Category Archive: Tech Talk

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.

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”

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.


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!

New call-to-action

Track Your Association Engagement With Pardot Scoring

Komal Chauhan fusionSpan Team June 18th, 2021 by

Many associations want to quantify how engaged their prospects or members are with the organization. While this is ideal, many associations do not have an integrated system that can look at how the user engages across multiple platforms – web, marketing, and CRM. Various marketing tools have the capability of scoring users based on engagement, but the key is to track engagement across platforms.

Pardot Scoring

Pardot, a marketing tool owned by Salesforce, offers a “score” for each record. A score in Pardot is a numerical value assigned based on a prospect taking action. We measure that action as implicit interest in your product or service.

Scores are automatically assigned to prospects when they are created. Scores constantly change based on activities and interactions and show how engaged your prospects are with your marketing materials. As people interact with the activities like opening an email, clicking on a link, completing a form, etc., the score increases. Pardot even provides a scoring system that you can customize.

The Pardot Score lifecycle chart shows the prospect activities, and how their score has changed over time. In the chart below, you can see an example where a member had a lower level engagement for about a year, had a rapid engagement increase for a few months, and then level off again.

Pardot Scoring Model

Pardot assigns default values to prospect-initiated activities. These are already set up in the Pardot account as the baseline scoring model. The default scoring aspects are based on the email open, event registered, form view, webinar registered, etc. The model can be customizable to suit your association’s requirements.

The default scoring model is as follows:

Scoring Customizations

It is totally up to the client on how they want to customize the scoring model. What scores do you want to assign for each activity? Based on our experience with different clients we would like to recommend best practices to use in the model.

The general recommendations by fusionSpan for default scoring model are as follows:

  • For Email Open it has 0 score, it can be increased to +1 or +2 points. Email open is an important activity and shows prospects are engaged.
  • For Event Registration it has 0 score, it can be increased to +2 to +5 points. There are high chances of prospects filling the event registration form. (Note this is based on an integration with Eventbrite.)
  • For Form Submission it has a score of 50, it seems a lot so in this case it can be reduced to +10 or +20.
  • For Landing Page Success it has a score of 50, it can be reduced to +20 or +30.
  • We can use Page actions to increase prospect ‘s score if they visit a specific webpage. It can have a score of +10 or +15.

Scoring Decay

Scoring decay is decreasing Pardot scores over time as a prospect stays silent, going longer without any activity. In such instances, we recommend assigning prospects negative points in order to ensure scores are up-to-date for all prospects.

Pardot does not come with score decay out of the box. If your association wants to utilize scoring decay, you need to set up automation on your own. For assistance on Pardot scoring and automation, reach out to the fusionSpan team for more!

Organizations of different sizes and processes will likely use different scoring decay methods. For example, if an organization has a shorter sales cycle, they may choose to decay scores after 30 days of inactivity, while longer selling cycles might need a 6 month delay before any prospect score decay happens.

For scoring decay, automation rules can be used to change the overall Pardot score or scoring categories. In the example below, if a prospect hasn’t opened an email in 30 days, then their score is decreased by 5.

Pardot Overall Score Automation Actions

Scoring Categories

The final concept around scoring in Pardot is the use of scoring categories. These are used to score prospects on more than one product or business unit. To begin this process, you will assign a scoring category to a folder. When prospects interact with assets in that folder, Pardot creates a separate prospect score for the category.

Assigning a scoring category to a folder will consider all assets (including assets in subfolders) in the category score. You can assign the same scoring category to multiple folders, but each folder can have only one scoring category.

An interaction with an asset will count towards the scoring category assigned to that asset’s respective folder. For example, a form submission on a landing page is attributed to the scoring category assigned to the landing page’s folder.

Leverage fusionSpan For Pardot Assistance

As you can see, quantifying how engaged prospects and members are across the organization can take your associations membership to the next level. Remember, it is important to track engagement across multiple platforms to understand a 360-degree view of your membership.

For more Pardot and Marketing best practices, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the fusionSpan team today!

New call-to-action

Rethinking Marketing Automation And Your Membership Lifecycle

Susan Baumbach June 3rd, 2021 by

Many association professionals are undoubtedly aware of the membership life cycle of Awareness, Recruitment, Engagement, Renewal, and Reinstatement. The concept can be pushed further since your relationship with members does not look the same year after year, instead, it evolves. Thinking about the membership life cycle three-dimensionally is more realistic. Therefore, we now have a Membership Spiral!

In this Spiral, you can think about the X-axis as several different things. The first is most obviously time as the member learns more about your association and you learn more about your member. The renewal cycle for your first-year member should look different than a renewal cycle five years down the road. The Spiral shows this concept more effectively than a two-dimensional life cycle. Also, your engagement with that member should be managed differently as they already know about your association and you may want to engage them by advertising different events or volunteer opportunities.


