all about the member and donor experience. But, quite frankly, new technology introduced to the organization should not kill your staff’s ability to get things done.

I realize this shouldn’t be the case. But, many systems are there to simply store information. In other words, the data is dead and the system requires heavy lifting to get the software to become a living breathing entity with value to the staff, members, and executive team.

Workflow automation capabilities will allow your team see technology as a blessing and not a curse. Why? Because it’s going to make them look really good!

In short order, programming automation workflow will allow your staff and organization see the value because:

  • It cuts time staff now spends on creating marketing campaigns; your campaigns now can run “on autopilot” with your specifications in place.
  • It facilitates and speeds up the analysis your leadership team can perform to gain a deep insight into your marketing program by reviewing what approach is working well for which prospects, and what marketing approach needs tweaking.

Timing and Content are King and Queen for Landing Prospective Members

“As you’ve noticed, people don’t want to be sold. What people do want is news and information about the things they care about.” – Larry Weber

I would add that timing the delivery of your news and information matters, too. Prospects pondering membership or donations are much more likely to act if you are using varying platforms to provide a stream of new reasons, stories, and/or testimonials that are compelling and relevant to each prospect.

  • An automated marketing program excels at offering those extra touch points without manually developing them each time you want them delivered.
  • Messages can be targeted and delivered on time and with particular relevance.
  • With workflow automation rules you can improve staff time and productivity.
  • Engage members with the right information at the right time in their journey with your organization.

“The key ingredient to a better content experience is relevance.” – Jason Miller

Workflow Automation to Engage and Delight Members Too

In order to keep members continually delighted and engaged in your brand or community, you should demand software which helps you continually delight once they become a member, donor, or customer too. Let’s take a look at one example found within an online community software leader, Higher Logic.

Within their community software, workflow automation rules can be used to help set up automated workflow for your new member campaigns. You can set up automation rules and programs to feed your new members with relevant information as they join an organization so that they quickly see the value of becoming a member. Let’s take a look an example work flow which may be accomplished:

  1. Sign up to become a member via the CRM or AMS
  2. Schedule an email to have the member update their profile information
  3. Day 7 the system sends out an email to check in on them because they have not been back to their website
  4. 2 weeks out the community software sends out an email because their is no profile picture
  5. 4 weeks out the community software is scheduled to send out an email because they have not posted anything

Attracting new members simultaneously via marketing automation software and engaging your members at the right time with community software is  truly remarkable.

Ready to set up your Automated Workflow Programs?

If you do not have the ability to rope in new prospective members cost efficiently and effectively or continually delight them by engaging them too, perhaps your software needs updating.

Workflow automation capabilities should be viewed as a must have in all your platforms today. Unfortunately, I believe that a lot of software systems purport to be able to do this but simply don’t. If you are looking for a software solution and not just a piece of software to store data, dig deeper beyond simple features to what they system will do without user intervention.

Contact us and ask the questions that arose as you read this article. You’ll be wowed at the difference an automated system can make as you drive membership and revenue growth.

Free Software Advice for nonprofits

Why Email Deliverability Is Critical For Your Community’s Success

Email Deliverability in Associations and Nonprofits

As a non-profit organization you want to build, maintain and encourage everyone’s involvement; staff, clients, supporters and donors. One major avenue that non-profits use to engage those groups, and the individuals within them is email. Getting to that point demands strategy, standards and processes. In this article, let’s discuss how you do that today.

Email Deliverability Importance

You’ve probably seen a lot of email service providers advertise “98% deliverability” or “high deliverability” or “the best deliverability ever,” and you might be wondering what it all means. Deliverability is a way to measure the success at which an email marketer gets a campaign into subscribers’ inboxes.  Senders affect their own deliverability, too—so if you create good content and maintain a clean list, your campaigns will be more likely to reach your subscribers.

Your Community Email Strategy

According to various reports, 18% of permission-based email in North America never reaches the inbox: 5% is classified as spam, and the remaining 13% simply goes missing. While 82% inbox placement is not a horrible number, marketers would agree that there is certainly room for improvement.

There’s no question that email software and the people who use it are getting better at filtering out spam. This is good since it makes it easier for engaging emails to get through — but without a strong focus on deliverability, sometimes even quality, permission-based emails can get filtered out of your subscriber’s inboxes.

