Category Archive: fusionSpan

Transforming nonprofits through business intelligence

Avatar photo February 29th, 2024 by

In today’s world, data drives so much for nonprofit organizations. Whether it’s to improve member retention with greater personalization or target areas to improve in your member experience, understanding the habits of your members and supporters is vital.

Business intelligence (BI) is the process of making sense of that data to identify trends, predict outcomes and inform decisions at the highest level. For the nonprofit sector – where being able to accurately forecast donation patterns or make more predictable membership renewal is always a key focus – business intelligence has the potential to completely transform how organizations operate.

Transforming nonprofits through business intelligence

The key benefits of business intelligence for nonprofits

The key benefits of business intelligence for nonprofitsBusiness intelligence brings several benefits to nonprofit organizations – in a nutshell, it gives you the ability to predict where your organization will be in the future, as well as minimize potential business risk by mapping trends and providing more predictability.

But those benefits are very broad, so let’s break it down. For nonprofits, one of the most significant applications for business intelligence is to examine the habits and patterns of your current audience and predict what those habits might look like in the future.

For example, you could look at people’s previous donation patterns and work out how much you can expect them to give to certain campaigns or events. Or you could use BI to predict the income you’re likely to make from membership renewal, as well as which members are most at risk of not renewing.

Overcoming challenges in nonprofit data analysis

Overcoming challenges in nonprofit data analysisDespite the potential that business intelligence has to transform how organizations operate, several challenges often hold nonprofits back from implementing it themselves.

1. How to get started with BI software

One of the biggest challenges for nonprofits getting into business intelligence is simply knowing what you need to begin. The term “business intelligence” can sound like you need to invest in powerful, specialist tools to even begin, and that’s a daunting prospect if you just want to experiment and see what benefits might be there.

But while you do need tools to get started with business intelligence, you don’t necessarily have to buy anything new in order to dip your toe in the water. If you already have Salesforce in your ecosystem, then you already have a market-leading tool to begin your business intelligence journey with.

Because Salesforce is designed to be integrated as a core part of your organization and your tech ecosystem, it’s well positioned to help you dig into things like donation patterns, what content is being engaged with most and which members are at risk of not renewing. And because BI is an area that Salesforce is heavily investing in, you’ll continue to have cutting-edge BI features and integrations as you get deeper into the world of predictions and analytics.

One of the leading tools to pair with Salesforce and leverage its BI potential is Tableau. Tableau helps you combine the data from you Salesforce platform with data from other components in you ecosystem, giving you greater visibility across your organization and more ability to customize how you present and analyze your data.

If your organization doesn’t have Salesforce yet, you still have options to get started. You will likely have access to Power BI via your Office 365 suite, and this can give you a low-cost option to prototype business intelligence in your nonprofit. While it might not be as tailored to analyzing customer patterns as Salesforce, it does give you a starting point to dip your toes into BI and see the benefits applied to your nonprofit.

2. Creating a culture of BI in your organization

When it comes to business intelligence, your software isn’t the only part of the equation to solve. The people operating those tools are just as crucial, as is the strategy behind your approach to BI.

For your efforts in BI to be successful in transforming your nonprofit, you need to weave business intelligence into everything you do. That starts with having a clear data strategy that not only outlines what you’re going to be doing with BI, but also the reasons behind why you’re trying to analyze certain trends and patterns, why doing so is key to your organization’s goals, and how you’re going to monitor success.

You also need to think about the people who are going to be implementing your BI strategy. Part of that is a question of resourcing.

Nonprofits don’t always have someone focused exclusively on business intelligence and trend reporting, and BI is seen as more of an add-on to someone’s role rather than a position in itself. That might work out if you’re just getting started with BI and want to see the benefits before committing too many resources, but it’s not sustainable in the long run.

If you’re planning to make business intelligence a fundamental part of your nonprofit’s operations, you need to see this as a key resource hire, and allocate the proper time and attention towards it.

But you also need to make sure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. To give BI the best chance of lifting your organization as a whole, your strategy should be applied across all of your products and business units, to ensure that everyone is approaching it consistently and not in silos.

3. Building a case for investing in BI

When you’re talking about bringing in additional hires or more specialized software, one of the challenges that arises from that is how to make the case for your nonprofit to invest in business intelligence.

This is where making a start with the tools and resources you already have at hand becomes crucial. If all you have is Power BI and someone with the time to figure the basics out, that at least gives you the chance to begin reaping some of the benefits of business intelligence, which you can then use to strengthen your case for investing in Salesforce or a dedicated BI hire.

The future of business intelligence for nonprofits

The future of business intelligence for nonprofitsAs business intelligence becomes such a crucial component of nonprofits and other organizations, it’s no surprise that providers like Salesforce are investing heavily in developing their tools.

As data is at the heart of business intelligence, data cleansing and maintaining data hygiene are absolutely essential, and the future of BI will involve more tools to aid in this area.

