Category Archive: Best Practices

Salesforce Spring ’22 Release – what’s new

Avatar photo February 3rd, 2022 by

Salesforce is constantly releasing new features and updates to their platform. The Spring ’22 Release is no different, with a ton of new features to help users be more productive and effective. In this blog post, we’ll highlight some of the most important changes and how they can benefit you. So whether you’re already using Salesforce or are just starting out, make sure to check out what’s new in the Spring ’22 Release!

  1. Multi-Factor Authentication(MFA). Starting February 1, 2022 all Quip users are required to use multi-factor authentication (MFA) when logging in or accessing the application through single sign on. Salesforce will activate MFA for this date only and enforce it from May 1st onward so as not disrupt current business operations during these transition periods.
  2. API Version Retirement. You need to upgrade! Salesforce is warning developers that they will be retiring older versions of their API in summer 2022. Versions 7 through 20 are all officially deprecated, so if you’re still using them after this date it means your application has either been made obsolete or isn’t quite up-to speed with the new standards yet.
  3. Edit fields via a report– for example you can update statuses and clean up data without rerunning your reports. With this new update, you can edit multiple records on the report run page and make changes to your data without having to re-run it. This is perfect for those who want quick updates or cleanup of old statuses that may be outdated!
  4. Archive Experience Cloud Sites.Archiving a site in Salesforce is now simple! You can use the new “Archive” button on your organization’s detail page to permanently remove it from public access. When an archive occurs, its URL becomes inaccessible for everyone including admins – but that doesn’t mean they’re gone forever; if there was ever any change of heart about these sites, then just unarchived them again easily enough without having exceeded 100 total webpages/urls or links within SFDC.
  5. Community licenses can now support 100+ million site members.
  6. Enhanced landing pages with Pardot.Customize your Pardot forms with style options that will make them stand out on any landing page. Apply colors, fonts and margins to create an attractive form inside the enhanced builder without having to do anything else!
  7. Salesforce for Outlook will be retired in 2023.As announced, Salesforce’s Lightning Experience and Classic will no longer sync contacts beginning in June 2023. To continue collaborating with your organization after this transition please consider moving to Salesforce’s next generation products such as the Outlook Integration or Einstein Activity Capture.
  8. Slack and Salesforce SSO. You can now bring your team together in one place with Slack’s new single sign-on feature! You’ll be able to access protected data without having credentials saved on individual devices.
  9. Org admin can perform Email updates and password resets in the same operation.

Most features are released with little to no negative impact on the org. However there are features that are deprecated and replaced with new functionality that you want to keep an eye out for. You can find those by using the search capabilities in the release notes and using the keyword Deprecatedto see the full list for the current release.

Advice from the experts

Take the time to review the notes. We know that can be a bit daunting, but there is really good information in the notes.

Leverage as many of the new features and functionality as possible. By doing so you might find, for example, that the time your staff spends on manual tasks could be replaced with a simple automation.

Your production instance will be upgraded to the Spring ’22 Release according to the rolling 12-month release calendar on To see your upgrade date, enter your instance name or domain and click the maintenance tab.

The experts at fusionSpan are always happy to help! Contact us today!

The Advantages Of Online Strategic Planning

carol hamilton fusionSpan Team December 8th, 2021 by

Most people think of strategic planning as a marathon 8- or 10-hour or 2-day retreat. You process lots of information, discuss, debate and brainstorm. You have lunch brought in so you can work without a break. You fill flip chart after flip chart with ideas.

Then, around mid-afternoon, when it’s time to start making important decisions, you’ve hit cognitive load. You’re mentally and physically spent.

There Is A Better Way

​What if you took those grueling 8 or 10 or 12 hours and divided them into manageable 2- or 3-hour sessions, each of which has a contained set of goals and builds on the one before? What if you had time to reflect, think and process between sessions?

By holding shorter sessions via video conference over a period of time, we have found that organizations actually make progress more quickly and end up with better results. Doing one piece of the process at a time and giving participants a break between sessions can make your strategic planning more thoughtful, integrative and aligning. All of this is done virtually combining video conferencing with a collaborative tool to capture notes and ideas along the way.

There are many benefits to pacing strategic planning sessions and working virtually. Some of these include:

  • Working with more clear and defined goals for each session groups go further faster.
  • During the time between large group sessions, participants can fully flesh out their ideas on their own or with a few others, so each person’s perspectives will be part of the finished plan.
  • Pacing also allows the strategic planning committee or other leadership groups to do refinement between the large group planning sessions.
  • Groups reach alignment more easily and quickly because they’ve had the time and space to sift out the chaff and home in on what’s really important.
  • It also is often easier for volunteers to fit into their busy schedules.
  • AND so important to budget challenged nonprofit organizations – it saves all the cost of paying for everyone to travel to be together.

But What About Zoom Fatigue?

It seems like we are spending our lives on Zoom and other video conferencing systems these days. So the prospect of doing your whole strategic planning process online as well might fill you with dread. What differentiates a meeting you dread and one that gets you excited about the work you do? Think of all the bad meetings you have attended – whether in person or online what made those meetings boring and frustrating? Typically they are meetings with:

  • Have no clear purpose, goal and agenda
  • Without a clear purpose, a seemingly random group of people is brought together
  • No one has taken any time to prepare for the meeting, including the person who is leading it
  • The meeting is either way too short for the agenda assembled on the spot or way too long
  • Conversations meander in unconnected directions
  • No one knows what they are supposed to do after the meeting is over


A well facilitated online strategic planning process has the opportunity to be the opposite of what is on the list above.

  • Clear goals for each meeting,
  • One session building on the next,
  • Each session is appropriately scoped to have enough time for in depth discussions,
  • Notes are created in real time,
  • You leave with clear next steps and follow through.

But to have this success and translate the process online effectively, you will need to do a few things.

Plan Ahead & Educate Yourself

You will need to plan what tools you are using. You will need to make sure everyone is able to access the documents you will be referring to during the meeting, the files or system you will be using to capture notes and brainstorms, etc. Also be sure to plan for a lower tech plan B. You need to familiarize with the systems you are using to run the meeting. Take some time to play with the system before you pull the group together. Consider testing some features with a colleague and see what you can “break.”

Match Your Tech Tools With Your Participants

You may be excited about trying out the online brainstorming tool you just heard about but make sure that what you choose matches the skills of your participants. You want people focused on their strategic conversation not struggling to make the tool work. So for some groups Zoom and a google doc, and the occasional Jamboard, will be a perfect match. For others, Zoom (or another video conferencing tool) plus an online brainstorming tool like Miro or Mural will work great.

Educate Your Participants

You can try and avoid spending the first 10 minutes of the meeting getting everyone acquainted with the technology systems by creating a video or two that provides a quick overview. Loom is good for this and very easy to use. You might also give the group a small assignment that gets them into the tool you will use for note taking. Something as simple as asking them to open a google doc and write their name at the top of the document. Or, if you are using a more sophisticated tool such as Mural – have them do a check in process. This kick starts your check in at the beginning of the meeting and gives them the chance to play with the tool before the meeting without the same time pressure.

Distraction, Distraction, Distraction

It is hard enough to keep everyone on track when you are together in a room. Then add technology and distance. Your phone and email chirping in the background. Getting on Zoom and wondering whether your co-workers have pants on. Your kids or pets making a ruckus in the next room. Online meetings have to fight for people’s attention even more than in person.

Ask For Their Focus

When you meet online, everything else on the person’s computer or device is there to distract them. A simple step you can take at the beginning of each session is to ask them to close their extra tabs, email, notifications, etc. for the duration of the meeting. Remember to take breaks. Take a moment for everyone to get out of their chair and stretch.

Building Rapport Online

Over the past year and a half, there has been a lot written about the disadvantages of online meetings. Clearly you are missing out on a lot of body language and other non-verbal cues. If folks do not know how to turn off the self-view, it can be wearing and anxiety producing to stare at yourself for hours. Building rapport with people online is one of the things people often mention as a challenge in online meetings. Yet with some intention it is possible.

Connection Before Content

A good practice (whether in person or online) is to be sure to take a little bit of time at the beginning of the meeting to connect on a personal level before you jump into the meeting agenda. This could include a check in question such as an ice-breaker. Some people cringe when you mention icebreaker. Yet the question does not have to be “what Harry Potter character are you?” or “or [fill in the blank with a question you’ve been asked at beginning of a meeting that had nothing to do with the issues at hand]. It can be work-related.

With groups who do not know each other, making the question relatively safe is often a good place to start. What is the latest app you discovered and love? What is your superpower? What are you hoping we achieve today? If the group is large and you are afraid intros and icebreakers will take up a chunk of the meeting time, split people into smaller groups (2-4) and have them introduce themselves in their small group.

Creating Norms

If the group is going to be working together for a while, help them have a conversation about how they want to work together. What helps them work effectively in a group? What might get in the way working together online and remotely? How might they address those challenges? It may take a few rounds of brainstorming and refinement to come to a set of agreements that work for everyone. Yet having this list of agreements will help if the group runs into challenges.


Online it takes a little bit longer for people to jump into the conversation. They may hesitate wondering whether someone else is going to talk and not wanting to interrupt anyone. Rapport and trust will be lost if a person in the group does not feel like their voice is being heard. They may feel you are rushing through items without sufficient time for discussion.

A good practice as a meeting leader is to pose a question or discussion topic and then take a drink of water. Taking that drink will prevent you from continuing to talk and gives your meeting participants time to gather their thoughts and respond.

Pulse Checks

Do you really know whether everyone is with you and in agreement? During an online meeting it is even more important to check in more frequently with the group to make sure they understand:

  • What part of the agenda you are
  • what issue is being discussed
  • what document you are referring to…
  • whether they agree with the proposed next steps.

Don’t assume silence means agreement.

Once The Process Is Complete

A plan is just a plan – even when the document has strategic plan in the title. It’s not set in stone. It isn’t a tablet from on high. It’s a document that your group created itself and can tweak and adjust as you move forward.

The process of strategic planning itself brings clarity and alignment by creating an opportunity to talk and explore issues together. The less intensive pace of doing the process online brings greater opportunity for buy in, input and integration.

About Grace Social Sector & More Information

Carol Hamilton has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit and association sectors working with organizations with a range of missions. Carol trains frequently on leadership, strategy, organizational culture and design as well as innovation topics and is the host of the Mission: Impact podcast. She graduated from Swarthmore College and has her Masters in Organization Development from American University.

A strategic thinker, through her work with Grace Social Sector Consulting, Carol works with teams and organizations to envision and frame their future strategic direction. Practical in her approach, she helps organizations think through who is key to creating their future, how to gather insights from these stakeholders, consider the big picture, imagine new possibilities, come to agreement on their future goals and create an initial action plan to get started. She takes a human centered and appreciative approach in her work. She is also part of a consultant collective focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, All In Consulting.

How to Effectively Compare Data from Two Different Salesforce Systems

Avatar photo October 14th, 2021 by

Comparing data between systems is necessary for businesses that are looking to migrate, adjust or back up data. The issue, however, is that data comparisons are tedious, repetitive, and time-consuming. Users have to detect changes that occurred in multiple cells under the same record, with potentially millions of records existing in the compared objects.

In a member-based organization, associations need to compare contacts, sales, orders, memberships, and objects before implementing a data migration. The objective is to avoid data duplication, as duplicate records can cause record issues such as membership miscalculation, address errors, mis-identified contacts, and more.

The good news is that there are code packages specifically designed to handle data comparison. At fusionSpan, our analysts regularly use one of these packages to speed up data comparison, ensuring that the process is kept simple.

In the following paragraphs, I will describe what steps we take here at fusionSpan to complete our data comparison. Our example compares data from two Salesforce systems.

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Step 1: Downloading and Prepping the Data

Say we have two Salesforce systems, one new and another old. We want to compare the data between the new system and the old system. The first step is to download data from both systems. There are multiple ways to download data from salesforce. To ensure that we get all the fields from the objects we export, we usually use the native Salesforce “Data Export” function.

After obtaining the data from both systems, we need to define/select which fields we would be comparing. Then we remove all the fields we don’t need. This can be done in Excel by manually deleting columns or done in R or Python by subsetting the data.

Another thing to take note of is that the new system must have an External ID that maps to the old system. For instance, if the old system contact ID was “abc”, but it was changed to “def” when that same record was brought over to the new system, the new system should have an “External ID Field” that stores the old system ID “abc”. Only with this field will comparing/updating records between systems be possible.

Step 2: Using CompareDF package from R

CompareDF is an MIT Licensed software package developed by Alex Joseph and a group of data enthusiasts. The package is used to easily compare two different datasets using R. This R package is useful in that it provides a comprehensive report as to what changes were made on the datasets, cell by cell. The image below is a Rscript that compares Salesforce Contact Data, it loads the data, finds the common key for records, then does the comparison:

r script

In our example, we are trying to figure out which contacts had their state and phone number changed between 2019 and 2020. In the screenshot below you’ll see contact data for 2019. I’ve determined that id, first_name, last_name and email are unchanged, so the only columns I need to focus on are “state” and “phone_number”.

comun script r

After running the script, an excel file is generated that contains the report.

compare r script

Step 3: Interpreting the Compare Report

In the compare report shown below, the chng_type “+” sign means the record exists in the new contact file, while the “-” sign indicates that the record exists in the old contact file.

compare data

Red and green symbolize there being a difference between the datasets. We can see that the first record Denna Allington changed her state and phone_number between 2019 and 2020. Originally living in Pennsylvania, she moved to Alaska, with her phone number changing from 3100 to 3131.

The second record shows that Gian McNeill changed his state from California to Colorado, but didn’t change his phone number. At the bottom of the report. We can see that only green text exists, meaning that 14-18 were new records that only existed in the new contacts.

The comparedf package has successfully compared each record cell by cell and color coded the differences. The script is easy to write and execution time is short.

Most of the time on this project is spent on cleaning and auditing the data. Salesforce objects usually have a lot of columns, and the user needs to decide what fields they’d want to compare. A lot of the cleanup and audit process can be automated in R.

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Conditional Personalization Using Pardot’s Handlebar Merge Language

Komal Chauhan fusionSpan Team September 30th, 2021 by

Marketers already know that personalization is a key component to success in email communication. This personalization goes beyond “Hello, Komal” and can be used to provide relevant information to contacts. For example, users would include a contact’s Member ID or membership level when communicating about upcoming renewals.

Handlebar Merge Language is named for the curly brackets around the field names { }

In Salesforce Pardot – a very popular marketing automation tool among associations – personalization is an out-of-the-box feature. Pardot uses Handlebar Merge Language (HML) to easily add Pardot Prospect or Account field information into an email. A Pardot Prospect maps to the corresponding Salesforce Contact record.

HML is what Salesforce uses in Lightning Email Templates. Pardot’s future release roadmap features the expansion of email personalization beyond Prospect and Account data, as well as the ability to pull in Salesforce custom object data.

If you are a Fonteva or Nimble user, custom object data includes event attendee information, membership, invoices, receipts, and more. All of that information would be great to include directly in the email content body, so that it dynamically changes person-to-person!

Even without being able to pull in custom object data, currently HML can be used for conditional personalization. Conditional Personalization is a similar concept to dynamic content. If you thought personalization was fantastic, just wait until you learn about conditional personalization!

Using Pardot HML

Let’s consider a straightforward, common scenario. You want the email to say “Hello, {{first name}},” but there are instances when you may not have the first name of the contact and you want to avoid sending “Hello, blank” at all costs.

This situation is where HML saves the day because you can use if/then statements to evaluate if the first name field is blank, then say something else instead. Below is the code you would use:

Pardot HML Code

The images below show what data is on the Pardot Prospect record and how that translates to the email content using HML:

Pardot HML

Pardot HML

Other instances when HML in Pardot is useful are:

  • If the nickname field is populated, then use it, if not then use the first name. If the nickname and first name are not populated, then use a generic message.
  • If you want to provide different URL links based on a Pardot Prospect’s field value. For example, contacts with membership type A get an event registration link, whereas those with membership type B get a different registration link.

Get Started In Pardot Today

Think through your own needs for conditional personalization and see if using Pardot HML provides a solution. fusionSpan can help on the technical side if there are very complex requirements and learning a new coding language is not on your to do list.

Don’t hesitate to reach out today for assistance with your Digital Strategy needs!

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One Search To Rule Them All – An Introduction To Global Search

Avatar photo September 16th, 2021 by

Best Of Breed Infrastructure

Most organizations today deploy a “best-of-breed” infrastructure, meaning that they use the best software that solves a specific business problem really well. These systems typically aim to include member management, payment gateways, event registration and more all in one platform. While these tools have many advantages, there are a few problems.

  • Information is scattered across multiple systems
  • Related conversations are happening on multiple channels 
  • Users need to go to multiple systems to get the full picture on a topic
fusionConnect Diagram

Problem For Members

Association members frequently come to the website of an association using the website search. Usually, they only see pages within the CMS that have that specific keyword. Many times, they may be searching for one of their LMS offerings or an event session. This information is not available in the website search, thus frustrating the member and forcing them to create a support request.

Problem For Staff

Association staff struggle to find information easily on their back office systems right now. They typically rely on the AMS or CRM for information, but that doesn’t give them a Customer 360 view of the member. This also doesn’t capture all of the communication, both internal and external, thats happening on multiple channels such as Chat, Email, Office Documents, and the CRM.

Global Search

An ideal solution to this problem is to create a single easy to use search that combines data from all different systems. This solution provides a single search interface, which searches across all of the platforms that are being used in the organization.