Another way to think about the X-axis is a measure of the member’s advocacy activities for your association. As time goes on you may have a segment of your membership that invites their colleagues to events, presents at conferences, or serves in a leadership position on a committee. These members have the opportunity to influence the Membership Spiral of other members as well.

When thinking about advocates, first you need to define how someone becomes an advocate. Is it after they forward 20 of your marketing emails to others, or that they attend 10 conferences in a row, or something else? Next, do you have the data to know when they cross that threshold? This question can be very difficult for some associations to answer if the data lives in unconnected platforms. For example, the marketing automation tool holds information about email forwards and the event management system holds historical attendance information. This leads us to a discussion of your association’s tech stack, with a specific focus on marketing technology (or MarTech).

Segmentation of Membership Spirals Using Data

Just as you can think about segmenting member advocates, you can also use data from across your technology platforms to segment the various membership spirals. The key factor is to have a tech stack that brings together all of the ways that members have engaged with you historically. The graph below is from Pardot, which is a marketing automation tool that integrates with Salesforce data and can also capture information about website interaction behavior. In Pardot as a member opens an email, clicks on a link, or visits the website, their score increases. This graph shows their cumulative score overtime, so in this example you can see the members stay consistently engaged. There is a leveling off in December, which makes sense due to the holiday season. This member is spending time with family and not opening association emails or the association wasn’t sending out communication during that time.

The next example looks a bit different because there is no engagement over the summer months. This was taken from an association that has a large segment of their membership who are university professors. So having little to no engagement over the summer months would make sense. If you are able to bring together historical data about your membership, then try to see if you can create segments. This is critical because how you engage with the member above versus the member below would be very different.

Awareness and Recruitment

Having a highly integrated tech stack will allow your organization to better capture leads and recruit them for membership. Many marketing automation tools will allow you to place tracking code and forms on your website. Once a lead completes the form, the system is then able to track website visits and behavior. Based on that behavior, for example two visits to the Join Now page but not purchasing a membership, would trigger automatic marketing emails to the lead about the benefits of membership. Once the lead purchases a membership, which is typically a data point captured in the CRM, that will feed back to the marketing automation tool to remove that person from the automated emails.


The classic example of engagement for brand new members is an automated welcome campaign that triggers once someone purchases a membership. But, let’s think further down the membership spiral when the member has been active for 4-5 years. By that time an integrated tech stack should know if this person typically attends the annual conference, or a bunch of regional events, or primarily engage with online training courses. Based on this historical data, if you are seeing a dip in engagement for a specific member, then you could send opportunities that are similar to how the member engaged previously. For example, if someone never took an online training course, that probably isn’t the avenue to re-engage them.

Depending on the marketing tool, you can also understand how and when the member interacts with association content. Do they typically open emails at 6am in the morning on their mobile phone or 9pm at night on their desktop computer? Capturing this information can help your association better target your content so that your intended audience is more likely to engage.

Renewal and Reinstatement

For association membership teams, renewal is a critical phase of the Membership Spiral. Alot of associations I work with will send renewal reminders and pretty common intervals, such as 30 days before expiration, 15 days, 7 days, etc. I haven’t found if there is a particular reason for that, or that is what the default values are, so everyone goes with it.

Again, let’s actually look at the data. What days of the week show higher email engagement? How many days before the renewal date do members actually renew? If 75% of your membership doesn’t renew until 3 days before the renewal date, then sending a 30-day reminder email may not be very effective. When looking at the data you could segment your membership to those who typically renew early versus at the last minute. Of all the data so far discussed in this blog, I’m nearly 100% positive that your association will have this data, but I really don’t see many associations using it.

Stay Tuned For More

By thinking of the Membership Spiral concept and leveraging integrated historical data from multiple platforms, associations can more easily attain membership goals. There are many ways to refine how your association interacts with members during each phase of the life cycle and over time.

Stay tuned for upcoming content focusing on tips and tricks for marketing automation at your organization. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented team here at fusionSpan for all your Digital Strategy needs!

New call-to-action

Leverage Pardot Forms as Lead Generation Tools

Komal Chauhan fusionSpan Team December 17th, 2020 by

Forms are very common features on association websites to collect information from visitors, regardless of if they are members or not. The information gathered on forms can help turn anonymous visitors into identified prospects. For example, when a visitor provides an email address in the form while signing up for a free newsletter, you will be able to capture the name and contact information of that user. Therefore, forms serve as ideal lead generation tools.