The more reliable and unbiased data is, the better the results will be when you’re casting your gaze into the future and trying to predict trends. That’s why Salesforce is currently investing in its automation and algorithmic tools to make identifying data cleansing issues and patterns more efficient.

However, automation and algorithms won’t mean the future of business intelligence becomes straightforward. Errors and inconsistencies can still creep in, no matter how advanced data hygiene tools become. If you want to ensure that your organization continues to reap the full benefit from business intelligence, you have to make sure that your focus stays on putting the right people and resources in place, building a clear BI strategy and applying it across your entire organization.

Whether you’re just getting started with business intelligence or you’re looking to build on your BI practices with more advanced tools and processes, it might be time to find out if Salesforce can save your team time and transform how you fulfill your mission. Fill out a contact form to get started.

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Retention and engagement: the importance of investing in content personalization

Avatar photo August 30th, 2023 by

Retention and engagement: the importance of investing in content personalization

Membership associations thrive on being a place their members can go for specific content, training and events for their area of expertise. But while an org’s content will already be focused on a particular domain, their audience of members will break down into multiple niches all with their own unique combination of interests.

When that’s the case, content personalization becomes a crucial part of your membership experience. When your members open up an email or log into your portal, you want them to feel that the content they see has been designed and served with them in mind. The more you can cultivate that feeling, the more you can use it to drive sales and signups for events, courses and opportunities.

More importantly, it makes it easier for members to see the value you have on offer. If they aren’t aware of the content you have or where to look for it, this can lead to frustration and later attrition. Content personalization makes that content hard for them to miss, whether by spotlighting it when a member logs into the system or by pushing it out to draw disengaged members in.

Learn what moves your members to click

When members come to an association for professional development, they’re usually looking for content on specific topics. They’ve established a niche in their career and they want to dig deeper into that. The problem is that if they aren’t being served personalized content, they might not know what you have to offer in their area of interest or where to find it.

If you have data on which topics a member cares about and their area of focus, you can understand what they’re more likely to engage with in the future. You can then recommend webinars, courses and journals that are specific to their interests.

There are two kinds of data you can collect about your members. One is using declarative information, for example the details that they list on their profile. The other is deducing what you can from the content they access, and building up a persona based on what people with similar interests engage with.

The more focused you can be in your targeting, the better

The more focused you can be in your targeting, the better

For example, imagine you’re an association for veterinarians. While your membership base professional interest in animal healthcare, you’ll have numerous breakdowns into specific niches within that – such as primary care or specialist, or small or large animal practitioners.

If you’re pushing the same content about breathing disorders in dogs to all of your members, the vast majority of them won’t be interested because it’s not in their field. And this is a direct hit to the membership experience. The more they see content that isn’t for them, the more those members will start to question the value of being part of the association.

But if you can access accurate data on your membership base’s interests and engagement, you can know which members are small animal practitioners with a particular focus on treating canine breathing issues and suggest that content only to them– and not to members who won’t be interested. You can go further than pushing content too – for instance, when they’re on your careers page, your association can recommend personalized opportunities that fit their experience, specialism and geographical location.

You don’t have to do everything at once

Associations can often make the mistake of thinking that their options are going all in with a cutting-edge recommendation engine or doing no personalization at all. Faced with that choice, it’s easy to assume that content personalization is too overwhelming and expensive to try out.

It’s true that there are powerful, complex and expensive personalization tools out there, like Optimizely and Google Optimize. But diving in at the deep end isn’t the only way to get involved. There are cheaper and less complex tools available, such as WordPress plugins, and these give you an easy way to set up some success metrics and see how it goes.

Content personalization might involve a technical solution, but associations don’t need to be running at the tech frontier for this. What’s more important is to figure out what your organizational goals are, define your strategy and make sure the tools you use are supporting those.

Start by addressing the goal that’s most important to your association

Start by addressing the goal that’s most important to your association

While on the surface content personalization is a way to get more eyes onto your resources, it can be far more than this. Ultimately, it can provide a tactical way of supporting your association’s wider strategic goals – and this is where we’d recommend you begin.

Consider membership renewals, for example. Associations are always looking for ways to boost retention and membership engagement, and content personalization can be critical to that.

Start by focusing on your members most at risk of dropping away and use your data to figure out their personas. Once you have a picture of who they are and why they may leave, you can launch a campaign to mitigate this risk by delivering content you believe they want to engage with. The more they engage with your content – even if it’s only emails or social content to begin with – the more likely they’ll be to step up their involvement over time and see the value of renewing.

Alternatively, you could use content personalization to better support your events and education services. For example, if a member is engaging with content as part of their continued education goal, your content personalization could point out an upcoming conference that will get them the final 10 CE credits they need. As well as boosting engagement with education and events, this helps that member to see even more of the value that your org has to offer.