We can implement functionality like this with ElasticSearch. With Elastic Search, we can implement a cloud based Google-like search interface that can search across multiple data sources, and present a single unified result. Furthermore, the search interface can function as its own website, or can instead be incorporated into any existing system like a CMS or a CRM.

Single global search engine can serve distinct content to audiences based on the role and access level. Furthermore, it can show results from “your gmail” and “your google drive”

organization sources

Case Study: fusionSpan One Search

We implemented this within fusionSpan and combined all our data sources including Google Apps, Slack, Zoom, Asana, JIRA, Confluence and are adding more.

Conversations for a single client or project are happening on multiple channels – some of these channels like Slack are internal facing, while others like Asana as external/client facing. This has given our staff a singular search to search all their content buckets.

fusionSpan One Search


Elastic Search comes with dozens of built in connectors that can connect to different sources like Slack and Dropbox. fusionSpan can also add custom data sources like Salesforce etc, with over 200 connectors we have featured on our fusionConnect Platform.

We can also provide a single search engine that can be integrated into an internal staff accessible system like Salesforce CRM, and an external customer facing system like a website.


Get Started With Global Search Today

We have had great success implementing a global search solution at fusionSpan internally. One fusionSpan search combines search results from Gmail, Google Workspace, Google Drive, Confluence, Jira, Asana, Zoom, and more. We no longer have to go to multiple applications to look for assets, and even have our own private google search.

Stay tuned as we add more tips and trick on global search functionality.  For users looking to get started right away, reach out to the fusionSpan team for more guidance!

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How To Prevent Carding At Your Organization

Sanket Khare July 22nd, 2021 by

As an Association or nonprofit, you likely rely heavily upon your members paying by Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover for membership dues, certifications, event registration, and more.

How To Prevent Carding At Your Organization Now, imagine what would happen to your organization if you couldn’t accept credit card payments for any period of time. The prospect of not being able to accept credit card payments for even 30 minutes due to your services being down during the peak times would be a major problem.

Activities like carding could lead to an immediate suspension of your credit card processing services (also called merchant services) for an indefinite period of time – this in turn could result in significant loss of revenue or reputation to your Association.

What Is Carding?

Carding is a type of fraud in which a thief uses stolen credit cards to test its data against a merchant’s payment processing system, ultimately aiming to verify and identify missing values of stolen card details. Card cracking and carding are two common automated bot threats.

Fraudsters will typically visit e-commerce websites and initiate multiple transactions by submitting purchase requests on the Internet. Because credit cards are often canceled quickly after being lost, a major part of carding involves testing the stolen card information to see if it still works.

Methods such as Malware, Phishing, and Credit card skimming are used by criminals to steal your credit card information and use it for carding purposes.

Defense Strategies To Prevent Carding

Despite the liability that comes with creating and maintaining a payment processor gateway at your organization, there are ways to protect yourself! Some initial steps include using anti-spyware and malware-blocker software, as well as promptly running updates to that software.

Additional strategies to protect your organization include:

Defense Strategies To Prevent Carding

  • CAPTCHA – a challenge-response test that helps an online merchant verify you’re a human shopper
  • Address Verification System (AVS) – compares the billing address used in the transaction with the issuing bank’s address information on file for that cardholder
  • IP Geolocation Checks – confirms if the details of a purchase made from a certain country correspond to other known banking and invoicing records
  • BIN Number Tracking – participants in online transactions can detect cases of fraud and identity theft by matching the geographic location of the cardholder to the location provided by the BIN (The first four to six digits identify the financial institution that issued the card)
  • Velocity Checks – merchants use this metric to identify irregular patterns in the checkout process that might show fraud
  • Authorization/Capture – a merchant verifies that your card can be charged but holds off on collecting the funds from the card issuer
  • Blacklist – build a customer blacklist to block individuals who are repeat fraud offenders
  • Machine ID/Device Fingerprinting – determine whether or not a user is repeatedly visiting a merchant’s site using different payment attributes (names, addresses, IPs, credit cards, computer browsers, etc.) to mask their identity

How fusionSpan Can Help

A coordinated, proactive approach will ensure your association will be in a better position to weather potential threats. Carding could lead to an immediate suspension of your credit card processing services, so it is imperative to take defensive measures to prevent carding activity.

For more information on carding, and how to defend your member-based organization against such threats, do not hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan today!

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Get More ROI From Your TechStack By Making A Salesforce Wishlist

Janel Carpenter July 12th, 2021 by

The technology ecosystem has grown significantly since I started my career. There are stunning examples of what we can do with data and the right tools. Online meetings can now be captioned in real time for better accessibility. 3D printing, a data-hungry tech, is being used to build everything from human organs to houses.

Most of these technologies require specialized tools and significant R&D investments. How can a business user, and a member based organization in particular, use technology with the same power and reach? And more importantly, how can these technologies prove their worth with ROI?

Here are a few Salesforce Ecosystem Investments that are worth looking into, depending on your mission and type of organization!

Next Best Action

Next Best Action I’ve never implemented Next Best Action, but using a software service to implement a process I’ve manually written out in a strategy memo would be a welcome change of pace. Marketing processes using a Next Best Action strategy has been around for years. In general, those types of recommendations are rules based systems. For example, when a server offers you a specific wine to go with your meal, they are engaging in Next Best Action marketing.

As an organization looking to engage members, you can supercharge your recommendations by using Next Best Action powered by Einstein AI. The biggest feature to increase ROI is designing strategies for your Next Best Action recommendations. Combined with data about the customer, such as member loyalty or events attendance, you can increase the effectiveness of your service recommendations and create more customizable experiences for your members. Create your own reports to measure your success or use a package of preconfigured reports from the AppExchange.


My entry into the tech space was through data management and analysis. Data is an organization’s most important asset, but a key part of evaluating your key metrics is proper attribution. For organizations serving a large constituency, campaign attribution can be a painstaking task if you don’t have the right software.


Datorama has a data model optimized for campaign attribution and uses machine learning to process data, saving the most time-consuming step in the data analysis routine. Personally, reformatting and manipulating data is a little like knitting to me, but if there’s a better, more efficient way to process data, I’d welcome the chance to focus on big questions rather than repetitive tasks. The biggest ROI of a tool like Datorama is the time savings, but customers using Datorama have also reported huge gains in customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores.

Prediction Builder

I’ll be honest. I’ve never had the opportunity to build a prediction, but I want to. As you can see with Datorama above, data is an organization’s most valuable asset. Predictive analytics is another reason to collect and manage actionable data, and fusionSpan has expertise in implementing data migration/transformation as well as business process automation to ensure relevant data is captured.

The most straightforward predictions that you can build using Salesforce’s Einstein Prediction Builder are centered around Sales, e.g. who is likely to buy X product, or who is likely to respond to a discount code. However, you can also build more complex predictions such as college graduation rates.

Prediction Builder

For more use cases, you can check out Salesforce’s Guide to AI and see how companies are applying AI to their day-to-day. Remember, implementing solutions like these is where we can help!

Increase Your Salesforce Ecosystem ROI With fusionSpan

I started my career as a non-profit admin. My official title was Business and Operations Coordinator, which on a staff of 7 meant that I could be entering data one day and cleaning out a storage room or replacing a light fixture the next. I was fortunate to have a great mentor who gave me plenty of opportunities to develop as many skills as possible.

However, as someone who is focused on getting things done, I’ve always asked for more tools and expertise to meet the demands of my organization’s mission. Spending money, though, is not something to be done for the sake of a novelty or a fad. Return on Investment is a significant factor in deciding what technology to invest in and what useful application a “cool” tech can have. See what kind of tools can help you reach your goals by getting in touch with the fusionSpan team today!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 12: We Are Live, Just Relax Right?

Noel-Shatananda April 1st, 2021 by

You are live, have gone through the go live challenges, and have worked on the other phases whereby the implementation project can be closed. What now?

Here are a few items to consider:

Expand Training Expand Training

Spend time developing training materials, and put a system in place for keeping the training materials up to date as business processes change. Contemplate what new staff members will use to learn the AMS. Consider not relying on tribal knowledge to take you forward.

Keep Up With Updates

In the technology sphere, things are always changing. Establish a team within the organization that will keep up with the testing and adoption of current versions of the AMS and software patches.

Associations that make the effort to keep up with this tend to get the best return on investment from their AMS.

Adopt New Features

Software continuously evolves. Seriously consider adopting new features that are relevant to your business. While this can be a mini project in itself, it is worth the effort to ensure all data resides in a centralized repository. Ultimately, this will give you the most value.

Engage in the Community

Contemplate engaging in your AMS’ user community to have a voice in the new features that the AMS should include in its product roadmap. Work with other associations like yourself to push for an agenda that considers the advancements of the platform.

Be a Reference

If you are happy with your AMS, consider posting positive reviews and being a reference for your AMS vendor. The same applies to your systems integrator as well. Collaboration always pays off in the long run.

Thanks For Following Along!

While our AMS Journey is over, working with your new AMS will never stop! Check out the previous blogs in this series for a full list of resources and tips regarding your AMS selection and adoption.

For all of your CRM questions and needs, do not hesitate to reach out to our talented team here at fusionSpan!

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Tips for Association Professionals Working with Consultants

Avatar photo March 30th, 2021 by

A few years ago, the association I was working at decided to overhaul and upgrade the organization website. Among many other resources, this project involved the need for staff to coordinate work with an outside vendor in order to re-do the site.

Although the website updates were eventually completed, projects rarely go according to plan. Looking back, there are definitely steps we could have carried out differently to better help the consultant understand both our project objectives and expectations. Most of my learning from this specific project centered around communication and understanding business processes.

Within this specific project, these were some of the critical business processes we needed to understand:

  • What and How different departments communicated with members. It was necessary for our team to understand the channels of communication and the content that was being delivered.
  • What and How data processes were used for our Association Management System (AMS). Our team needed to know how data was input into the system, as well as the type of data being collected.

Understanding these pieces played an important role in the project, because it mapped the trajectory of the project and the key stakeholders that needed to be involved. Looking back, establishing this at the onset of the project would have paid dividends to all involved and the project timeline itself.


Note: Recent Reports from the Project Management Institute (PMI) show that about 14% of IT related projects fail outright, and 30% of all projects still fail to meet their goals. On top of that, almost half of all projects still end up being completed late.1

What steps is your association or organization taking to ensure project completion on time?

Gaining this insight was critical to our success, because this particular project involved every department within the organization. Upgrading an entire website was no easy task, so early and consistent communication was essential throughout the entire project.

While this particular website upgrade was just one example, the lessons I took from the overall project have helped me throughout my career. Once a new project is underway, here are a few tried and true methods to help both the consultant(s) and your association staff keep the project on track and on budget:

Establish & Update Standard Operating Procedures

Make sure that your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are in place and up to date. When a person leaves a position within an organization, it creates a knowledge gap. If the person leaving has the best understanding of why things are done the way they are in your association’s AMS, all of that knowledge leaves with the employee unless you have appropriately documented the processes used within your organization. SOPs ensure you are not one person deep on important business knowledge and processes.

SOPs not only help internal staff, but they also help consultants understand how and why an organization operates a certain way. SOPs can be looked at as an organization’s user manual.

Additionally, when your SOPS include why and how processes are handled a certain way, your consultant will better understand your organization and be able to provide the best recommendation for how to move forward. At fusionSpan, we establish SOPs for both internal and external work, and we constantly work to update these procedures with the adoption of new tools or processes.

Set Clear Expectations From The Beginning

Keeping the lines of communication open between the association staff and the consulting team from the very being is key to a well run project. It’s important that all involved understand each other’s roles and responsibilities.

When I started working on IT related projects, I learned there are some helpful things to adopt when communicating with a consultant:

  • Provide clear and concise steps for how you came across the issue.
  • Include screenshots that are clearly labeled – include a clear description of what the screenshot is showing (or not showing).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also be prepared to provide information on your end.
    • For example: If you are working with a consultant to upgrade your AMS, then providing a login will help expedite the process.
  • Help your consultant better understand your association and the community (members) that you represent. This can help the consultant better understand the associations goals and help them to understand how the project fits into the organization long-term.

Communicating who will be the point of contact and SOPs for various business functions across the organization is a key step while undertaking a new project. Establishing clear procedures, and being proactive instead of reactive, will help ensure project completion and success.

Be Responsive & Flexible!

While we are all working to ensure that the project is completed in accordance with the timeline, roadblocks will almost always arise. Be sure that you have a team and procedure in place to adjust scope or requirements for the project, and communicate early and often over any changes within the project.

Most of us are still working remotely, and it might be worth adopting some temporary procedures and measures full-time. Ensure that your team is well-equipped and ready to address project adjustments quickly while continuing to work from home (for more insight on setting your team up for success while working remotely, check out some of our previous blogs).

Remember that when working with consultants, communication plays a key role not only the initial outreach, but throughout the entire project scope. The main takeaway is to remember that all involved are working together to bring the project to completion in a timely manner with the best end result possible.

“Success Rates Rise.” PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, Accessed 2020.

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 11: Going Live, Implementation Fatigue, and Next Phases

Noel-Shatananda March 18th, 2021 by

Your organization has put countless hours of work and research into your new AMS, and now it is time to introduce it to members and stakeholders.

Go live day usually begins calm, but soon gets hectic and turns into a stressful few weeks. We warn our clients that AMS go lives are something that an association goes through once in 8 – 12 years, so approaching it with patience is crucial. The teams that have prepared rigorously obviously fare better. So, prepare, prepare, prepare!

Core Team is Key

Choosing the right core team at the very beginning, with adequate representation from all the various departments, will serve you well during the go-live weeks. These team members will be the champions helping their co-workers get acquainted with the new AMS and help relieve stress.

Establish a System

The weeks surrounding the AMS rollout can be stressful, and ensuring you have a defined system that is well publicized amongst the stakeholders is very beneficial. Here are some tips.

  • Assign core team members to departments as their Tier 1 support. Any question, issue or bug needs to be addressed with that core team member first.
  • The next level of escalation is to the project management team, which will decide the criticality and priority of the issue. The PM team will then decide to escalate further.
  • Once the PM team feels the issue requires escalation, it will be escalated to the team that is working on the issues and bugs. This is usually the team that the system integrators will be a part of.

If an established system is not devised, go live weeks will result in chaos, with people reporting issues to people who cannot bring it to a close. No forward momentum will only to lead to frustration and dissatisfaction with the new AMS platform.

Give It Time

Most go lives do not go exactly as planned. Our experience has led us to believe that a larger association can take up to 3 – 6 months before everything settles down, with the first 4 weeks being the toughest.

Setting the right expectations with the executive team and the entire staff helps tremendously. Sometimes letting the constituent base know in a limited fashion can be an option.

Acknowledge Fatigue

For most associations, the core team that is part of the implementation has a full time job in addition to the implementation. That is difficult to manage. It has worked well when executive management has appreciated the efforts of the core team in tangible ways. This tends to keep morale up.

Phase Slowly

We frequently see situations where certain items are pushed to be completed immediately after go live, since they could not be achieved during the execution phase. This approach needs to be thought through carefully.

If there are minor adjustments that are required for the go live to occur, that is acceptable; however, major changes or additions are discouraged. The staff has just learned a new way of operating on a new AMS, and changing things on them usually results in anxiety or feelings that the implementation process will never end.

Reach Out To fusionSpan Before Our Journey Ends!

The end of Your AMS Journey is almost here! Stay tuned for our final installment of the series in upcoming weeks.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan for assistance with all of your AMS/CRM questions and needs!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 10: Prepare To Go Live

Noel-Shatananda March 4th, 2021 by

The end of Your AMS Journey is in sight – you have undergone testing and training, and are now ready to prep for launch. In fact, preparing for go live is something the team has to keep in mind throughout the entire project. Here are some important items to consider:

Constituent Communication

We recommend that the association begin informing their constituents of the new AMS at least 3 – 4 months before the desired go-live date. The first communication should inform them of the fact that in 3 – 4 months time, they will be a new system and state a few advantages they will directly benefit from. One month from go-live, a second communication should go out to give more details around the date, potential down time, specific benefits as well as drum up enthusiasm about the new system. A third communication should be sent out to state the exact dates and any additional information needed ahead of launch.

Data Freeze Date

project planning

As part of preparing for the go live, determine a date on which all transactions in the system will be halted. This means that there will be no new transactions in the legacy system after that time. All transactions that need to occur will be recorded manually to be applied into the new AMS when it comes online.

Final Data Conversion

The final data migration begins on the data freeze date, and is expected to go until all the data is migrated to the new AMS and has been validated. The cycle 1 data migration that occurred earlier would have provided guidance on how long this activity should have taken.

Portal User Accounts

As part of the final data migration, all portal user accounts need to be created. Additionally, passwords need to be set to what they were in the legacy system, or a communication must be sent out to constituents asking them to reset their passwords.

Go/No-Go Decision

Once all the data is migrated, auditing of the data is complete and is deemed ready to move forward, the go, no-go decision is taken. This decision relies heavily on what items have been reported that the association can live with, have work arounds for and can fix post go live and those that are go live blockers.

Contemplate a Soft Launch

Considering the new AMS will be new to staff and your constituents, if your situation allows, you can contemplate taking a longer time to turn on the constituent facing portal and give staff time to get acquainted first. This splits the stress that staff will have to face day one having to answer an irate constituent on the phone, while still not being totally confident of where in the new AMS to get the information.

Contact fusionSpan For More!

For those following the series, we are nearing the conclusion of our Journey! The end is in sight, and we are close to delivering the long-awaited system both to members and internal stakeholders. Stay tuned for more as we outline the rollout phases of your platform, as well as final action items for you to be taking to conclude this project.