You want every email your organization sends out to be welcomed by the community and, where appropriate, responded to. Like most projects, you have to have a vision for how you get there.

Your non-profit must communicate with each group and sub-group found in it. You want to keep information flowing freely in both directions for your communications such as a:

  • Welcome message introducing a new staff member or new sponsor.
  • Weekly or monthly newsletters.
  • Events that are being planned, organized or reviewed to get maximum attention.

An email strategy underpins everything to do with successful email communication. You must ensure that:

  • Each email supports and enhances your goal of building, engaging and encouraging involvement.
  • Each email goes to the correct recipient.
  • Each email is both expected and welcomed by the recipient.
  • As many emails possible are opened and responded to.
  • Where it applies, you want emails which are created by group members to be accurate and appropriate.

To the point, you have to make sure that each email goes to the right person. They must open them. They must respond to them, and even add their own content for further distribution. In this personalized way, community involvement is maximized.

Ensuring Standards of Deliverability

Community software technology enables and ensures that required standards are met, so your strategy succeeds. Using a specialist company to manage standards of delivery, means you can focus on your organization and its community. Standards you want in place include:

  • The right subscription settings, to keep members’ preferences paramount.
  • Opting in and opting out are simple.
  • Emails are delivered correctly to authenticated addresses.
  • User-generated content is checked to make sure it is both authentic and appropriate to its recipients.
  • Servers and the network, itself, remain secure.
  • Feedback is continuous so any complaints, permanent blocks, etc. can be handled properly and problems get addressed.
  • Client monitoring, help desk access, etc. are under client control, and reports are produced so it is easy to review and respond to anything.
  • Application features can be customized to suit the organization’s style, feel and look.

Standards like these mean that staff and members can focus on the community, rather than worry about security or unwanted communication. When teams are planning or running a fund-raiser, for example, they have neither the time nor the desire to keep “looking over their shoulders” to see if everything is working as it is supposed to. This brings us to the processes.

System Processes

The technical details that are built into the software, and into the user interface are what enable the your community’s standards to be met. The email software must be able to continuously monitor email activity and content. This process then reports the results so everything is clear and obvious. The reports mean the community managers can either positively confirm that everything is deliverable or that they can order up improvements to fix minor problems before they become major problems.

Best Practices For Deliverability In Your Community

Trust and engagement matters in email best practices in your community.

First, your community should give your subscribers a good reason to opt in and set clear expectations about what’s to come. Then, follow through on your promises with timely, targeted, valuable emails.

Second, choose a solid email marketing service provider. Make sure the vendor you choose is sophisticated enough to provide:

  • Bounce codes, feedback loops, and connection optimization.
  • Has email technology which is up-to-date and compliant with today’s legal requirements.

A good provider must also cultivate good relationships with receivers by applying proactive issue resolutions, feedback loops, and whitelisting practices.

A modern email marketing service provider will ensure deliverablity. It will allow you to segment your contact lists into sub-lists so that you can target specific customers with specific messages. This is essential to keeping your audience engaged with relevant content and making sure the right person gets the right message at the right time.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Before You Even Call A Vendor: Know The 3 Buckets of Nonprofit Marketing Tech

Before Googling Nonprofit Technology Options

Buying the software to power your nonprofit is an intimidating task. Your ability to fund-raise, advocate, and create meaningful change rely on this one big choice.  Not to mention it is usually one of the largest costs for an organization. In this article, we get a fresh perspective from LeadPup on how to classify and steps to take before calling a nonprofit technology provider which specializes in marketing technology. 

The Wrong Way to Buy NP Marketing Tech

In a hurried rush to alleviate their current CRM bottleneck, or even mish-mash of cheaper software solutions, organizations will often start searching the web for every product that looks like it could do the trick.  Unfortunately, this often leads to time wasted and the wrong software choice.

Make your search more efficient and effective.  This saves you time and money throughout your tech search, and more importantly, allows your organizations to improve its fundraising and communications.  And of course, better execute on your mission.