In order to support your association’s goals through content personalization, it’s critical to be proactive. If you only personalize what users see when they log into your system, the only people who see that value will be regularly returning members. The members at risk of not renewing won’t be coming into the system normally, so you need to push personalized content to them and start pulling them back in.

To learn more, see what associations need to know about the membership experience. Or to find out more about digital strategy can help enhance your membership engagement, take a look at our case studies or get in touch.

What associations need to know about membership experience

Avatar photo August 17th, 2023 by

Associations depend on their members. And while new members might be attracted by an association’s services, the experience members have when accessing those services is what keeps them coming back – or what causes them to leave.

Because of this, the membership experience (MX) should be your association’s strongest guiding principle. Whether it’s addressing a digital experience or a non-digital touchpoint, MX is a responsibility that needs to be thought of right across the organization, and owned by every team as a shared goal.

What associations need to know about membership experience

Associations need to go above and beyond to prove their value to members

Associations need to go above and beyond to prove their value to members One of the biggest problems facing associations today is how to prove their value. In the past that value was easy to demonstrate. Membership provided access to exclusive resources that couldn’t be found anywhere else – resources like training courses, seminars, job opportunities and communities for networking.

Today, however, so much of that is freely available online. People can build their own networks and find opportunities on platforms like LinkedIn. They can access content, webinars and training specific to their interests from a wide variety of sources. Even when content is locked behind a subscription, generative AI tools like ChatGPT have proven able to scrape websites and help users bypass paywalls.

When membership organizations try to compete on the same terms as freely available content, it puts them in a difficult position. If prospective members are asked to choose between paying $100 for an association’s services or paying nothing for something similar online, it’s tough for them to see the value of membership.

But membership associations are more than a collection of resources and services. The experience that comes with an association is the peace of mind that what’s on offer is credible, high value, and managed by a community who knows your professional practice inside and out. This is the primary way in which your membership experience can “delight” members – an outcome that many associations are chasing after.

Digital hygiene factors are a must for members

Improving membership experience isn’t only about creating delight however. The digital experience that comes from moving through your org’s ecosystem is too often overlooked. On a more everyday level, it’s simply about shaving off areas of friction online so that member delight becomes a possibility.

It’s worth noting that the digital expectations of members are rising, in part due to the seamless customer experience they get when using digital ecosystems such as Google and iOS. When an association’s technology is less intuitive than for-profit sectors of the internet, it becomes a potential point of frustration – a hygiene factor.

Hygiene factors affect the membership experience before someone even joins as a member. At a base level, you need to make sure people aren’t dropping out at the first hurdle because your sign-up process is confusing or slow.

Once they have become a member, it becomes a question of making your ecosystem as intuitive to navigate as possible. Even if you have a platform like Salesforce linking it all together behind the scenes, your ecosystem is going to be a complex combination of tech – from your website and member portal to systems for event management, continued learning and volunteer management.

What do your members experience when they move between those systems? If they’re in a webinar and want to check on the CE credits they’re earning, is it clear how they can do that or are the links between systems disjointed? If they’re only interested in a specific topic, can they easily find where your information on that topic is – or can you deliver more individualized value by proactively putting it in front of them?

Membership experience should be a cross-silo goal

Membership experience should be a cross-silo goalThe pitfall many organizations fall into is that they prioritize membership experience but approach it too narrowly. Usually such a membership team doesn’t have the power to make sure that IT thinks about MX when integrating new pieces of tech infrastructure, or that marketing is making it a central pillar of how they promote the association.

For example, the platform that your event team chooses to use might be perfect for them in their silo. But without a wider consideration of membership experience, they probably won’t think about how well that platform integrates with the rest of the tech stack. It might work perfectly well in isolation, but becomes a major sticking point for members moving across different systems.

Membership experience is far bigger than the work of one dedicated team. It needs to be seen as a responsibility that spans across each different platform and department, and everyone needs to be pulling together in the same direction.

IT friction is an MX issue

When you start thinking about membership experience as a cross-silo duty, it doesn’t just improve matters for members. It can also make life easier for your overstretched IT teams.

Friction between the IT department and the rest of the organization is a common problem for associations. IT is the glue that holds your tech ecosystem together, but they get pulled in all directions at once as each unit wants to choose and implement different tools for their needs.

Often IT doesn’t have the staff or resources to fully support each department’s individual focus. If that’s the case, the experience for members suffers as the tools, branding and UX become compartmentalized and fractioned.

The result is that each department feels like IT is pushing back on what they want. That’s especially a problem if the organization decides they want everyone to use a tool like Salesforce because it will help drive membership experience, but individual teams are only thinking of what tool they prefer to use.

Those conflicts become easier to resolve when membership experience is embodied across the entire organization. If the call is made to implement a single platform, it’s not the IT department enforcing change onto everyone else – it’s part of a wider strategy to drive membership experience and engagement, and support the organization as a whole.

To find out more about how we can help your association drive membership experience and engagement, take a look at our case studies or get in touch.

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.

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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!