If you are seeking more regarding your AMS platform, or for any of your CRM questions in general, do not hesitate to contact our talented team here at fusionSpan today!

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How To Enable MFA For Your Salesforce Org

Avatar photo March 2nd, 2021 by

Beginning February 1, 2022, Salesforce will require customers to enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) in order to access Salesforce products. In our opinion, this is a good move by Salesforce. We always recommend our clients to enable MFA on any and all of their IT systems that will support it.

For those interested in the thought behind Salesforce’s move, “Everything Admins Need to Know About the MFA Requirement” is a good read on the topic.

Therefore, starting next February, you and your staff will need to use some sort of MFA to log in to Salesforce. Luckily, there are several ways to comply with this new requirement. Read on to see a few of the fusionSpan team’s favorite options for meeting this requirement.

What is MFA?

MFAMulti-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an authentication method in which a user is granted access to a website or application only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism.

MFA is used to protect against hackers by ensuring that digital users are who they say they are. Here is a good blog on the topic.

Authenticator App

Authy LogoThere are multiple authenticator Apps – by Salesforce Authenticator, Google and our favorite Authy. All of them are free and available for both iOS and Android. We like Authy, because it allows you to link multiple apps to a single account, which is helpful when switching devices, while Google/Salesforce have on purpose made switching devices a bit cumbersome.

Using an authenticator App is the most straightforward and convenient way to satisfy the MFA requirement. The drawback is that you will often be asking your staff to download an App on their personal mobile device.

Use An External Identity Provider

Okta Logo If you are an Office 365, Google Workspace or Okta customer, then these services already allow using their service as the identity provider (idP), which means that your users can login into Salesforce using their Office365, Google or Okta login credentials.

This is the approach we favor, it allows your users to: O365 Logo

  • One set of credentials
  • Allows them to login to Salesforce without having to login a second time, as most of your users are likely signed in to O365/Google.
  • You can provision/de-provision users automatically when users are added/removed from O365/Google. Here is a quick guide on how this works with Office 365 and Google
  • Best of all, if you use O365/Google then you satisfy MFA requirements already and don’t need an Authenticator App.

Use A Password Manager

1Password logo If you want to keep login credentials in Salesforce, instead of using an Authenticator App, your users can also use password manager like 1Password (amongst others). 1Password is a very easy to use password manager that will remember all your passwords and allows for 1-click login to websites. 1Password can also be used for as an authenticator for sites with two-factor authentication.

Since MFA will be mandatory starting in February, it’s important to start planning that migration now. You have to also consider doing this in a Sandbox environment first, getting your users familiar with a new process, and drafting up new documentation so that there is no disruption to your business.

Get in touch with the fusionSpan team for best-in-class solutions regarding your Salesforce Org today!

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How Do I Love Data? Let Me Count The Ways!

Katherine Matthews fusionSpan Team February 23rd, 2021 by

Valentine’s Day was last week, and at the invitation of my friends here at fusionSpan, I’m popping in to share a few thoughts about my one true love – data!

I Love that We Are (Finally) Moving Past Just Talking about Data

I Love that We Are (Finally) Moving Past Just Talking about Data The past 12 months have brought change in just about every corner of our lives. In the spirit of making sparkling spiked lemonade out of an abundance of lemons, one positive has been the increased acceptance of the critical role data can/should/does play in our organizations. I credit some of this to the omnipresence of COVID dashboards, charts, and other visualizations. It’s a smart tactic — pairing visual with narrative engages both our quick-thinking reactionary instincts and our deep-thinking analytical processes. We see a picture that uses elements like color and directionality to immediately communicate whether something is good or bad (or neutral) as we digest the subject matter expert’s interpretation to understand the information and how to apply it. Associations are eager to do the same and are working to acquire or bolster the necessary resources — whether it’s to support more robust and/or timely internal metrics or to dedicate resources to a deep analysis of the “whys” or to establish their role as a thought leader and resource by providing meaningful information to their membership.

The rest, I credit to the tireless work of the many data champions in the association space who have been patiently educating us for years about not just the value but the necessity of having robust data strategies in place at our organizations. To navigate these uncharted waters, we need to do simple things like parsing normal fluctuations from sound-the-alarm spikes while also generating resources that support our role as thought-leaders or experts in our respective industries. It’s purely personal, anecdotal data, but historically I’ve observed a tendency for us in the association space to sell ourselves short, so to speak, because we don’t have as much data as the tech behemoths. Now, though, we are seeing that you don’t need “big data” to have impactful data and that the worst thing you can do with data is not use it.

I Love that Technologies Are Becoming More Affordable

Conveniently, just as we are finally putting our data where our mouth is (that’s the expression, right?), the tools and technologies that go with are more accessible and affordable than ever. Low- and no-code platforms for connecting disparate data sources are increasingly available and ready to use right out of the proverbial box. And it’s not just connectors – layering in elements of machine learning or artificial intelligence can be done with a few clicks instead of weeks spent wrestling with packages and code in an IDE. Even the dataset and training don’t have to be hurdles anymore thanks to services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and SageMaker.

With all of this analytical power at our fingertips, we humans are freed up to do the interpreting and communicating. Instead of spending time matching records from separate sources or combing through and tagging content for a taxonomy project, we can skip to the fun part and use the data to understand and improve our programs and services. Maybe we can use our newfound free time (ha!) to build out a knowledge base so that we can finally deploy that chatbot we keep talking about…

And I Even Love that There’s Still Work to Be Done

So, everyone is all-in on data and the tools are cheap and readily available…that’s it, right? Not so fast. There’s a general rule of thumb in analytics we affectionately call the “80-20 rule” — 80% of your time is spent gathering and preparing the data and only 20% is spent actually analyzing and gaining insights from the data. I happen to find that the split is more often along the lines of 99-1 (and I’ve probably got the timesheet data to prove it but I’m too afraid to look!) And this isn’t even including the work of defining the right questions to ask, but that’s a blog post for another day. So how can we get closer to that 80-20 (or better) split?

Committing to Data Hygiene

Your data is only as useful as it is clean. The odd record or two with bad data might not be the end of the world, but if prepping your data for analysis involves an elaborate series of transforms aimed at correcting common mistakes or historically mis-captured information, it might be time to tackle the issues head-on. My recommendation, however, is not to put data projects on hold until “after cleanup” (which is about the same as always saying “tomorrow”). Instead, use your data projects to identify areas of opportunity for cleanup. Work with what you’ve got. Document known issues/gotchas, fix data at the source whenever possible, and establish data collection norms to do better going forward. It may not happen overnight, but incremental progress will build towards a beautiful future.

Defining and Understanding Your Data Model

Ideally, you’ve already gone through a data warehousing project and have end-user-ready data sources available in your BI tool of choice. But, if you haven’t (or even if you have), it’s always good to have a current “map” of your data ecosystem with details on how the different data sources can be related to each other for analysis. Note the unique identifiers that link records as well as the granularity of the dataset in order to ensure you aggregate the data correctly as well as filter out any duplication. This work may not sound the most exciting, but it will pay dividends when you start tackling new projects or using any of the nifty new ML or AI offerings.

Contact fusionSpan for Your Data Questions and Needs!

The need for data is an ever-evolving and growing part of our lives. Leveraging data effectively allows us to communicate information and provide the “why” behind it, and the plethora of resources and tools allows anyone to access and use data!

Here at fusionSpan, our talented team is fully prepared to handle all of your data questions and needs. If you would like to begin taking the next steps with your data, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan today!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 9: UAT & Training

Noel-Shatananda February 18th, 2021 by

Your organization has been hard at work throughout the implementation and data conversion phases of the project. The team has made great progress, but all the activity has been predominantly conducted by the core project team working on perfecting individual modules of the overall project. The testing that has occurred so far is unit/module level testing. It’s time now to take the next step.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

Once the build phase of the project is complete, all the bugs are fixed, and configuration settings corrected, it’s time to test the new Association Management System (AMS) with a system-wide lens in mind. This effort tries to ensure that when the various modules are working together, there is harmony and the desired results are obtained.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

As was suggested in previous steps, creating standard operating procedures all along the build phase is crucial to success in the UAT phase. We recommend that the core team start with the SOPs and run through them in detail as they test the entire AMS carefully.

Take UAT Seriously

Many clients find themselves with their backs against the wall with respect to time and budget when they arrive at UAT. They have spent too much time during the build phase, and have not left themselves enough time to conduct a good UAT. They tend to skip past UAT with the excuse that the unit level testing conducted during the build phase should suffice. Here are just two (amongst many) issues we have encountered:

Bad Data Conversion: While data conversion auditing and reconciliation are a good start, it is no substitute for actually testing the system with the data that has been imported. Many accounting errors have been discovered during UAT in our experience.

Load Testing: Many times, it is only during UAT that the system is tested with the full set of data. This tends to reveal performance issues that were not considered during the build phase. The first few days of the new AMS could be a disaster if the system grinds to a halt post go-live, with irate members on the phone requesting information or accessing the portal.

Fix Issues and Avoid Scope Creep

We recommend setting aside time to fix all the issues that arise during UAT. Since UAT involves a larger number of users, there is frequently the potential for new scope to arise. Beware not to get into the scope creep trap.


Once UAT is complete and the system is stable, it’s time to get the entire staff that will be using the AMS trained and ready to go live. Here again, SOPs will be the key. Members of the core team should participate and be the champions who instill confidence and help with change management.

Stay Tuned for Step 10!

It is important to ensure that you dedicate as much effort and time into the later stages of this project as you did in the beginning. Testing and Training might bring up new topics of consideration for your organization, so it it imperative to stay diligent and dedicated.

Step 10 of Your AMS Journey details everything you need to know regarding prepping for launching your new AMS! In the meantime, don’t hesistate to reach out to fusionSpan with all your CRM questions and needs!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 8: Data Conversion

Noel-Shatananda February 5th, 2021 by

Data conversion, or data migration, is the task of bringing over relevant data from your legacy system to your new CRM. This is one of the most crucial steps for a successful AMS implementation. Bad data will result in a failed project, no matter how good the features are within your new platform.

As you continue your AMS implementation, here are a few considerations regarding the overall data conversion process.


The data conversion process needs to begin at the start of the implementation phase and run throughout the entire process. This is because there are a lot of items to be thought through and planned. A few of the most important are detailed below:

Data QualityData Quality

A new AMS is a good opportunity to both get a handle on your data quality and take concrete steps to clean your data. Consider launching a data governance effort to help you – the collection of processes, roles, policies, and metrics will ensure the effective and efficient use of all information.

Clean in the legacy, not the new

It is strongly recommended that you clean your data in the legacy system and not rely on bringing bad data into the new AMS and cleaning there. We can assure you that once you move to the new system, you will be risking its stability and performance.

Additionally, the first 6 months post-go-live will be spent learning the new AMS. Some customers are sold on the fact that the new AMS will help them with cleansing historic data. Our experience has been that this has not always worked well.

How Much?

One of the most important questions that we have to answer is “how much data needs to be migrated?” Here are a few considerations:

  • How clean is your data? Consider bringing in only clean data. Often, the farther back in time you go, the worse the data tends to be. Trying to bring this data over will only result in time spent cleaning and transforming for a very low return.
  • Are there regulatory requirements? Do you have regulatory requirements around the number of years of data that needs to be maintained in the system? If so, make sure you are aware throughout the process.
  • Do you have a data warehouse? If you have a data warehouse, the data you migrate can consist of only the bare essentials. You can access the rest of the data from the warehouse.
  • Evaluate Value, Not Time! Clients decide how much data to bring over by using an arbitrary number of years that they are comfortable with – let’s say 5 years. This is not the best method. Instead, think of it this way: I will bring in all my years of certification and membership data since it is required by my members and provides value, while I might not bring in more than one year’s worth of merchandise (hats, cups, etc.) data.
  • Do you own the data? If the answer is yes, and you have access, then consider leaving most of the legacy data in the database and tying a reporting/BI tool to it. This will give you easy access to your past data while not burdening the new AMS.
  • What is the Cost? There is typically a data storage cost with newer cloud-based systems. Evaluate the ROI of the data you choose to migrate.

How Much

Extract, Transform, Load

Get help if required. Most system integrators (SI) will not want to take on the responsibility of extracting data from your legacy system. This could be because they do not have experience with your legacy system or do not want to take on the responsibility of extraction. If you do not have internal staff who can pull data effectively, hire a vendor that is an expert in data extraction. Extracting data might also include transforming data into a format that the SI requires. This requires certain skills that less experienced teams may not possess.

Most systems integrators will help with the loading of the data if it is provided to them in the format they desire. However, we have also had some clients take on data conversion themselves – and succeed at it! The key to remember here is the competency of the people executing the conversion process as a whole.

How many data cycles?

We recommend a minimum of at least 2 data cycles. The first data cycle is used to get the methodology established and the second is the final data cycle. Taking the time to iron out the problems in the first cycle will be the key to having a quick and clean final data cycle.


During the running of your first data cycle, confirm you have the requisite auditing capabilities in place to ensure that you are comfortable the new system represents your information accurately. Since the structure of your legacy system could be vastly different from the new AMS, finding good auditing methods during your first data cycle is important.

One simple tactic is to rely on a set of similar reports in both systems. Another is to write automated check routines that compare data. Again, a topic for its own blog.

Stay Tuned For More

Implementation is well underway, and there is finally an end in sight! It is important to continue to be detail-oriented and focused as your team gets into the later stages of the project – don’t let all your hard work go to waste because you run out of steam.

Step 9 of Your AMS Journey will examine the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and training phases of your implementation process. In the meantime, remember that fusionSpan is here for all of your CRM questions and needs!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 7: Implementation

Noel-Shatananda January 21st, 2021 by

Well, it’s time to begin! In Your AMS Journey, Implementation is the execution phase of the whole endeavor. In Step 6 you defined the scope of your project, and the System Implementer (SI) will now begin to bring your vision to life.

The key is structure, accountability and discipline. While the earlier stages of the project have been planning, this is the building phase. Imagine looking at your brand new house coming to shape one brick at a time.


Most system integrators use an Agile delivery model. They tend to configure/develop for a sprint (usually 2 – 3 weeks) and demonstrate their work at the end of it. This model of delivery has proven to be the most successful since it allows you to provide feedback along the way, protecting your investment. It is recommended that you take these demo sessions very seriously and provide the SI the feedback they need. Fixing issues discovered early is far easier and cheaper than when they are caught later on in the process.

Unit Level Testing

Unit Level Testing

As you receive these sprint level demonstrations from the SI, devise a plan with them to conduct unit level testing along the way. For example, when your membership module is being set up: the first sprint was dedicated to the basic setup of your memberships purely with out of the box features, and the next sprint is dedicated to develop some customizations around the special pricing you need.

At the end of the first sprint, you should consider having your membership staff look at what has been set up and get some hands-on experience. At the end of the second sprint, your membership staff should begin some unit level testing of the features developed. As stated earlier, this gives you the opportunity to provide feedback and impact the course of the work quicker.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

As you go through the implementation phase of your project, we recommend that you build out your SOPs along the way, rather than at the end. This has been proven key to the success of many projects. The point to keep in mind here is that the SOP will serve as your final User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase, in addition to the test cases that the SI will provide you.

We have had clients overlook this, come to the UAT phase, and have nothing to use as a basis for their UAT. As go live approaches, the tension in a project increases, and the SOP task is frequently overlooked in lieu of all the other items that need immediate attention. Many times, clients fail to realize that the SOP is what their new staff members will use to learn the system.

Accountability and Discipline is Vital

Please ensure you keep yourself and your core team members accountable to the commitment of time and attention towards this project. It is during implementation that the ball gets dropped. There is high enthusiasm during the discovery and planning phase since time is explicitly allocated for those activities.

During the implementation, tasks like answering SI questions on time, conducting unit testing, attending status meetings are more are frequently overlooked for more pressing daily tasks that need to be completed. We have seen projects slip off the rails during the implementation phase more than once.

Sponsor Meetings

Sponsor Meetings We recommend that monthly sponsor meetings be held between the client sponsor of the project and the SI sponsor. This can be the checkpoint where the project can be course corrected if required. While the project teams are hard at work in the trenches, the client sponsor hears feedback from the rest of the organization in addition to the project team. This insight can sometimes vary from what the project team perceives as the state of the project, giving the client sponsor an early opportunity to take corrective action internally as well as with the SI (if required).

Start The Data Conversion Early

Your efforts to evaluate your existing data for its cleanliness should have begun before the start of the project. If not, this is more or less the last chance. Contemplate a data governance project if one is required. If you need external help with data extraction, it’s time to get those vendors identified and contracted. More about this in the data conversion blog next!

Set Up a Payment Gateway Early

Set Up a Payment Gateway Early

The selection and basic setup of your payment gateway needs to be completed as soon as implementation begins. Many may argue the timing is too early, but our experience has been that the legal paperwork involved with the providers and the pace at which these providers operate is in months.

Go lives have been held up in the past purely because the payment gateway was set up thwarting the possibility to support online transactions. Further complication is added if you are transferring from one gateway provider to another especially if you have periodic scheduled payments. Again, a topic for a blog post of its own!

Stay Tuned For More

While most of your project has been planning, the implementation phase is finally where you get to start executing. Remember to keep enthusiasm and processes as you shift to a new phase of the project.

Implementation is a major step, but it is not the end of Your AMS Journey! Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on data conversion from your legacy AMS to new system. Remember, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan with any AMS questions you might have!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 6: Define Scope, Evaluate ROI

Noel-Shatananda December 10th, 2020 by

With the discovery stage complete, you and your staff let out a sigh of relief. The team is happy the implementation is moving along, and members are eagerly anticipating all of the features they expect the new AMS will bring to make their lives easier.