Understand This Framework BEFORE You Look at a Single NP TECH Vendor

All-In-One NP Tech for Marketing 

AIO, All-In-One, solutions attempt to support an entire marketing organization with a single platform. The value of an AIO solution is easily calculated by determining the extent to which the system supports each of the critical marketing functions that an organization requires. Often, when a marketing team selects an AIO solution, the tool works well to meet the program’s needs; however, if the organization’s marketing program evolves and the AIO solution is not improved at an equal pace, the value of the system can plummet quickly.

In the nonprofit (NP Tech) space, a dozen viable AIO solutions have been on the market for the last 15 years. While there are of course exceptions, entry level AIO systems can cost a minimum of $10,000 to deploy and as little as little as several hundred dollars per month for marketers with small email lists. Sophisticated organizations should expect to pay six figures to support deployment and integration, with monthly costs ranging from $500 to $50,000 per month in software fees. 

We feel that AIO solutions are good solutions for organizations whose programs are fairly simple or are relatively new. They allow organizations to fix their investment in marketing technology, while maximizing their options for the team or internal staff who manage the system. 

Examples: Blackbaud Luminate, Engaging Networks, Salsa 


Best-In-Class, BIC solutions, provide organizations with the strongest, most unfettered options for the components of their marketing technology stack. Many BIC solutions are deployed to accept data from hundreds of different sources and deliver upwards of thousands of campaign files on a monthly basis.

The vast majority of organizations that use BIC solutions contract with a vendor who procures, deploys, and manages all of the technology and marketing services associated with the stack. The solutions involve the integration of strong commercial software applications along with proprietary code to support things like consumer data integration. The BIC solution does what it says, offering the customer the best possible options for all pieces of the marketing tech stack.

These solutions are used from mid-sized retailers to leading insurance companies but, to a much lesser degree, large nonprofit organizations. BIC solutions cost between $500,000 to $1,000,000 to deploy and anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 per month for support and technology.

BIC solutions are best for marketing organizations that manage established, sophisticated programs across many different media and channels. Their cost for performance is best realized by marketing organizations that have extremely high volumes of consumer and transactional data files coming into the system. Lastly, organizations that use these systems tend to be managing 100+ campaigns across media per month.

Examples: Jackson River Springboard


Best-Of-Breed, BOB solutions, attempt to provide organizations greater performance through broad choice of the components used across the stack. A BOB solution is often anchored around one open and flexible component in the stack – usually the contact or campaign management component.

The consumer data integration, promotion, and public facing forms are integrated into the anchor application. A high quality BOB solution can provide greater performance than an AIO solution for a similar cost after the initial deployment and configuration is complete. BOB solutions can be deployed with a progressive strategy that allows new components to be added or replaced over time, as a marketing program evolves.

BOB solutions are most successful when adequate resources are allocated for ongoing support and change management. This support is most often provided to organizations by a 3rd party vendor who provides strong support for change management.

Budget wise, they are best for organizations that can afford a deployment cost of several hundred thousand dollars and $20,000 to $40,000 per month in software costs and support services.

BOB solutions are best for marketing organizations that are rapidly innovating or are dedicating significant resources to improving an established program. They are often best for programs that focus on relatively few promotional media (i.e. email and direct mail) and have a moderate volume of campaigns (e.g. 15 per month).

Examples: EveryAction

The 3 Buckets – Side-by-Side Comparison of NP Tech for Marketing

In the chart below, we compare the three types of nonprofit marketing technology solutions with each of the major components of marketing technology. These are of course generalizations, but having reviewed and built hundreds of software applications and solutions, we are confident that these assumptions hold true for the NP Tech community.

Compare Nonprofit Donor Fundraising Software

Applying This Framework – Pick Your NP Tech Solution Type

  1. Identify which features are most critical to your organization (green boxes).
  2. Start your search by identifying these features in a software solution (perhaps starting with a list from SmartThought Solutions…).
  3. Use Those Free Trials!!  Never make such an important decision without getting your hands dirty in the program. 
  4. Make Your Purchase!
  5. Take advantage of all services to help you migrate your data.  You just paid a lot of money, get all the support you deserve. 
  6. Get back to work – knowing that your tech will help, not hinder your cause!

We are proud to offer this great content on NP Tech written by LeadPup. Who is LeadPup? LeadPup helps organizations find and cultivate strong donor and membership leads.  We also regularly produce resources to help nonprofits with their marketing.  Join us here to learn more.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts mind.

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