What’s In and What’s Out

As you review the requirements within the discovery documents, you need to decide what is critical to the business. Therefore, the team must evaluate what is in scope and what can be set aside, at least for the moment. Contemplate some of the following as you endeavor to make the decision:

  • What’s In and What’s OutBusiness Criticality: Evaluate the business criticality of the features you would like implemented. Maybe this item was implemented in your existing AMS but provided very little value. Is it worth the time and effort to replicate and implement it in the new AMS?
  • Resource Impact: Keep a close eye on the financial, time, and staff impact of every feature you plan to implement. Just because the AMS offers a feature does not mean it needs to be implemented. Every feature that is implemented requires time spent setting it up, demonstrations, training, standard operating procedures, user acceptance testing, and long term maintenance.
  • Customization: Most newer systems today tout their ability to be customized to fit your exact need. While this is excellent, it can be a double-edged sword. This topic alone can be a series of blog posts, but the primary takeaway would be ‘do not customize unless absolutely necessary.’ Always weigh the cost of the customization and its long term carrying cost against the value it brings your association.
  • Implementations: Ensure you consider your present implementations carefully, charting a path forward with the new AMS. Consider the fact that the new AMS may not perform a particular function as well as a best of breed system. This is usually the best time to integrate the functionality instead of relying on the AMS’ possible sub-par version of the platform.


It is very common to break the project down into many phases, so you get the project off the ground and a portion implemented quickly while you build other phases as time passes. Let’s discuss some advantages and challenges to consider:


  • The Board: It took time for the Board to approve the new AMS budget, and now they are impatient and eager to see the results.
  • Quick win: The phase 1 budget is obviously lower than the entire project budget, so value can be delivered to the association quicker while the future phases are scheduled. This can sometimes even allow teams to budget across multiple years.
  • Iterative learning: Phases provide the association with an opportunity to learn from mistakes and adapt quickly.
  • Enthusiasm: Having a good phase 1 implementation creates excitement for the staff around the prospect of a new platform and keeps them engaged and enthusiastic.

Challenges to Manage

  • Implementation Fatigue: An AMS implementation takes a lot of effort by the staff to support and keep the daily responsibilities on track. It is common for teams to feel fatigued at the end of phase 1 and need to take a breath. This could impact future phases, resulting in delays.
  • Evaluate business-critical functions: Sometimes, in a rush to phase, the necessary due diligence is not done towards ensuring that all the parts of the business have a viable way to operate day 1 within the platform. This includes ensuring that the new AMS supports any dependent functionality that was supported by the legacy AMS.
  • Budget: While budget management is crucial in all implementations, managing it well is even more important in a phased project since you want to ensure that future phases are adequately funded.
  • Costs more, takes longer: While it may be counterintuitive for some, a phased implementation will cost more than a one time big bang implementation. Every stop and start in an implementation results in repeated tasks, such as user acceptance testing, training, and go-lives.

While the challenges may be daunting, it is still preferable to phase projects, as the advantages overshadow the challenges that could be easily managed with a well-prepared team.

Challenges to Manage

Communication is Still Key

Defining scope and determining each phase’s contents are challenging, but communication to the stakeholders is still vital. Implementations can get off to a dreadful start if this is handled poorly. Stay tuned for our next installment of Your AMS Journey for everything you need to know about preparing for Implementation, and don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented team here at fusionSpan for all of your AMS questions and needs!

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Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 5: Discovery

Noel-Shatananda November 25th, 2020 by

By this stage of Your AMS Journey, you have made all the crucial decisions regarding choosing a new product and implementation partner. With your platform and partner selected, now it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. To begin, you will engage in a discovery.

Clients are often unable to understand the need for a detailed discovery. Organizations will believe that their conversations with a salesperson, or even the RFP responses, should be adequate for the project to begin. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case.

Clients are often unable to understand the need for a detailed discovery

The discovery is an opportunity for the implementation teams of both the client representatives and the Systems Integrator (SI) to learn about the tactics needed to implement the AMS and see what is needed to bring the vision to reality.

In the previous post, I mentioned concentrating on the ‘what.’ This is the time to get into the ‘how.’ Here are some items to think about as your begin the discovery phase:

Take The Needed Time

Take The Needed Time

Contemplate taking the necessary time to go through a deep and thorough discovery. Rushing a discovery will lead to an implementation that will be incomplete and potentially fail.

Imagine not spending time going through the architectural plans when you want to build a house. Moving rooms around after the build is impossible.

Share The Good With The Bad

During our discoveries, we frequently hear in great detail about all the failures of the existing AMS. We recommend that clients be comprehensive and share what works, as well as what does not. We want to ensure that we implement a product that alleviates the legacy system’s pain points and provides and maintains the functionality that has worked.

Core Team Is Key

The involvement of the core team is key to success. In our previous step of the process, we introduce the core team and highlight its key members.

The core team needs to provide the SI with the processes and pain points they face in each area and department of their association. They will be the ones signing off and accepting the various modules of the product implementation later. Their acceptance has a direct impact on adoption across the organization.

Seeing Is Believing

During the discovery meetings, the client should demonstrate the old system and processes to the systems integrator. In turn, the SI should demonstrate stock product functionality to the client.

The demonstrations can be short but will help the Core Team visualize the solution and buy-in quicker.

Solutions, Please!

As you go through the discovery, please ensure that the requirements are captured in-depth with adequate solutions. They could be stock product features or customizations that might be required to support your organization’s particular needs.

Document Everything & Sign Off

Having strong documentation of the required solutions is key to success, as they serve as the scope that drives the project’s acceptance criteria later on.

Ensure there is a sign-off of the relevant modules of discovery documentation by the appropriate department. This provides the opportunity for each department to own their piece of the implementation process. It also guarantees that each department actively participates in the implementation process and later champions the adoption within their own department.

The point of a discovery session is to highlight what you have, what your organization wants, and what you need to move forward. Remember, the discovery is an opportunity for the implementation team of both the client representatives and the systems integrator to learn about the tactics needed to implement your new AMS platform.

Do not hesitate to reach out to fusionSpan for additional resources, and stay tuned for the upcoming blogs as we jump further into the implementation process!

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 3: Choosing the Right Product Partner

Noel-Shatananda October 29th, 2020 by

So what should I look for in my next Association Management System?

As implementers, we often get asked this question is some shape or form during the AMS Journey. For those following this series in order, we have asked “why do we need a change from our current system?” and then developed a vendor selection process through the creation of a RFP.

While evaluating the needs of your current platform and beginning to vet platforms is great progress, our AMS Journey is far from over. Your next step is to identify the exact organizational and platform problems you are looking to solve, and choose a product partner based off those requirements.


Choosing the Right Product Partner

Here are some of the key factors you might want to consider as you evaluate platforms during Your AMS Journey:

Your Size and GrowthYour Size and Growth

We often come across associations that have purchased a 16 wheeler, when what they really needed was just a SUV. If you are a small association that has a concise set of features and processes you need to operate well, then going for an extremely flexible and innovative platform might be overkill.

However, are you looking to grow substantially in the future, and do you envision your members doing the same? If so, you need a cloud based, highly flexible product on an innovative platform.

Place of BirthPlace of Birth

What we mean here is, was the product “born in the cloud”? It’s obvious we want a product that lives in the cloud, but was it architected for the cloud from its inception. This becomes a crucial factor as you grow.

We tend to come across legacy products that were built before the cloud, but have added a web use interface and claim that they are a cloud platform. Unfortunately, that is not true, as the core architecture was never designed with the needs of the cloud in place.

Platform CompatibilityPlatform Compatibility

AMS platforms are great in the sense that your tool is built on top of a stable, innovative, foundational layer. The platform will continue to evolve, and the AMS automatically benefits from the underlying technological innovation. As an example, if the platform began to support artificial intelligence and blockchain, the AMS would be able take advantage of it. Non-platform products would have to integrate or build support for these independently. At some point, your organization will find non-platform products too difficult to keep up with evolving needs.

Features & TechnologyFeatures & Technology

We frequently see associations making decisions purely on features, while not fully understanding the ramifications of the technologies the product is built on. Most legacy systems that have been around a long time have solid features, but are poor at integrating, not born in the cloud, and are hard to customize. Furthermore, some of them are not built on a stable platform.

In-house Technical Competence & BudgetIn-house Technical Competence & Budget

Lastly, it is key to make your product decision based on the technical competence you have on staff and the potential budget you are willing to allocate to IT.

We come across organizations that purchase larger complicated systems, when they clearly did not need it. This in turn leads to poor implementation and adoption, and adds problems instead of solving them. A simpler, fully partner managed, easy to use system will be more beneficial in the long term.

Always Use a Scorecard During Platform Evaluation

Typically, the more customization and features you want to implement, the more it will cost. As you go through product demos, define a score card that all the participants can use to help keep the decision making process objective. Make sure you identify which features are a necessity and which features are extraneous.

There are a variety of templates and resources regarding an implementation scorecard, and each organization will have different pain points with their current platform. At the end of the day, make sure you identify what is most important for your organization as a whole in your evaluation, and weigh those needs properly on your scorecard.

Always Use a Scorecard During Platform Evaluation

Stay Tuned for More!

By this part of Your AMS Journey, the hope is you have not only identified the needs of your organization, but begun to identify the new platform that will fulfill those needs. In our upcoming articles, we will explore where to begin the implementation journey with your new platform and product partner.

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSPAN for all of your AMS consulting questions and needs!

Deliver Value to Association Members by Leveraging Fonteva Reports

Avatar photo October 22nd, 2020 by

In today’s age of digital transformation, leveraging data efficiently and effectively is imperative for associations looking to deliver consistent value to their members. We often work with clients leveraging platforms such as Salesforce and Fonteva, which are tools that offer a wide range of functionalities and customization when it comes to reports and dashboards.

For some readers, you might remember a previous blog post by fusionSPAN titled Falling in Love with Salesforce Reports that showed exactly how to set up a Salesforce report. It covered questions to consider before creating a report and showed an example of a report that an association would use. Let’s dig a little deeper into the Fonteva platform and explore some key topics for associations to consider when leveraging the reports feature within their Salesforce org.

Did You Know?Did You Know?

According to the most recent Nonprofit Trends Report by Salesforce, almost 80% of organizations leverage some sort of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. However, in that same study, 75% of nonprofits reported that measuring and reporting on data is a challenge. Is your organization effectively leveraging member data to achieve your overall mission?

Reporting Basics

Reports on Salesforce-based platforms like Fonteva allow you to visualize your data and can be filtered, grouped, or displayed as you best see fit. If you are an existing Fonteva customer, or part of an organization investigating a switch to a cutting-edge Association Management System (AMS), then you should be aware of the following points:

  • Understand the data structure within Salesforce and how each object is tied to one another when examining data. This helps to curate the report based on your organization’s exact needs.
  • Identify the key fields that you want to be leveraged for filtering in reports. By doing so, we ensure the report we are creating will display the correct information.
  • Lastly, there are four main report types (Tabular, Summary, Matrix, and Joined) that users can choose from, so be sure to select one that will most effectively highlight your data.

Using Filters

When creating reports, the filter feature allow you to pick and choose the exact criteria you want in your report. There are also options for Cross Filters and Filter Logic concepts to leverage within your report.

Using Filters

Custom Reports

In the event that standard report types do not fit your exact needs, there is the option for users to create custom report types. Depending on your specific member and organizational goals, any of the custom report types can also be edited to highlight your desired criteria.

Custom Reports

Out-Of-Box Features

Apart from standard reports and customizable report types, Fonteva also provides out of box features for functionalities such as Membership, Event Management, and Financial information. We typically find that these features are very useful for associations and nonprofit organizations when looking to examine various member-based data sets.


Fonteva gives organizations the power to track every engagement from your members and leverage that data for strategy creation. Some examples of report types include:

  • Members expiring next 30, 60, 90 Days: See the membership status for organization members.
  • Members Lapsed within 90 Days: Track which members have recently ended their membership.
  • Subscription by Type: Create reports based on subscription type (Individual or Organizational).
  • Annual Subscription Comparison: We can filter through data like revenue or amount of members joined at an annual level.


With an increased focus on hybrid and fully virtual events, it is more important than ever to get real-time data without leaving your CRM.

  • Form Responses: Reports can be built based on the data provided by the form response feature from events.
  • Events with Attendees and Ticket Type: A list showing all the attendees from a specific event.
  • Dietary Restrictions: Users can build reports to identify more specific information such as dietary restrictions from their members.


There are a variety of opportunities for revenue that your association can get from customers. Some examples of financial reports include:

  • Deferred Revenue Report: Provides the deferred revenue data and can be filtered based on monthly or annual membership.
  • Aged A/R Report: Provides the aged A/R report from your members to see unpaid posted invoices.
  • FON / Daily Batch Report: Receipts for the day by payment type of your members.

Additional Resources

Before setting up a report to examine member data, ensure that your data is clean and free of errors. Consider looking through Salesforce documentation or a Trailhead course to more effectively analyze key business metrics for your organization.

If you are in search of additional resources about reports, or looking for professional assistance regarding setting up a Salesforce-based org of your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to our excellent Salesforce Customer Success team here at fusionSPAN today!

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 2: Always Have a Request for Proposal

Noel-Shatananda October 16th, 2020 by

As an organization that specializes in AMS support and implementation, we typically step in after the selection of an Association Management System has already been made by your organization. Our first step is to ask the AMS partner or association for their Request For Proposal, but a surprising number of clients never issue one.

What is a Request For Proposal?

A Request For Proposal (RFP) is a document used when an association is seeking support or consultation on a tool, product, or service for their organization to leverage. The RFP is designed to outline the requirements for a specific project, and is used to solicit bids from vendors for the association to consider during the process.

While there are a variety of ways to format the proposal, they typically take time and resources to create. Make sure this is a project your association is fully committed to doing before beginning the RFP process.

Here are some things to consider as you create an Request For Proposal for your AMS Journey:

What is a Request For Proposal?

Clearly Defined Needs: This builds directly off Step 1 in Your AMS Journey, “Ask Why.” Be sure to have a high level set of needs with a strategic vision as you begin outlining this document.

The More Detail, The Better: Now, take that strategic vision the organization has and break it down into detail level requirements. Do not go into the tactics (the how) but clearly state the requirement (the what) in an AMS agnostic way. A typical example could be, “the new AMS supports memberships that can be anniversary (day of purchase) or calendar (yearly) based.”

Hire a Vendor Selection Consultant (VSC): Contemplate hiring a vendor selection consultant who can help you get the details finalized. They usually come with deep knowledge on what an association your size should typically look for. Larger organizations with a bigger staff need to consider this more, since the complexity of their processes are usually higher.

Caveat: Some VSCs may come in with a lengthy list of potential requirements that an organization your size may typically need. Ensure you choose the ones that are most relevant to your organization for the present and the near future. However, beware of adding bells and whistles that you do not need into the basket.

Reduce Complexity: Work with the consultant who would be an unbiased third party to evaluate your existing processes and make the hard decisions on which processes stay, and which ones need to be eliminated. Beware of legacy workarounds: we tend to see a lot of processes that organizations want us to implement that were actually workarounds put in place to overcome a deficiency of the legacy AMS.

Evaluate Bylaws: Oftentimes fusionSPAN has been asked to implement a piece of functionality because the bylaws mandated it, when in reality it made very little sense. We recommend that the association take this opportunity to look at its bylaws carefully to evaluate its relevance during the request process.

It’s your blueprint: The RFP will be the blueprint of the tool that will take you into the future you aspire to march towards. At the end of the day, ensure you are confident and happy with your blueprint.


There are a variety of resources and templates online for your association to use when creating a RFP. Make sure to highlight your organization information and required details for this implementation, as well as budget info, deadlines, and any questions you will have for potential vendors. Remember, the idea of this proposal is to specify your needs to help find the best fit for your association.

Stay tuned for Step 3 of Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption, where we discuss choosing the right Product Partner for your association. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to fusionSPAN with any of your AMS implementation needs!

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 1: Ask Why

Noel-Shatananda October 1st, 2020 by

Welcome to Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption, a blog series presented by fusionSpan. Throughout our work providing consulting, implementation, and support services to non-profits and associations, we have seen our share of successes and challenges that the entire selection and implementation process involves when adopting a new Association Management System (AMS).

In this series, we will shed light on the various steps of the AMS journey your association will face through twelve blog articles, with each one offering specific insight as you move throughout your AMS selection and implementation process. Let’s start at the beginning!

What Is An AMS?

First off, an Association Management System, commonly called an AMS for short, has become an essential tool for membership based organizations to leverage when maintaining a database of member information. In fact, almost all non-profits and associations today use membership management software in some capacity for their organization.

Within the AMS, associations are able to process membership dues renewals, event registration, email marketing and more. Although these platforms are not an all-in-one tool, an AMS allows you to deliver more value to your members in an efficient manner, with seemingly increasingly capabilities. There are a variety of systems and features at different price points, so make sure to evaluate more than just one platform when implementing a new AMS.

Step 1 of Your AMS Journey: Ask “Why?”

As we work with associations during implementation of their chosen AMS, we like to ask them the simple question “Why? Why did you as an organization believe you needed a change from your existing system?”

We hear a lot of reasons: technical, infrastructure, database architecture, reporting, lack of features in a particular area, and many more. Sometimes we hear the strategic vision of the organization is focused on digital transformation, and adopting a new AMS is the logical next step in that process.

As you contemplate identifying and implementing an AMS, here are some topics to consider:

Step 1 of Your AMS Journey: Ask “Why?”

Strategic Vision

Strategic Vision

Clearly define your organizational strategic vision first, then choose a system that will help you accomplish that. As simple as that sounds, many organizations have not articulated their vision at the strategic or executive level, and they expect a system to automatically take them to a better place.

Clearly Defined Needs

Clearly Defined NeedsDefine the explicit high level areas that you expect your new AMS to handle seamlessly, remembering that your AMS cannot do it all. Believe us when we say that the success rate of those who have tried to make their AMS a one-stop-shop is not high. An example could be a single source of truth for all constituent data, membership, and committees, while you might be fine to have your certification needs handled by a best of breed learning management system that integrates tightly with the AMS.

Focus ForwardFocus Forward

Armed with your strategic vision and clearly defined needs, lay out some of the features you would like in each of the modules. Stay away from the tactics, but think at a higher strategic level to define what you want, not how it is achieved.

Beware of the Rear View Mirror

Beware of the Rear View MirrorThis ties directly to defined needs and looking forward. Most of the time we see associations define their future needs based on what their existing AMS lacks, and forget current features they are utilizing. Remember to build a comprehensive list of “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves” when it comes to features and capabilities.

Upgraded Lately?

Upgraded Lately?We frequently find that associations do not invest in keeping their AMS upgraded to the latest version, often because upgrades are costly. This tends to lead to a lack of knowledge and adoption of newer features. As you evaluate a new AMS, it would benefit you to ensure you are aware of all the newer features the latest version of your existing platform supports. It will provide you ideas on features to look out for in your new AMS.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these topics will be a great starting point for your non-profit or association to consider while selecting a new platform. Stay tuned for Step 2 of Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption, where we will demonstrate the value of a Request For Proposal (RFP) during your AMS selection!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about this article or your AMS journey in general, we would be more than happy to help you along the way!

Non-Profit Tech Podcast: Cut Through The Clutter with Elizabeth Weaver Engel and Hilary Marsh

justin fusionSpan Team September 24th, 2020 by

Elizabeth Weaver and Hilary MarshIn our latest Non-Profit Tech Podcast, fusionSpan’s Justin Burniske talks content creation with Hilary Marsh, Chief Strategist of the Content Company and returning guest Elizabeth Weaver Engel, Chief Strategist of Spark Consulting, LLC. Associations are content machines, and we are all looking for ways to reduce the load on staff through effective content curation. Tune in as the group discusses the Whitepaper titled “Cut Through the Clutter: Content Curation, Associations’ Secret Weapon Against Information Overload” written by both Elizabeth and Hilary, and also cover strategies and platforms to use while curating content for your association.

If you would like to learn more about content creation, you can contact Hilary and Elizabeth by visiting their respective company websites:

To learn more about Hilary’s content strategy community, visit:

“Cut Through The Clutter” Whitepaper:

Tune in as Justin, Hilary and Elizabeth discuss opportunities while working remotely ([skipto time=”4:12″]), analytics surrounding content platforms ([skipto time=”19:15″]), resources for content curation ([skipto time=”43:20″]) and more! Don’t forget to subscribe to the Non-Profit Tech Podcast on your preferred podcast platform, and happy listening!

Listen on YouTube:

Fonteva Webinar Sync: Providing Seamless Value to Associations Serving Virtual Events in 2020 and Beyond

Avatar photo September 3rd, 2020 by

As associations continue to adjust to a socially distanced world, virtual events have become less of a convenience and more of a necessity. It is imperative to provide continued value to members, especially when budgetary constraints are at the forefront of many internal conversations.

fonteva webinar

For existing Fonteva customers, or those investigating a switch to a cutting-edge Association Management System (AMS) platform, serving content to members via Zoom Webinar and GoToWebinar already provide great value. However, how do you ensure that only your members register for your members-only webinar? How do you make sure that you can easily track engagement in a single system, without having to manually upload registration lists from your webinar provider into Fonteva or vice versa? How do you provide a seamless, branded registration experience to your members?

Fonteva WebinarSync

What is Fonteva WebinarSync?

Fonteva Events WebinarSync Accelerator is a managed package available to Fonteva customers who are already using Fonteva Events. With WebinarSync, you can integrate the Fonteva Events platform directly with Zoom Webinar and GoToWebinar out of the box.

Fonteva WebinarSync allows you to…

  • Manage Virtual Events with Ease
    • No need for attendees to register twice – registrations in Fonteva write back to your webinar platform
    • Registration data is available for reporting in both platforms
    • Control access to webinar registration using existing Fonteva badges to make sure that only members can register
  • Bi-Directional Sync
    • Create webinars directly in Fonteva, or sync Fonteva events with existing webinars
    • Sync registrations real-time without having to push data back and forth

How to Implement WebinarSync

Once you decide that seamless, synchronized webinar registration will serve your association well, installing WebinarSync only takes a few steps. fusionSpan has assisted several clients with setting up this accelerator, and we have a few recommendations to assist you if you plan to take on this installation on your own.

First, do not rush! While we know that every association is eager to improve their virtual event experience, it is important to give adequate time to test new services before trying to deploy to members. The last thing you want is to publicize a new registration experience, only for members to encounter significant bugs and issues when they actually go to register.

Second, make sure you thoroughly test not only the sync, but the registration experience. When you are asking your members to change how they interact with your association, you will need to be able to answer questions with expertise and ease. At least one person on your staff should feel comfortable walking a member through how to register, how to add the webinar to their calendar, and how to dial into the session once it starts.

Third, decide how you want to report on registration data. With metrics available in both Fonteva and your webinar platform, it’s important to decide where you want to pull routine registration and engagement reports, so that you are consistently evaluating on the same metrics.

I Need Help!

Whether you are trying to integrate a webinar platform other than Zoom Webinar or GoToWebinar, or you just want to leverage the experience of experts in the field to make your implementation a success, fusionSpan is always available to help! We can answer questions, provide guidance, and even engage with you to implement WebinarSync to meet your needs and showcase your value to members, whether they are back in the office, or engaging with your content from the comfort of their homes.

How Associations Can Leverage A Project Management Office

Avatar photo August 6th, 2020 by

While the general concept of project management is undoubtedly utilized by associations for key initiatives like events and membership management, many associations can augment their various teams’ efficiency and program effectiveness by establishing a Project Management Office (PMO).

For anyone unfamiliar with this term, a PMO is defined as “an organizational structure that standardizes the project-related [and/or program-related] governance processes and facilitates the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools and techniques.” (Project Management Institute, 2017, p. 48).1

Types Of PMOs

At first glance, this is a pretty loaded definition. But stick with me, because Figure 1 shows how there are different types of PMOs that can be implemented. In addition, each association can tailor the PMO structure to align with organizational culture, current level of project management maturity, and strategic requirements.

Figure 1: PMO Types and Definitions

For many associations, the best fit would be the Supportive model, which is what we have adopted at fusionSpan. It is the easiest to implement and there should be fewer challenges associated with buy-in. A Supportive PMO can be especially beneficial for associations that frequently need to share resources, as it allows for standardization and additional resources to ease stress on busy staff.

PMO Type Extent of Influence & Control
Supportive *PMO type utilized at fusionSpan This type of PMO primarily provides consulting. Below are some examples of resources to provide direction to staff, access to important information and tools, & prevent having to always “reinvent the wheel”:

  • Best practices
  • Training and professional development for staff
  • Templates for frequently needed documents (e.g., project plan, issue trackers, onsite event registration forms, surveys for members, etc.) Note: PMOs can add to the template repositories and manage revisions to templates on as needed basis.
  • Repositories for standardized business processes/standard operating procedures, lessons learned from previous projects, etc.
Controlling This type of PMO supports the organization similar to a Supportive PMO, but there is a required compliance component. For example:

  • Adherence to particular project management frameworks
  • Required use of particular templates, methods, tools, etc.
Directive This type of PMO entails the highest level of control, where the PMO directly manages projects. Project managers are responsible for reporting project status to the PMO.

Organizations that align their Enterprise-wide PMO to strategy report 27 percent more projects completed successfully and 42 percent fewer projects with scope creep. (PMI)2

Additionally, associations that host large scale events can leverage PMO tools and resources to improve project delivery. Regardless of the type of PMO that is selected, a required element is strong support from an association’s leadership to encourage buy-in and successful adoption.

Implementing A PMO

In planning to implement a PMO, it is important to develop a road map or game plan for what your association wants to achieve via the PMO. Association leadership should collaborate to define the PMO’s goals, and also contemplate the following questions to determine how to structure the PMO (while also delivering value to your organization):

  • What are the pain points or challenges we face in project execution? How have those issues impacted our association’s performance?
  • Do the PMO goals align with our association’s mission and strategic objectives?
  • How can we achieve our goals given our current resources and their corresponding skill sets?

Associations can even take it a step further and establish metrics to gauge PMO performance and value add. These performance measures will largely vary across association, but could include:

  • Number of projects or programs supported by the PMO
  • Number of templates/tools available
  • Number of staff with [x] certification

While working at fusionSpan, I have been part of the Salesforce team’s effort to set up and maintain a Supportive PMO internally. Despite it just being implemented, it is evident that having a one-stop-shop for things like standardized templates, processes, etc. has had a positive impact on our team’s efficiency and project delivery. For more information on PMO best practices and project management generally, I strongly recommend visiting the Project Management Institute’s website (

  1. Project Management Institute. (2017). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide). Newtown Square, Pa: Project Management Institute.
  2. “The High Cost Of Low Performance.” PMI’s Pulse Of The Profession,

Use Automated Testing for your Assoiation’s Website

Avatar photo June 26th, 2020 by

Your staff just went through an intensive User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process, and the shiny new website looks and performs as expected. You give the go ahead to the vendor to launch the site, and in most cases it is also the last time anyone tests all features of the website. Unless a team member or client notices an issue, no one is actively analyzing the site to ensure it maintains expected performance. More often than not, that is due to either not having a staff member responsible for testing or not having the necessary resources to test.


Why Automation?

For associations, websites are often their main member communication platform, and are critical to their operations and financial well being. But websites are complex and can have many pages, sections, forms and other dynamic elements. Its not possible for a human to test all features on a website on a regular basis. The only reasonable solution to ensure the site is working as expected is to implement a comprehensive suite of automated tests.

Types of Website Testing

Types of Website TestingTesting Automation has come a long way and can be a highly effective solution in identifying issues with the site. Issues that association usually rely on members to report on. But often that causes frustration amongst members or these issues are found at critical junctures (like during conference registrations), leaving everyone scrambling.

While it might seem obvious as to why you would want your website to function properly, there are a few different metrics that could impact website performance.

With automation, test cases once set-up can run on their own, and frequently. This will ensure the website continues to look and function as expected. Therefore, when your association website experiences high-traffic sessions like membership renewals and event registrations, you can rest easy at night knowing your page is being monitored.

Site availability

One performance metric we can all agree on is that site should be online at all times. Free tools like Pingdom and UptimeRobot can constantly monitor your website, and then send out an alert when the site is not accessible.

Since website outages need immediate attention, these alerts can be configured to be sent via email, SMS or to your organization messaging application like Microsoft Teams or Slack.

uptime dashboard

Site Performance

Site PerformanceThis is often a key metric and its also one that has no standard – some sites load faster than other. Its a metric that no one will report an issue with unless the site load times are extremely slow. But its also critical to how usable your website is.

According to Kissmetrics, 47 percent of consumers expect a page to load in two seconds or less. Kissmetrics’ analytics say that 40 percent of consumers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.

There are several free tools, like GTmetrix and Pingdom, that can run site performance tests on a schedule. These tools will generate and send a report highlighting any issues with slower than expected load times.


Browsers are updated constantly, and new ones are often introduced to market. The same browser can also behave differently on different operating systems or devices. This could mean that the website may be broken to a section of your website audience, but no one in staff may realize just because they are using a totally different browser make or version.

With automated tests, we can quickly run the same tests on a multitude of devices, operating systems and browsers. This ensures that any incompatibility can be identified and fixed promptly.

User Login / Single Sign On Testing

iconfinder password

Most association websites will implement single sign on with their CRM, so they can provide member only content to their paying members. This is an integration with an external that will at some point break. When this integration is broken its often not “visible” and the only way you will know is when members start logging support tickets.

But as we show below, we can implement automated tests that will alert us when site login is broken.

Test Automation

Test Automation

A better alternative would be to run an automated test which simulates a member logging into the website. This can be done with automated tools like BrowserStack and SauceLabs. These are paid services but they provide a lot of value. You can setup automated website tests that simulate what a real user would do. They are very easy to create and can be run automatically and simulate multiple devices, operating systems and browsers.

How can fusionSpan help?

Although often overlooked, automated website testing should adopted for every site expecting traffic. We hope to keep writing on this topic for the DIY’ers. For others, we have support plans that include setting up fully automated test suites. Please contact our Digital Strategy Team and inquire about our support options today!

Managing Email Preferences – Lessons Learned

Susan Baumbach June 4th, 2020 by

Last month I celebrated my one-year anniversary at fusionSpan as a Digital Strategy Business Analyst, which resulted in a plethora of celebratory emojis on the company’s internal Slack channel. (For anyone with Slack, I highly recommend the Party Parrot emojis!). My job is to help our clients with marketing automation implementations, ranging from Pardot and Marketing Cloud to Campaign Monitor and HubSpot.

Over the last year, no matter the toolset or client, I learned that email preferences are a fantastic conversation starter for several reasons:

  • There are legal requirements (CAN-SPAM, GDPR, CASL) guiding how contacts can opt-in and out of marketing emails.
  • Associations want to steer members away from the dreaded “Unsubscribe All” link.
  • Although many clients want their members to manage email preferences in as many locations as possible, having the data sync correctly across different tools can be complicated.

Legal Requirements

Legal RequirementsIf you have ever worked with me on a marketing automation implementation, you probably heard me say, “I am not your association’s lawyer, but my understanding of CAN-SPAM is…” I started using this line after being asked by multiple clients what they should do, which prompted Becky Breeden, our Director of Digital Strategy, to remind me that I am indeed not a lawyer. (I was the classic STEM, not liberal arts, student.) Legal compliance is not my wheelhouse, but I do engage with clients on how to implement email preferences based on their understanding of the laws.

A common statement I hear from clients is, “The member opted out of receiving emails, but it is really important that they get the information!” The short answer is, although you may think the information is important (and I do believe you when you say that) – if your member has opted out of emails you should not send it to them. (Note that you can still send members transactional emails, which will be my blog topic in July – stay tuned!)

The Benefit of Offering Email Preferences

The Benefit of Offering Email PreferencesOne key way to limit the number of unsubscribe alls is to include a link to manage email preferences. By using these email preferences you are then able to create segmented lists so you are delivering relevant content to your members. When members see that you tailor content based on their preferences, then they are more likely to be engaged and stay subscribed to your email marketing efforts. There are plenty of useful statistics out there related to ROI on segmentation, but the gist is that segmentation is extremely important, and self-selected email preferences is data directly from your member.

It is a step in the right direction to start using email preferences, but a piece that is likely even more important is having the right email preferences. I recommend to my clients that they look at the emails they have sent in the last 6 months and categorize them. When a final list of preferences is created you want every email that you send to fit into one of the buckets. I have seen clients who are frustrated with their current email preferences because sometimes they do not know which list to use for less frequent emails. There is no magic number of the number of options to provide your members, but I generally see between 10-15.

Where to Manage Email Preferences

I am a big proponent for having an email preference source of truth – allowing members to only go to one location to manage their preferences. You may be thinking that this is too restrictive, but my main reason for this recommendation is that having two or more places to manage preferences becomes logistically challenging across systems and may be confusing to members. The idea would be for a member to update their preferences in the marketing tool and then a few minutes later go into the member portal associated with Salesforce to view their most up-to-date preferences.

All marketing tools are different and I could write a separate blog article on each one. Depending on the tool, only certain fields can be synced back and forth and the preference centers have slightly different functionality. In addition, some tools sync more frequently to Salesforce than others. If for some reason, there is a sync error and the information doesn’t transfer over quickly, then the member would be confused as to why the two systems are displaying different information.

One tip is to think about is who will be accessing your email preferences page. If your association only sends out emails to existing members, then using the member portal (which requires log-in) may be preferable. Other organizations send half of their emails to non-members, so housing email preferences in the marketing tool, and not a gated member portal, would be more desirable.

In my tenure at fusionSpan, I have seen clients manage their email preferences in numerous different ways and all are slightly different because no two associations are alike. What I have really enjoyed over the past year is learning the nuances of business processes within associations that ultimately leads to how email preferences are managed.

Keys To Ensure Growth For Your Remote Team

Avatar photo May 28th, 2020 by

While working remotely was a sudden adjustment for many, organizations have been able to make teleworking the new normal and catch their breath. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic might have accelerated remote teams by years!

As each business adjusts procedures and processes to ensure productivity while staff works from home, there is a great opportunity for virtual teams to evaluate themselves on a personal and organizational level. If you find a day with a lighter workload, consider undertaking some of these tasks:

Prioritize Your Customer’s Needs

remote workDespite not being in an office, it is still your responsibility to ensure you are meeting your customers needs. Maybe some more ambitious projects or goals are not logistically or financially realistic at this time, but that does not mean there is no work to be done. Make sure you are still evaluating the pain points of your customers and taking the necessary steps to meet their goals.

We must also do our best to stay connected, as newly virtual teams continue to miss the face-to-face interaction that comes with a physical office. Take steps for your remote team to succeed. Don’t let the absence of hallway conversations and water cooler talk prevent tasks from being completed on time. Consider some points from our Director of Digital Strategy Becky Breeden (such as more team meetings and project management tools) to keep your clients happy.

Review Organizational Procedures and Tools

remote workUse this extra time to review your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and tools used by the organization. It is important to evaluate your current processes and determine where improvements can be made. This could prove to be very helpful when organizations return to the physical workplace, as the implementation of new SOPs and tools can often be overlooked during busier times.

It is also important to give attention to processes such as onboarding and off-boarding. With most of us still away from the physical office, consider creating orientation and training videos to prepare for new hires. These can even be used to enhance a new employee’s first few days in the office when we return to work.

This time can also be spent to evaluate new features and updates in systems. With most tools rolling out constant updates to ensure privacy and performance, it is important to have a good working knowledge of them. Consider extra training or notifications for your team to fully grasp organization-wide tools used.

Personal Development

Most of us were probably eager to take advantage of the time not spent commuting to an office at first, but quickly found that extra time filled with adjusting to quarantine. Now that working from home has become more normal, consider implementing some professional development time into your daily routine:

  • Courses on Udemy and PluralSight offer relevant training sessions for every line of work
  • Attend a Webinar! Check out your LinkedIn feed to see sessions for every industry
  • Salesforce Trailhead: this free-to-use tool walks users through various courses to learn more about the Salesforce platform

While it can be hard to squeeze in personal time during the workday, it is always important to continually develop one’s self professionally. The extra time spent learning a new tool, system, or process could prove to be invaluable for your organization down the road.

Remember – This Is An Opportunity!

In these uncertain times, it is important to remain positive and use this time as an opportunity. These are just some examples of tasks you can tackle while adjusting to a new norm of working remotely. Use this time to address work that usually gets put off for a later date, and help set your organization up for future success.

Affordable VPN Options For Your Remote Staff

Avatar photo May 13th, 2020 by

As many organizations are striving to make teleworking as normal as possible, there is a large focus on the implementation of new tools and software. Most team members are fully remote and on their own wireless network, making a VPN a must-have.

What is VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends the private network of your office, as well as giving remote users the ability to send and receive data across the internet as if their devices were directly connected to the office network. In essence, a VPN provider is a service that encrypts your internet traffic and protects your online identity.

What is VPN?

Why is it needed?

VPN is mainly used by organizations for two purposes:

  • Encryption of all your internet traffic into a virtual tunnel. Therefore, any data being sent over the internet is protected.
  • Allows users to communicate with office servers, printers and other devices in a secure fashion. The alternative would be to open these devices to the World Wide Web, which can be a huge security liability.

There are a variety of ways to implement a VPN for your (virtual) office:

Office Hardware

The cheapest would be to check if your networking equipment – particularly your office firewall – already offers VPN support. Most firewalls do have this capability, though there tends to be license fees involved. However, there are free open source software options like OpenVPN that can be used as the client. The drawback of this approach is that this solution is not scalable beyond a few dozen users. Routing all that bi-directional traffic through your office internet can be a bottleneck. Furthermore, it may also not support mobile devices and the client installation process can be cumbersome for some users.

Cloud Based

There are some very robust enterprise grade VPN providers like Perimeter81 that are completely cloud based, but integrate with your office network and provide single sign on capability. If you have multiple locations or lots of users, this is a great solution to consider.

open-vpn If you have a good network engineer on staff, you can setup your own cloud based VPN service with OpenVPN, and it can be almost free.

Third-Party Service

You can always use an enterprise VPN provider such as NordVPN, which actually even has separate offerings for businesses. The advantage is that for a low monthly cost you get a scalable solution that supports all devices. It is even relatively easy to adopt into your organization.

Third-Party Service

Technically, this does not connect directly to your office firewall, and there are per-user-licensing-costs that come with this option. Despite that, you are getting a dedicated IP address, which allows you to open your firewall to only allow traffic from that particular IP address.

Cloudflare Access

Cloudflare AccessWith most business applications now hosted in the cloud, many offices have very little if any servers hosted in the office. The need for VPN is typically to encrypt traffic and to control access to cloud applications. In such a scenario a very easy to implement solution is offered by Cloudflare Access. This is not really a stand-alone VPN but more so a very easy to configure solution to control access to all your corporate applications via a web firewall interface. As long as the URL is controlled by Cloudflare DNS, you are able to control access to that application. It lets you use multiple authentication methods like G Suite, Office 365 or simple email based tokens that allows for fine grained control of who has access.

Cloudflare Access

Best of all Cloudflare Access is free to use till September 2020, and has a reasonable $5/user cost after that date.

Ensure The Safety of Your Organizational Data

If your organization already has a VPN in place, great! Consider having your IT department test your network to ensure the performance and availability of your VPN client. Furthermore, make sure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is in place to prevent phishing attacks against your organization.

Now more than ever is the time to make sure your organization is taking the necessary steps to ensure safety as we all work remotely. Setting up a VPN is an easy process that will go a long way in protecting your confidential data.

Give Your Remote Workforce A Sense of Engagement

Avatar photo April 30th, 2020 by

The current pandemic has fundamentally transformed the workplace. Remote work is no longer a luxury but for many a basic necessity. For some employees, working from home may be business as usual but for many others, it is likely a slightly more stressful adjustment to make.

While working from home may seem appealing at first, it can lose its attraction over time, resulting in disengaged employees. From a human resource perspective, how can you go about engaging all of your employees, including the ones who are across the country or in different time zones? Here are a few key tips to maintaining your workplace culture while your employees are away from the office:

Be Transparent and Patient

Be Transparent and Patient Let’s be honest, not everyone has mastered a routine while working remotely. Therefore, it is important to be patient with yourself and your team members as we’re all settling into our new “normal”. There will be distractions such as barking dogs in the background of Zoom conference calls and surprise appearances of kids on your video calls. These things don’t make someone less focused or productive; they make them human and able to operate in a flexible working environment.

Communication is Key

It’s important to set aside time for frequent check-ins, to keep in touch with your team members. These calls should be done via video to emphasize the human element behind our day-to-day work. During these check-ins, you can ask about any challenges or problems team members are facing, answer questions, and stay up to date on any team news.

Encourage your Operations or IT department to send a regularly scheduled internal newsletter, if not already doing so. These updates could include news about tools your organization is using, as well as more causal content to foster engagement.

Take Your Office Culture Online

This can be a difficult thing to do when your entire company is communicating virtually. Here at fusionSpan, we have tons of Slack channels! In our #General channel, we communicate and share important company announcements. We have a #Pets channel, where fur parents share their beloved pets and allow everyone else an opportunity to swoon. Our #Social channel to share work and non-work related topics. Small talk really matters, and chatting about life outside of work keeps us connected, despite being out of the office.


Set Up Your Virtual Water Cooler

Another way to maintain social interactions is to set up a virtual coffee, lunch, or quick ‘water cooler’ moments with colleagues. The Slack application Donut has been a great contributor to keeping our organization connected with weekly meet-ups. Every Friday, Donut will randomly pair employees, providing three different meeting times to link up! The automated pairing allows interdepartmental interaction between staff members who wouldn’t normally meet. After each Donut meet, we take to our #Social channel and share photos, screenshots, or fun facts we learned about our Donut buddies.


Last But Not Least, Happy Hour!

One of the most popular forms of virtual engagement that almost every company across the nation seems to have taken up, are weekly virtual happy hours! Why is that, one may ask? Well, because, we all could really use a drink right now.

Last But Not Least, Happy Hour!

Consider holding Happy Hours for both the organization as well as each department. Explore new ideas like trivia, with the winning team awarded a voucher for a local food delivery service. As the idea of virtual happy hours have been quickly adopted, take your organizations meet-ups to the next level with some fun competition!

Your Next Steps

As an Office Manager, it might seem like an overwhelming task to keep employees engaged during this time. Be patient and consider some new approaches for your staff. Remember, we are all in this together!

Best Practices for Ensuring Security While Using Zoom

Avatar photo April 16th, 2020 by
zoom Logo

Whether it is for a family game night or an enterprise level meeting with new clients, it is more likely than not you have been using Zoom to stay virtually connected with others. It seems that every time you log into LinkedIn you see a link to funny virtual backgrounds or a screenshot of a team happy hour. In fact, the San Jose, CA based telecommunication provider has seen its user headcount climb from about 10 million people at the end of 2019 to over 200 million daily participants by the end of March.

Despite its widespread use and spike in popularity, there has also been a rising amount of negativity and speculation surrounding Zoom. We all have read reports of hackers selling user info, no end-to-end encryption as promised, and even SpaceX and Google telling their employees to uninstall the video tool. “Zoom-bombing” and various security bugs have caused the company to update their own privacy tools.

The obvious question is “what steps can I take to ensure the protection of my privacy while using Zoom?” After all, if you see a company like NASA suddenly ban the tool, wouldn’t you be wary? The good news is that Zoom has implemented some new security features on top of existing functionality. Check out some best practices for securing your meetings on a personal and organizational level below:

  • 2 Factor Authentication: This two-step-sign-in process will prompt users to access a generated code on an authentication app in addition to their login credentials. This adds an additional layer of security at the basic level, and can easily be enforced by your organization’s account admin.
  • Password Protect Your Meetings: One of the easiest ways to prevent unwanted attendees from “Zoom-bombing” your meeting is to set passwords before joining a meeting. You can toggle password settings on and off for individuals, groups, and even overall meetings and webinars for your organization. Zoom has set passwords to “on” by default in more recent security updates.
  • Create Unique Zoom Meeting IDs for Every Meeting: If you are a Zoom user, you automatically are given a Personal Meeting ID (PMI) that acts as a virtual meeting room permanently reserved for you. Despite the convenience of this personal link, it should not be used for back-to-back meetings or shared with unfamiliar clients regularly. Enabling the “Generate Automatically” setting for your account will provide each meeting with a different Zoom ID, which adds a layer of security and saves you from some awkward encounters!
  • Waiting Rooms: Zoom rolled out this feature earlier this month, and actually enabled it by default last weekend. The Waiting Room is a feature which allows the host or co-host to admit or deny participants attempting to join your meeting. Keep in mind this will not work with some settings such as “join before host” or webinars. Settings for this can even be configured to auto-admit other members of your organization to the meeting but send guest participants to the waiting room.
  • Lock Your Meetings Once Every Participant Has Entered: One of the features that comes with the new security icon in Zoom meeting controls is the “Lock Meeting” feature. This easily allows the host to prevent any additional participants from attending the meeting. Locking your meeting is an easy step to prevent unwanted zoom-bombers from crashing your calls (and might even drive some habitually tardy staff to be on time!)

The Security icon in the meeting controls allows the host or co-host of a meeting to easily access various security features throughout the Zoom meeting. Along with different participant settings, the tab gives you quick access to options like “Enable Waiting Room” and “Lock Meeting.”


Zoom has also implemented features such as enforced passwords for cloud recording access, and even put a development freeze on future projects to combat privacy issues. In addition to the points listed, remember to never share Zoom meeting IDs over social media, routinely check for updates to both the web and application client, and always use a secured connection.

Adopting even one or two settings will drastically increase security for your meetings and recordings, regardless of your staff working onsite or remotely. A few quick administrative changes can go a long way in ensuring both your personal and organizational privacy.

Best Practices for Your Marketing Tool Spring Cleanup

Susan Baumbach April 2nd, 2020 by
Best Practices for Your Marketing Tool Spring Cleanup

Guess what? Your marketing system is so organized you do not need to do a thing!

April Fools! (belatedly)

In many marketing systems that fusionSpan audits, there are a number of outdated lists, old email drafts, and unorganized email content. Some of this is to be expected with multiple people working in the same system, so it is important to frequently review the tool to make sure it is organized and up-to-date. When doing a cleanup, think about a new staff member coming on board. They should be able to navigate the system without extraneous or irrelevant information around to trip them up.

On The Surface

Remove Test Data Remove Test Data
Typically during the implementation of a new marketing tool, a number of test records are created. This may include test contacts, emails, email templates, automated programs, etc. Search through your system for test records and delete unnecessary ones. You still may want to keep some test records that you are actively working on, but just make sure to remove them when you are done.

Cleanup Marketing Lists
Many associations have a large number of lists used for marketing. Some of these are relevant month after month, but one-time lists will just clutter up your system. For example, there is one for collegiate members who are interested in recurring scholarship opportunities and another is for active members in the Western United States for a one-time webinar. To start the cleanup process, copy and paste the names of your lists into Excel or Word and categorize each one based on the frequency of use. Have all members of your marketing team do this exercise separately, and then compare results. Identify specific unused lists that are no longer needed, and either archive or delete them.

Email Templates and Email Drafts
Using email templates is a great way to have a unified marketing approach across all emails sent. Sometimes you use a template to create a draft email, but then it never gets sent for one reason or another. A year later the draft is still sitting there and you have since updated your templates. In order to reduce confusion about which templates are updated, make sure to clean up your old templates and unsent draft emails.

Pictures and Content
Graphics are a key component of good marketing because, as they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Images and other content can easily be dumped into one main folder in your system. If that is the case, then think about a folder structure that makes sense for your association. Should graphic content be organized by year, type, or by specific events? Also, during this cleanup process, make sure you develop a standard naming convention for the files.

The Deep Clean

Once you have gone through and removed clutter from your system, then you can start thinking about several more advanced topics to ensure your overall marketing strategy is updated.

Segment Audiences Based on Previous Engagement Segment Audiences Based on Previous Engagement
Review reports for each email you sent over the past month or two. If you see a dip in engagement, open or click rates, then segmenting your audience by previous engagement is an important step. It is important to identify which segment of your audience is contributing to that drop. In many tools, you can create a re-engagement campaign by identifying those contacts who have not opened an email in the last 3 months (or whatever timeline makes sense for your organization). If you send emails out frequently, several times a week, then having a shorter timeframe for engagement makes sense, compared to organizations that send an email once or twice a month. Use this new re-engagement list to funnel those contacts into an automated program designed for re-engagement. This may include a reminder about member benefits or discounts for upcoming events. In addition, add the re-engagement list as a suppression list on your regular email sends so that they do not get inundated with both regular emails and re-engagement emails.

Reassessing Your Marketing Goals
By springtime, many people’s New Year’s resolutions begin to wane. Think about what fresh ideas you had about your marketing strategy after coming back from the holiday break. Were you thinking about redesigning your email templates to ensure they render properly on the email clients your members use most? Did you want to develop a new drip campaign for the large conference coming up in the fall? Maybe you wanted to create cross-channel campaigns where members would receive content via email and social media outlets? Whatever your goal was, make sure that you are still working towards it! Ensure that you know how to evaluate if changes in marketing strategy are driving you closer to your goals.

Making sure to be vigilant in keeping your marketing tool free from redundancies or unused strategies will help to keep marketing costs low and free from preventable issues in the future.

Top 12 Recommendations for Association Communicators for COVID-19

Becky Breeden March 27th, 2020 by
Top 12 Recommendations for Association Communicators for COVID-19

Top 12 Recommendations for Association Communicators for COVID-19 – Less is Definitely More

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that everyone else in the known universe has an inbox burgeoning with COVID-19 email messages ranging from their dentist to the guy who sold them an earthenware mug on Etsy.

About four of them have been useful, but I suppose it is better to send out relevant information proactively than wait on your customers, users, or patients to call one at a time.

It’s likely this onslaught is going to continue for some time. What should you do as an association marketing and communication person?

HINT: The answer is not “nothing.”

  • Immediately consider your audience(s) and assess the impact of COVID-19 on them personally and professionally.
  • Are you serving a high-impact (i.e. medical professionals) or high-risk (i.e. patients with underlying conditions) audience?
  • Is your information critical to their response to a global pandemic? That is a serious question. Only you know the answer. You might be the association of widget makers needed for ventilators. There is no one rule determining how important your message is.
  • Evaluate your entire queue of email sends and start weeding for the next 6-8 weeks.
  • Put nonessential messaging in a parking lot and integrate content back in when and if the rate of information allows.
  • Shorten messaging and consolidate into a periodic digest where at all possible.
  • Summarize all COVID-19 cancellations, closures, or responses into one email.
  • Make the content of your notifications related to COVID-19 available in a central place on your website.
  • Delay promoting events, products, and services now unless they are a) relevant, and b) virtual.
  • Be accurate and current. It is tempting to bury our heads in the sand some days because the news is hard to watch. However, situations are evolving rapidly, and any communicator needs to make sure your messaging is relevant and accurate.
  • Tell customers how to reach you in every communication and include any altered hours or methods availability.
  • BE CONSISTENT. Make sure your message is on point across all platforms. If an event is “tentative” in one place and “canceled” in the other, you are just barking for more phone calls.

In closing, consider adjusting your expectations and evaluate what is really important in the long run. That’s a commentary on both communication and life in general, but in regards to communication, decide which metrics are meaningful right now and lower expectations for responses or interactions. A lot of us are overwhelmed, and, while you want to know vital communications are being received, it is also possible your recipients are buried under the tidal wave of information we are all wading through right now.

Meanwhile, be safe, be well, and wash your hands.

Keeping Remote Teams Engaged and Accountable

Becky Breeden March 19th, 2020 by
Gayathri Kher
Gayathri Kher
Co-Founder & President

quoteThis is a good time for associations to look at their project lists and re-prioritize projects that were tabled due to all-consuming events, staff bandwidth, and travel.quote

Many of you may be grappling with how to keep teams productive, accountable, and engaged as we all adjust to the new normal of fully remote work.

We asked our President and Co-Founder, Gayathri Kher, for tools and techniques she and fusionSpan use to keep performance optimized when teams are remote.

Here is what she had to say:

“First and foremost, as leaders we have to change the narrative for our organizations. This is not a ‘work stoppage.’ This is an opportunity. Again, in bold. This is an opportunity.

We can change the thinking for our teams. As leaders, we set the tone for whether this is a time to rally and accomplish more together, or whether this is an extended vacation filled with fear and risk.

This is a good time for associations to look at their project lists and re-prioritize projects that were tabled due to all-consuming events, staff bandwidth, and travel.”

Here are some tips for accomplishing that:

Make yourself available

fusionSpan’s team is a blend of onsite and remote members, so we are lucky to have a remote work policy in place with well-defined rules of engagement. It is very easy to get “stuck” when you cannot get a quick answer by walking over to your colleague’s desk for an in-person conversation. Some team members are more insistent and resourceful than others. Make it clear that getting “stuck” is not an option. Consider keeping a short period of online time for questions and answers. We call those Office Hours at fusionSpan, just like you had in school. During this time our lead team members answer open questions via an standing Zoom meeting.

Try that as a manager as well. Think of it as being the time your door would always be open and gives you the opportunity to ensure your team members are happy and productive.

Use project tools for transparency

Even if you have never used them before, start now. There are a plethora of easy to use (and even free) tools out there. Consider Asana, Basecamp, or Trello for starters. Make sure there are rules of engagement defined for each toolset. For example, Slack is to be used only for quick communication and not to be used to assign tasks.

These above-referenced project tools have drag-and-drop interfaces where you and others can create deliverables and move them to different stages of completeness. Use these as a visual for checking in with staff.

Staff members can see the progress others are making, assign someone else a task once their part is complete, and keep track of deadlines.

Use video for calls and collaboration when possible

fusionSpan has a “video ready” policy for all staff. That doesn’t mean we have to be ready for a photoshoot, but it means that we should be on camera for every meeting and ready to share our camera and screen at any time as needed.

While not everyone might have a camera, it is very important to see folks face to face. We also find that this increases accountability. It can be easy to push comments back and forth in the void of email or instant messaging. Video increases accountability and can help you identify team members who may be struggling.

Have clear deadlines and expectations daily

The recent shift related to COVID-19 forced a lot of remote work before organizations were ready. This is a critical time to develop new habits if they do not already exist and to stick with standing obligations when at all possible.

Keep your meetings whether internal or external, if at all possible. Keep the same work schedule and, if not, have a documented work schedule with your team. For example, in this particular circumstance team members may be trading off childcare with a spouse or working earlier or later than usual. Try to get a sense of when and how much everyone can work and ask them to keep you updated.

Start and finish your day by checking in

We check in every day with every team. Every single person who works for fusionSpan on any project on any continent checks in daily. We follow an agile methodology whereby we talk about three key things:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • Are there any impediments in your way?

Here is the key. Do not use your larger check-in to problem solve. Use the check in to pull together the right groups to solve any impediment (blocker) that came up. Otherwise, you’ll all sit in unnecessarily long meetings and lose engagement.

Make sure team members are coming to that meeting prepared. This check IN is not a check UP. You don’t want to get the to-do list from the team. You need to know what should be elevated for discussion to keep work moving.

Finally, Gayathri shared a few of her favorite work tools when we asked, “What could you not live without for remote work?”

Productivity & Collaboration Tools our team cannot function without:

slackzoomopen-vpngoogle drivejiraAsana

At the end of the day, the goal is to keep your team running as normal as possible. Try a new tool or even a fun employee team building exercise. Slack even has plug-in’s like Donut to schedule “virtual coffee breaks” for teammates. As we miss out on those face-to-face encounters and interactions in the office, it is still important to foster a culture of caring among your organization.

SEO Best Practice Tips to Increase Your Website Traffic

Adam February 20th, 2020 by
SEO Best Practice Tips to Increase Your Website Traffic

What is SEO?

While online platforms like social media and paid advertising can help drive users to your website, the vast majority of online traffic is generated through organic search (i.e. Google). Therefore, it is important that your website appears when someone uses a search engine to look for content relevant to your site. This begs the question: “How do I increase my ranking in Google’s search results?” The answer is easy in theory, but difficult in practice – improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

SEO is the process of increasing the amount (and quality) of a website’s traffic through organic search engine results. The basis for what defines “good SEO” is a constantly moving target, so there is no be-all-end-all for companies to boost their site to the top of search engine results. With that said, there are a handful of best practices that can be leveraged to help increase your ranking in organic search engines.

How Can I Improve My Website’s SEO?

Crawling in SEO

Crawling in SEO is the process by which search engines crawler/ spiders/bots scan a website and collect details about each page: titles, images, keywords, other linked pages, etc.

  • Mobile-friendly design: According to a report published by Statista, the number of mobile searches worldwide surpassed the number of desktop searches for the first time, in 2018. Google puts a lot of weight on mobile-responsive design when crawling websites to determine how they should rank in their search results.
  • Quality content: Admittedly, Google’s quality guidelines are a bit ambiguous. However, there seems to be a theme around the idea of building websites for users, not for search engines. Although “quality content” is subjective and not clearly defined, keeping your users in mind during every step of developing your content is a crucial factor in driving traffic to your site (in general and through organic search).
  • Accessibility: Developing content with high-level web accessibility should be at the forefront of your SEO priorities. It’s important to consider the wide demographic of users that visit your site, even website viewers with conditions like color blindness or vision loss. Websites that comply with accessibility best practices will rank higher among organic search results. One example of these best practices is including descriptions of content like images or infographics using Alt Attributes. Assistive technologies (i.e. screen readers) rely on these descriptions to convey what is being displayed to users who may have trouble seeing your content.

AIt Attribute: The alt attribute is the HTML attribute used in HTML and XHTML documents to specify alternative text (alt text) that is to be rendered when the element to which it is applied cannot be rendered.

The alt atribute is used by “screen reader” software so that a person who is listening to the content of a webpage (for instance, a person who is blind) can interact with this element

Why is it Important to Follow SEO Best Practices?

Why is it Important to Follow SEO Best Practices?

The answer to this question may seem obvious – “to improve my website’s ranking on Google!” While this certainly is a desired outcome of using SEO best practices, you’re also providing a better user experience (UX) for your audience. The subsequent boost in the search results is a reward for having a high-quality website that gives your users what they want. Simply put, if you’re making your users happy you are making Google happy, and your site will be rewarded with a higher ranking in organic search results.

The techniques listed above are just a few ways that you can level up your website’s SEO. Google keeps their search algorithm under pretty tight wraps, so none of us know exactly what the recipe is for a perfectly search-optimized site. What we can do is try to provide the best possible experience for our users by considering what we would want (and expect) as users.

Data and Relationships: Too Much, Too Soon?

Becky Breeden October 3rd, 2019 by

The fusionSpan Blog Data and RelationshipsIt’s inevitable. In every implementation of a new AMS solution, we eventually come to the question of what information needs to be collected for particular transactions – joining, registering, subscribing, etc. Inevitably, we are often handed a set of forms that are either throwbacks to the age of paper or are lengthy tomes printed from online forms.

And there the struggle for data economy begins.

The conversation goes something like this:

Implementer: What pieces of this information are necessary to start your relationship with a new member?

Customer: All of it.

Implementer: Are you sure? Could we eliminate these 12 items about their areas of expertise?

Customer: No, we have to have that to add them to communities or email preferences?

Implementer: Do you have to do that information from the member or prospect when they first reach out to you, or could you gather more information over time?

Customer: Yes, that’s when we’ve always done it. It’s part of our “join process” and part of the automation of benefits flow down we spent $10,000 automating in our current AMS that we hate.

Implementer: Oh, okay. Well, we have seen clients increase engagement by reducing the data barrier to entry. (Insert quote, “Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it.” )

Customer: We HAVE to do that. (becoming animated) You said you could support that in the DEMO!!!. (shuffling papers to find the contract they came armed with.)

Implementer: We can do that, but is it possible we could begin with something less time-consuming for the prospect or member and work our way up to gradually asking for more information?

Customer: This is supposed to save us time. That’s a lot of work!

You probably get the idea. Many organizations are struggling to recruit, engage, and retain members. We live in a society of instant relationships and yet, associations are still wedded to the idea that to develop a relationship means turning over your life’s story.

Is it time we start to think about relationships differently? What if we could start with the most basic of information points and from there begin sharing the things that make a relationship with us valuable. In today’s jargon, what does it take to swipe right or swipe left?

Take a Cue from the Competition
We hear so often that membership is aging and organizations are struggling to recruit and engage younger members. Perhaps we need to take a lesson from the data economy of more popular platforms. Social tools require very, very little information to begin sharing. One of the greatest challenges to membership-based organizations are the connections and resources potential members receive from free tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Reddit. Why not consider a minimalist approach to start?

Progressive Profiling
We know profiling can have a very negative meaning. Still, we are all being profiled all day, every day by the tools we use. Even our beloved smartphones learn our habits. In today’s permission-based economy, if you want to gain more from your experience, you share a bit more information gradually so that content is more relevant, contacts are more valuable, and opportunities are more convenient. Progressive profiling is a technique that allows marketers to gradually collect more data on leads at strategically timed intervals throughout the buyer’s journey. Essentially, based on users’ willingness to respond and their engagement after response, we ask for more. If they give us an email to get a newsletter and then open the newsletter and engage with a piece of content (think click), then we ask for a little more.

The Death of Closed Societies
For many organizations, the basis for overwhelming data collection is the need to validate credentials and ensure a level of expertise. However, that may not be necessary for simple, appropriate interactions that show value before a commitment. You are likely going to get push back. “Wait, you’re going to give them an article or let them attend an event?” We can already hear the hue and cry. If you are one of those groups with a “club” mentality, please remind the club that anybody can get anything from anywhere these days…including from for-profit entities who are happy to take your data beleaguered prospects.

A fusionSpan client promoting a recruitment initiative for a particular style of education is using progressive profiling to gradually ask for more and more information to move prospects through an engagement funnel. Once users ask for more information, they are moved through an engagement program that ultimately results in them sharing more and more information on progressive forms and applications.

Here are some soul searching questions for you as you rethink the way you start your relationships with future members.

  • What are the very minimum requirements for you to begin your relationship and begin to show value?
  • For every additional data set (think 2-3 data points), what is the additional value we can show?
    What conversations and changes need to happen internally to allow you to scale back on initial data collection?
  • How can we tell when our relationship is solid enough to ask for a larger data set?
  • How do we need to reconfigure the way we roll out benefits and access to allow for this slower data relationship?

Keep your eyes open for our follow up article on who you can begin to see the journey for your customers unfold and better determine how much you can ask for and when.

Communication Tips for Millennials in the Workplace

justin fusionSpan Team September 13th, 2018 by

First, let me point out that I am a millennial.

Second, these tips don’t only apply to millennials. Technology tools overwhelm the workplace, but no one discusses how to actually use the tools. I’m not even talking about the more complex CRM or ERP tools, just the basics, everyday tools.

With that in mind, I’ve put together 12 Dos and Don’ts of email and calendar invites that millennials (and everyone else) should follow!

Trouble viewing? Click here to open the slideshow in a new tab!

Best Practices Around Salesforce Security Groups

Avatar photo August 9th, 2018 by

What Is a Salesforce Group?

If you’re reading this, you are somewhat familiar with Salesforce and maybe even its groups construct. Essentially, a group is a group of users with the same level of access to specific records within the organization. Salesforce offers some great explanations on groups.

Here’s an example: Say there is a marketing department Company Inc., that has just started using Salesforce. Company Inc. can establish a unique set of rules for each department that would later be applied to their respective groups in Salesforce.

Imagine that within Company Inc.’s marketing department, a subgroup has been asked to work on a new marketing strategy, that requires information that normally only the accounting department has access to. It would be inefficient for the marketing department to go through someone in the accounting department every time someone needs information. Adding the marketing team members to the accounting department group, however, would be a serious internal security flaw. Here the need arises to give some, but not all, members of the marketing department access to only some, but not all, accounting information.

This problem can be solved by constructing a new group that has specific permissions to marketing and accounting information. The small subgroup of marketing team members would remain part of the marketing department’s Salesforce group, they just now have more access as long as this newly created group is active and the staff member is a member of said group.

The Who

Groups are defined through roles and group member types. Roles are essentially the specific job title: “CEO,” “Vice President of Internal Affairs,” etc. Roles are a subtype of group member type and will always be positions within the company. Group member types denote the relationship to the company, similar to roles, but do not necessarily come from within the company. For example, customer portal users and partner users are group member types for which permissions can be set, but they are not working members of the organization and do not contribute to the company hierarchy.

Be conservative with assigning permissions when setting up a group: group members should access the data necessary to perform their job functions, but no more than that.

The What

The best way to figure out how to assign permission is in a top-down fashion. Should the President of the organization have access to employee salary information? If yes, then should the Vice President have access to this information and so on and so forth. As soon as we find a level that should not have access, we can safely assume that their subordinates also do not need that level of access and move on to the next object permission, saving us a little time for each object. The most important thing to take away here is that the level of access of each person should be determined before assigning permissions. This will keep the rest of the process simple and straightforward.

The next thing to consider is whether permission for a certain task should be permanent or temporary. If the changes are permanent, it may be better to alter permissions in the role or profile. If the changes are temporary, it may be better to create a new permission set or group. In order to experience the true power of Salesforce, roles, profiles, and permission sets should be used in tandem with groups so that every single employee has exactly the level of information they need.

Roles, Profiles, and Permission Sets

Set of individual fieldLet’s expand on the Company Inc. example further: Sharon, a member of the marketing team, needs even more access to accounting information than the rest of her group? It would still be insecure to simply put Sharon into the accounting group. If a new group was made every time someone in the organization needed unique permissions, the groups would eventually become far too unmanageable. This is where roles, profiles, and permission sets come into play.

The Salesforce Admin can create a unique role for Sharon to access the specific accounting records that she needs. By default, Sharon’s permissions from her role trickle up to her superiors. Sharon’s permissions are based on the role or group that grants a higher level of access

criteria for creating groupsBy editing a profile, the level of access can be determined by each individual field. If Sharon’s profile also needs to be configured to only view certain fields of a record while others remain hidden, Sharon’s profile can be altered.

Permission sets should be used If permissions need to be granted to up to a select few individuals for a limited time on a field by field basis. Permission sets are defined once, and can then be applied to user profiles individually. Permission sets are part of one’s profile but do not alter the base settings of their profile. It is more of an addendum, like a sticky note with extra permissions on it that you attach to a notebook page of permissions. This makes granting temporary access very easy. Permission sets can be activated and deactivated so there is no need to remember someone’s permission settings before granting more permissions either. One can simply remove a permission set from an individual’s profile, like pulling a sticky note off of the notebook, to remove individual access while keeping the permission set active. Alternatively, one can also delete the permission set in general, removing the access from everyone with that permission set in their profile. Let’s talk about some criteria for creating groups.

Now You Know How; Here’s How to Well

And now for the main event! Now that you know a little about groups in Salesforce, we can finally get to some good practices to ensure that your data is as secure as possible.

1. Audit regularly: Change is a natural part of growth, and organizations are no exception. It makes sense that as your organization changes, so will the privileges that should be available. Auditing the privileges of all members of the organization is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the data of your organization. It will prevent privileges from accumulating on old accounts and users, and may even reduce some redundancies of your groups and permissions sets because there will be at least one person with detailed knowledge about the hierarchical structure of your organization.

2. Use the principle of least-permissions: As stated before, groups should only be able to see as little information as necessary in order to still complete their work. This ensures that all unnecessary data, regardless of content, is safely protected from any possible internal threats. Assign divisions that will need permanent access to the same records to groups. Assign roles to individuals that will need permanent access to records their group does not have permissions to access. Assign permission sets to individuals that will need temporary access to information that their group does not have permissions to see.

3. Keep it simple: The organization should be developed using as few groups as possible. By using as few groups as necessary, the data stays restricted, leaving fewer users as potential vulnerabilities. It is also easier to manage.

4. Utilize roles, profiles, and permission sets: Roles, profiles, and permission sets make up for all possible impediments created by using groups. No matter what type of access someone needs and no matter how long they will need it, Salesforce has ensured that you will be able to give them this access as quickly and fluidly as possible.

Salesforce does a great job of providing the tools for us to secure our data. By utilizing good practices, you can create complex but secure hierarchies that allow your business to blossom without worrying about security vulnerabilities from within your organization.

fusionSpan’s experience at Xperience18!

justin fusionSpan Team May 17th, 2018 by

Last week fusionSpan was at Community Brand‘s User Conference – Xperience18! Five days packed with lots of learning, sharing and connecting. Here are a few highlights!

fusionSpan was networking

fusionSpan was networking We had a booth. Community Brands has compiled quite a cornucopia of products, which in turn meant there was a unique range of organizations at the conference. From small non-profits searching for ways to get the most out of the tools they have, to large associations looking to expand the services they offer their members, we spoke with organizations in the exhibit hall about a range of challenges they were trying to address. With fusionSpan offering services related to Salesforce, netFORUM, and WordPress, we were ready to talk solutions!

fusionSpan was networking As with any good booth, we had giveaways! And not those pens that leak in your bag. We looked to, “grow new partnerships” with clients and vendors by giving out Forget-me-not seed packets – one in ever conference bag that was handed out. For those looking for a little sweetener, we also had our popular chocolate bars. Don’t worry, we hand carried them from DC to Florida to ensure there was no melting in transit!

fusionSpan was sharing

fusionSpan was sharing We had five presentations. One session looked at how to integrate your CRM tool with other systems without code. Another session focused on maximizing your ROI with Salesforce. fusionSpan even got to present as part of the ever-popular “10 Toolkit Tips you can do in 10 minutes” session focused on netFORUM Enterprise. With only 10 minutes we pulled out all the stops – there was learning, there were jokes, and there was even some juggling. Surely he can’t be serious? I am serious — and don’t call me Shirley.

fusionSpan was connecting

The user conference was also the first time we get to meet several clients in person. With all the great social events planned during the conference, there are lots of opportunities to get to know people beyond work. Granted, rarely do you get to connect with clients over a front row roller coaster ride at Universal Studios. Let’s just say it was a thrilling Xperience!

Say cheese!
Say cheese!

What’s Your Remote Work Communication Style?

Rebecca Achurch November 8th, 2017 by

Your work communication style typically refers to the way you communicate. For example, are you a more direct or indirect communicator? Many organizations use a tool like DiSC or Myers-Briggs or Strengthsfinders to help employees figure out their preferences, and those of their teammates, in the workplace.
While those same principles apply to remote work, when you don’t occupy the same space as your colleagues it’s also important to figure out the actual method you prefer to use for communications.
Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you come across best in person? Have you ever been told you have an “expressive face” or can’t keep a poker face? Are you naturally observant and able to easily pick up on people’s nonverbal mannerisms?
  • Are you a phone person? Your brain works best while pacing or doodling (where your communication partner can’t actually see you)? You enjoy talking on the phone in your free time or have a good deal of experience talking on the phone for previous jobs?
  • Do you prefer text communications, over email, messenger, or other online programs? Maybe you like having some time to think about what you are going to say before actually saying it. Do you get nervous or self-conscious in face-to-face social situations?

Determining your own strengths and preferences is the first step to being a better team member. Once you have a handle on your own style, learn what style of communicating your team members prefer. Managers should make it a point to facilitate these types of conversations – either through personality tests, team building or other “getting to know you” activities, or even straightforward polls and questionnaires. Michael D. Watkins of HBR also suggests managers “commit to a communication charter,” which will help guide employees on what and how to communicate, when.

If your company hasn’t organized any ice breaker activities or a communication charter, you may need to pay special attention to the methods the rest of your team is using for day-to-day communications. When in doubt, ask. As we’ve written about before, it’s important that you are open and honest when you work in a virtual environment since the potential for miscommunication or crossed wires is high.
For that same reason, be extra careful not to make assumptions, or take text the wrong way. If you are going to assume anything, assume good intent. Look for the innocence in the action before jumping to conclusions. And if you need clarification or want to smooth things over, opt for a quick call or video chat.

Adapting your communication style for virtual work

Without question, working remotely or as part of a virtual team means you’ll be doing much less face-to-face communication and more text or written communications.

Even if you’re someone who feeds off of face-to-face interactions, it doesn’t mean you can’t be just as successful in a virtual environment. Figure out exactly what it is that you like about in-person conversations and try to replicate those feelings whether you are communicating in writing or over the phone. Consider smiling when you’re talking (or typing), having notes or even a short script in front of you for important discussions, or asking more questions since you won’t have any non-verbal cues to respond to.

Some members of your team may have the opposite challenge – in many ways, working remotely is ideal for introverts. With less office noise, they can focus on the tasks at hand and spend more time listening and strategizing. As Oliver Maskell writes for the Quiet Revolution blog, “When it comes to working with others, networking, and communicating, introverts can often take a less conventional approach but one which leads to meaningful business relationships and creative solutions to problems.”

But introverted employees can still find themselves overwhelmed in meetings or struggling to make their presence known, even on a remote team. Managers should make a point to proactively include introverts in group discussions, or give pre-meeting assignments so everyone has time to develop responses and contribute during the conversation. Introverts themselves should try to check in with coworkers every day (whether by email, messenger, etc.) and find ways to get recognized without being the loudest voice in the virtual room.

Looking for a communication method that everyone can get on board with? Video is the best of all worlds – social folks get their face time in, online communicators can use the message box when they don’t feel comfortable speaking out loud, and phone people can rest assured that their voice will be heard. Additionally, video chat is great for informal communications, which are key in helping remote team members feel connected and supported. There are plenty of ways to incorporate video to help your team get to know each other on a personal level, including virtual happy hours, team lunches, contests, games, and more. Luckily there are several great options for video chat technology available no matter your company size or budget – Slack,, Zoom, and Google are just a few.

Communication, remote work, and trust

When it comes to communicating with your virtual team remember this, from the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology: “At the core of nearly every model of knowledge dissemination within virtual teams is trust in other members.” Simply put: Your team wants to feel like they can trust you, and vice versa. Don’t let miscommunication derail what could otherwise be one of the most productive, effective teams you’ll ever be a part of – distance aside.

Have you ever had to change your communication style for work? For those of you who already work on a virtual team, what has your biggest communication challenge been? Anything that’s helped your team communicate more effectively from afar? Let us know in the comments!

Underutilized Technology: Getting the Most of Your System

justin fusionSpan Team October 12th, 2017 by
Underutilize your systems and they turn into old rusty clunkers - like a tractor at a kids playground!
Underutilize technology and it will rust away…

As part of an office redesign, an organization I used to work at installed all new screens in the conference rooms. They also installed two large touch screen projectors that allowed for an “interactive” presentation. Instead of sitting behind their laptop, the presenter could control their presentation directly from the projection screen, making for a more engaging and collaborative experience. Except it wasn’t. Few staff bothered to learn how to use or even connect the screen to their computer, primarily using the screens to just display presentations. Because they leveraged projectors, the image was inferior to the HDTV screens. So, what seemed like superior technology turned out to be inferior in practice.

Too often new technology is introduced to an organization at great cost without addressing the strategic purpose or plan for the tool. This results in under-utilization of the technology, which in turn leads to wasted resources. Avoiding this waste requires thoughtful preparation, implementation and operation of new technology. Consider leveraging the following four steps to ensure success.

Define success

New technology should be trying to solve a problem. Make sure to articulate the problem and expected improvements once the tool is in place. And it cannot be that, “once we implement X, everything will be great!” That’s the perfect way to set technology up to fail. Instead focus on specific measurable outcomes you’re planning to accomplish with the new tool.

Identify relevant use cases

When working with small organizations, nothing makes me cringe more than the phrase, “Well at Amazon they…” or, “You know Apple uses…” It’s like comparing an orange with an entire apple orchard. There are tools tech giants use that are relevant to other organizations, just make sure you identify how your organization is going to apply a tool. A great example is Slack. Slack can be an incredible collaboration tool. But if staff don’t understand how their processes fit into the tool, then adoption is likely to be low. Connect the tool to the process, and you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Which relates to my next point.

Personalize training

Everyone is busy, which is why processes rarely change. Assuming a new tool will encourage change is a mistake. Because everyone is so busy, no one has time to identify the best ways they can leverage new technology. Instead, people will identify ways the new tool fits in their current process without disturbing anything else, which likely underutilizes the tool. People focus on what they understand and ignore the rest. Personalized training helps remove the burden. Staff don’t have to invest as much energy into the tool. Accomplish this with a pilot group who is willing to invest in the tool and can the role it out to the rest of the organization. Or have trainers conduct follow-up one-on-one sessions with staff to see what they are doing and identify any potentially new processes. Explain the tool in their terms, and they’re much more likely to understand the bigger picture.

Measure progress

Everyone measures how their customers engage with their technology, but what about staff? Many tools allow for some level of reporting on staff usage. How often do staff login? What functionality are they leveraging? If a direct messaging system was introduced, has there been a decrease in emails? If a cloud storage solution was introduced, is the system holding machine back-ups seeing less data usage? This all goes back to the first point on defining success – how will you know you’re there if you never bother to measure your progress? If you never stop to check the map, how can you confirm your headed in the right direction and not about to drive off a cliff.

Being more strategic in the tools you implement will likely mean you leverage fewer tools, but that’s likely a good thing. Fewer tools means less learning by staff, which results in them spending more time focused on their actual work. While at times taking a short cut to a quick implementation of a new tool may seem optimal, you’ll end up waste both staff time and financial resources in the long run. If you are strategic when you start, and you will succeed in the long run.

A similar version of this post was originally published on IT Chronicles.

Why Your CRM is Like Your Fridge

justin fusionSpan Team May 2nd, 2017 by

CRM is Like Your Fridge“OMG – what is that smell?” Nothing seems to bring a company to its knees like a terrible smell in the office refrigerator. Within minutes the company wide chat/email gets flooded with demands for people to take personal responsibility, denial of any wrongdoing, and a full-on investigation that makes the Spanish Inquisition seem tame. Threats of everything be emptied into the trash are tossed about, causing others to plead for a salad dressing pardon.

In all the chaos, one observer remains unscathed – the fridge. No one accuses the fridge of causing the smell. So why do people accuse their customer relationship management (CRM) system of having bad data? Just as a fridge is only intended to store food, a CRM is only intended to store data. The quality of the contents of either depends entirely on the people putting in those contents. So, the next time someone says, “Our CRM is broken, all the data stinks!” Consider taking a few steps you might take with the office fridge when it starts smelling.


New Years Resolution: Update your SOPs

justin fusionSpan Team March 7th, 2017 by

You know what’s no fun? Chores. They are what you might call a, “necessary evil.” One of the hardest transitions in life is when you first leave home, and you suddenly realize A) just how many chores your parent(s) or guardian did that you took for granted and B) that you have no idea how to complete most of them. Fortunately, most of us are able to pick up the phone and get instructions on how to sort laundry (don’t mix colors with whites) and if popcorn kernels can go down the garbage disposal (probably not a good idea). If we’re smart, we take notes, in essence creating our first set of standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

Now you’re in a work environment, and everyone has a bunch of tasks you could call their, “chores.” Tasks that are not particularly exciting, but important to your organization’s success. The difference with the work example is that you don’t move out, instead your parents (Read: critical employee) decide to move to Hawaii*, leaving you to watch the house, feed the dog and maintain the yard. Now you’re wishing you’d documented your processes because no matter how much you call, lets face it your parents are to busy soaking up the rays to answer the phone. So before all your processes walk out the door to go wear a grass skirt on the beach, make your New Year’s Resolution to document your SOPs. Here are a few steps to get you started. 

Audit Current Documentation 

Many organizations actually assume they have more documentation than they really do. But when they start actually looking closely, they realize current documentation is outdated, sparse, or just missing. Auditing means that someone goes in and does a close read of existing documentation. Ideally it’s someone who didn’t create the documentation but also knows enough about the process to know if something doesn’t make sense. 

Outline a Timeline…and Check In On It!

Once an audit is complete, set up a timeline of when the documentation will be updated. Don’t just say, “All SOPs updated by X date.” Break it up into manageable chunks. Ideally more than one person can be involved in the process, in which case have a weekly 10-minute check in to “celebrate” the small victories. That being said, there should also be a larger celebration when it’s all done. 

The End is Just the Beginning

Now that your SOPs are up to date, setting up a SOP that regularly updates the SOPs is critical. Just as the business is constantly changing, so should the SOPs document be a living document that is updated and revised on a regular basis. The easiest way to accomplish this is by incorporating the SOPs into the organization instead of writing them and forgetting them. SOPs should be used as part of the new staff training. When staff have questions about how to do things, you could refer them to the section of the SOPs that addresses their question. Creating a culture where people reference your SOPs does several thing:

  • Ensures processes are consistent across the organization. 
  • Reduces the amount of time staff, particularly for IT, spent addressing mundane issues like, “Where do I submit my expenses?” or, “How do I reset my password?” freeing them up to take on bigger challenges. 
  • Ensures the SOPs stay up to date, since as soon as they become out of date, someone will notice because they will be referencing the SOPs to do their job. 

Getting Creative with Your SOPs

If you’ve finished updating your SOPs, but what to take it a step further, here are a few options:

  • Build them as a wiki – SOPs are prime for a wiki. The wiki allows for collaboration and it allows for sections to get reused. In any set of SOPs, there are baseline parts of every process (See: Step 1 – Login to the system). A wiki will allow you to link to those details, for anyone who is new to the process, while more advanced users can focus on only the big picture steps.
  • Add graphics/screenshots – While step by step directions are great, breaking them up with screen shots helps, especially with arrows pointing to buttons. And, there are plenty of great screenshot tools out there.
  • Tell people why – One of the biggest challenges when trying to implement new technology based on your current SOPs is understanding why current SOPs exist. In some cases, current SOPs exist because of an issue with the current technology, but if no one remembers that, the current process will be moved to the new technology. So  be sure to note why SOPs exist (ie required by bi-laws; system limitation; marketing director indicated this was a must), that way when the time comes to update, not only will processes be documented, you will have the underlying assumptions to go with them.

We hope you have a productive 2017!

*Note: Just in case you think the author is being overly hyperbolic he wanted to point out that his parents did in fact move to Hawaii and leave him in the house his freshman year of college. 

Bridging the Education to Employment Gap

justin fusionSpan Team September 29th, 2016 by

newedparadigmWith many millennials having challenges finding the right work opportunities, associations are uniquely positioned to support them by offering education opportunities. By offering industry specific education opportunities, associations are able to address the workforce needs of their current members while also providing the knowledge to their newest potential members. A recent white paper by Shelly Alcorn, CAE, Principal, Alcorn Associates Management Consulting, and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, CEO & Chief Strategist, Spark Consulting LLC called, “The Association Role in the New Education Paradigm,” addresses this issue, and they were kind enough to answer a few questions.

What are the two main takeaways of the white paper (in your opinion)?

Shelly Alcorn
Shelly Alcorn

Shelly: First, the educational system as we know it is a system that evolved to meet the social and economic needs of the time in which it was designed. It was initially a creative act. Now that times have changed again, we can give ourselves permission to engage in a process of reinvention. Not only can we put our heads together and reimagine a better educational system for children and adults alike, but I believe we have an ethical imperative to do so.

Second, the problems are real. We took an evidence-based approach and the data seems clear – we are in a time of major transition. There are scores of knowledgeable, talented educators working every day to retool these systems but it is going to require an “all hands on deck approach.” Associations can help and we have the opportunity to expand our efforts to solve problems in the ways only we can.

What should associations be thinking about with regard to their education offerings?

Shelly: We have been lost in a morass of self-doubt for entirely too long. Our value is timeless – we have the capacity to provide every individual in every industry and profession with a platform to develop specific skills and competencies designed to advance their careers, discuss important issues, solve critical problems and meet the people they need to meet. We have a responsibility to engage and an opportunity to establish a strong foothold in a trillion-dollar learning market. We have spent 150 years building these muscles and we are ready. It’s time to believe in ourselves and make great things happen.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel
Elizabeth Weaver Engel

How do associations that do not currently offer education build that into their offerings? What role does technology play?

Elizabeth: If you’re not currently offering education or professional development, the place to start is to learn what the needs are in your profession or industry. Talk to employers and find out what new professionals coming into the field lack (whether they are new graduates or people changing careers). Talk to new professionals and find out where they’re struggling in their new careers. Look ahead to the next five or ten years and see where your profession or industry is going. Are you going to be impacted by AI and automation? Globalization? Other major socioeconomic factors?  Find out what’s missing from current professional development and training, and make plans to fill those gaps.

When considering the role of technology, I would strongly advise associations to read the 2015 Association Learning+Technology Report we reference in the white paper. It provides an outstanding overview of the technologies available to associations and how associations are currently using them to provide critical learning to their audiences.

Several of the examples talk about education around soft skills – can that be done in an online learning environment?

 Elizabeth: Absolutely. In fact, that’s the model one of our case studies, the Maryland Association of CPAs, uses for their Business Learning Institute and their Student Leadership Academy.  Although the do offer in-person events, much of their professional development takes place online through webcasts, webinars, and even on-demand courses. While some of that training is technical, much of it is in that “soft skill” category: business writing, effective communication, leadership and management, how to coach staff, etc.

If I’m a millennial reading this report, what would you want me to know?

Shelly: You have personal power and more options than you have ever had. You are just at the beginning of an exciting and accelerating lifelong learning process. Focus on developing competencies required by a new employment sphere. (See IFTF Future Work Skills 2020) Mix and match educational opportunities. Maybe a formal degree will give you the competencies you desire, maybe not. Maybe a certification can get you working while you pursue other educational avenues. Try MOOCs or coding camps. Try it all. The most important thing is to find and maintain a balance between education broad-based enough to help you build the transdisciplinary muscle you need to understand the interplay between systems, and education designed to help you develop a deep expertise in an area you find compelling or personally rewarding.

For a free copy of the whitepaper – no strings attached – go to

Solving your App-ocalypse: Strategic planning with your technology

justin fusionSpan Team November 5th, 2015 by

At this point everyone will agree that software systems have permeated all areas of business. From HR to Marketing to Accounting to Customer Relations, every area requires the staff to utilize some tools or application to complete their job. Yet at many, if not most organizations, there are a mash-up of tools in place that always seem to fall short of meeting the organization’s needs. To make matters worse, attempt to correct issues usually involves adding on another tool, which only further obfuscates the situation. So how do organizations end up with such a dysfunctional set of systems, and how can an organization begin to address your app-ocalypse? (more…)

PREZI: What is an API and why should I care?

justin fusionSpan Team July 23rd, 2015 by
API: Application Programming Interface. A vague phrase that offers little insight if you’re not a computer science major, yet if you’ve spent any time around system vendors or website developers they’ve likely thrown the acronym around as if its taught in the third grade of every classroom in America. Fear not, we’ve created a Prezi (a free, online presentation tool) to help illustrate what API does and why it matters to your association members, staff and you!