Forms can further be used to gather more information about the contact. Based on the demographic or preference information, more personalized emails can be sent in the future. Different associations value different information, so the fields can easily be customized to get the most important information required into the marketing database.

Associations use a wide variety of marketing tools (MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Pardot, HubSpot, Marketing Cloud, etc.), many of which have form functionality. On of the most common platforms associations tend to use is Pardot. Pardot is a B2B Tool built on top of Salesforce, and makes it easy for users to create customized and user-friendly forms based your organization’s needs. While these forms appear advanced, they are easy to handle and maintain over time.

TABS Case Study CTA

There are two different form types available in Pardot: Forms and Form Handlers.

Pardot Forms

Pardot forms are designed and managed completely in Pardot. They are easy to use and collect information about people visiting your website or landing page, and can be set up quickly by using the Form Wizard tool. Benefits of using Pardot forms include:

  • Prevents data duplication by merging form submission with any existing prospect with the same email address
  • Includes progressive profiling
  • Invisible bot protection
  • Tracks form views and logs error data
  • Can be embedded in a Pardot landing page
  • Can set up automation rules based on form views
  • Displays customized “thank you” content after form submission

Form Handlers

Form Handlers connect Pardot to external forms, which allows you to funnel prospect information into Pardot. With Pardot’s form handlers, you can keep all your existing, styled web forms and still collect the data in Pardot. fusionSpan recommends form handlers if you have an extensive form infrastructure already in place, need total control of your form’s design, or just want to pass data back to Pardot from specific fields in pre-existing forms. Some features include:

  • Integrates with third-party forms
  • Integrates with Salesforce Web-to-Lead forms
  • Maintains existing web forms that are already styled to your association’s brand
  • Captures information from a form that may be writing information to multiple other databases

Progressive Profiling

Forms do not have to be static. Instead, associations can use progressive profiling to set up iterative forms that enable you to define which fields appear in order to gather even more information about the prospect. Every time a prospect fills out a form, you are progressively collecting valuable new information about them while keeping your form as short and easy to complete as possible. Pardot forms can dynamically change and hide questions based on what you already know about the prospects.

For example, let us say a prospect has already filled out a form with their name, company name, and email. If you want to ask the prospect for additional information, you can use progressive profiling to automatically replace one of the form fields they’ve already answered, like a company, and exchange it for a different field, like a phone number.

The benefits of progressive profiling include:

  • Shorter forms have better conversion rates
  • Progressive Profiling avoids repetition and saves time
  • Users are able to capture more valuable prospect intelligence over time

Completion Actions

Once a user fills out a form, you will want to take next steps with that lead. Pardot has a functionality called completion actions that allow you to immediately perform an action on a prospect record. Below are several examples of completion actions:

  • Automatically add new prospects to a welcome email nurture program/journey
  • Send auto-response after a form is completed
  • Send an email to the prospect asking them to sign up for additional email preferences
  • Assign prospects to a source campaign to later identify their member journey
  • Notify an association staff member that a prospect completed a form

Contact fusionSpan For More Assistance!

As you can see, forms are an easy-to-use yet effective tool. By using forms, you can enhance your customer’s journey and turn unidentified prospects into strong leads.

For more information on Pardot, Forms, or Marketing Automation, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented Digital Strategy team here at fusionSpan!

Contact Us

Your AMS Journey: Selection to Adoption – Step 4: Product Partner Chosen, Now What?

Noel-Shatananda November 12th, 2020 by

You made your product selection, and are excitedly looking forward to implementing your new AMS platform. Now comes the decision to select an implementation partner.

Look carefully at who you plan to use to implement your chosen product. You want a team that understands your business, knows how to integrate all the best of breed systems that you plan to use, and is experienced. The implementation team from the product company could be a great fit, but evaluate if they possess the experience to be your comprehensive systems integration partner.

Far too often, we see associations make the product selection and expect the implementation partner to take them to the finish line. That can be a recipe for failure. Here are some areas that need consideration as you get ready:

Assemble Your Implementation Team

  • The Project Manager (PM): Identify a project manager for the new AMS implementation. Implementing an AMS can be time-consuming, requiring a lot of coordination, organization, and communication, and might require up to 20 – 24 hours a week on average. This time commitment will be higher in the beginning with discovery, will be slightly lower during the build/execution phase of the project, ramp back up at user acceptance testing, and go live. Frequently we see associations assigning people to the role who are unfamiliar with project management, are unaware of what an implementation requires, and, more importantly, already have a full-time job. If you find yourself in such a predicament, we recommend hiring a part-time external project manager to help. The expense will pay for itself ten-fold with a successful implementation.
  • The Project Sponsor (PS): Identify a project sponsor for the implementation. This person is usually someone from the executive team who keeps a finger on the pulse of the project and is responsible for the project’s success. The PS usually meets with the implementation partner’s PS monthly and ensures that the project is on track. The sponsor check-ins are usually held independent of the project manager’s check-in and gives the sponsors a chance to discuss items that either side sees and that the PMs are unable to handle. This is also an escalation point for the PMs and the members of the core team on either side as it relates to the project progression.
  • The Core Team (CT): Behind every successful implementation is a great core team. Your core team should consist of staff members from every department that will be using the AMS or will be impacted by its implementation. Having a mix of a power user (staff person) and a manager (decision maker) per department represented is crucial to success. Having only the staff person will result in the system being designed for today while having only the manager will result in the system being designed for tomorrow disregarding the nuances of today. Lastly, select people who will want to own their piece of the implementation and will be your champions across the organization. This will have a direct impact on adoption.

Develop a Timeline and Mutual Processes

  • Kickoff: Have a formal kickoff meeting with all of the staff that will be using the system and the systems integrator. This meeting should have Association leadership in attendance and the Executive Director laying out how the AMS will tie into the strategic vision. This helps clarify to staff the importance of the project and also ensures their participation and commitment.
  • Communication: While there are many aspects of a project that will be discussed during the kickoff, we would like to highlight the importance of communication. Ensure you use a collaborative tool for all communications between the members of the teams. We have seen teams use emails and it has been disastrous as information is frequently lost, especially if there is a change in resource.

Manage Your Data Wisely

  • Data Governance: The implementation of a new AMS could be the best opportunity to visit your association’s data governance. Contemplate bringing in a consultant to help if you should need to.
  • Clean data: As you contemplate the many aspects of data governance, begin thinking of how you are going to get clean data into the new AMS. We recommend not trying to use the new AMS for cleansing the data, even if it professes to have great capabilities for it. Rest assured that once you are in the midst of the implementation, adding data cleansing to the mix will prove detrimental.

Know What It Will Take

We often see associations overlook what a new AMS implementation truly takes in terms of the association staff’s time. Ensure that you talk through your staff’s time commitment with your chosen implementation partner to consider what it will really take to implement a new AMS.

For more resources surrounding an AMS Selection and Implementation Journey of your own, don’t hesitate to reach out to our talented team at fusionSPAN today!

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:

Development Tips For Your PowerBI Dashboard

Avatar photo May 21st, 2020 by

PowerBI is a powerful tool that is able to handle both data transformation and data visualization. In recent years, the developers behind PowerBI have introduced PowerBI online: a new cloud solution where offline PowerBI Desktop users can upload their dashboards and share it with other licensed users.

While the new solution is quite useful, PowerBI does contain certain limitations that Desktop users should be aware of. Check out the following tips on what Desktop users should pay attention to before uploading their dashboards.

1: Try to Limit How Many Steps You Include in a Query

Regarding dashboards, PowerBI Desktop users are only limited to the computing power of their desktop PC. Meaning they can run as many query steps as possible, and would only run into performance issues when their PC could not handle it.

The same cannot be said with PowerBI Online. If your query includes 15 steps for PowerBI Desktop, then expect errors or long run times once you upload your dashboards to PowerBI Online. The Online version relies on Cloud Computing to run its queries, and all services provided below “Premium” usually have limited capacity.

From personal experience, try not to include more than 10 steps per query.

2: Shrink Your Data to Increase Refresh Speed and Save Space

Data pulled from a ERP or CRM system can be massive, with millions of rows of data and up to hundreds of columns. If you want your PowerBI Online dashboards to refresh quickly, then it’d be best to delete all unused columns and limit how many rows you import. For instance:

  • if you have 20 years of data pulled in, consider limiting your data to 5 years of data
  • If you are connected to a SQL database, create a “view” that summarizes that data in the database for you first then import the summarized data into PowerBI.
  • If you have 300 columns, and only use 5 columns for your calculations, delete all the remaining columns or utilize the advanced query option to only pull in data in the 5 columns if you are connected to a SQL database.

Check your online storage space often to make sure your dashboard isn’t pulling in too much data, which would exceed your Data Capacity Limit of 10 GB. Your dataset has a 1GB limit so make sure your dashboard doesn’t hit that limit as well when pulling in data.

3: Simplify Your Dashboards and Spread Content Out

One thing that may also slow down the performance of PowerBI online Dashboards are DAX formulas. While DAX formulas take up very little resources, if there is an alternative to DAX, like built-in table features, use those instead of the DAX. Having too many DAX formulas in your dashboards can drastically slow things down.

Another thing to take note of is to not squeeze all your panels in the first dashboard. Having too many panels rendered in the first dashboard page not only slows things down but also makes it hard for the user to distinguish the information in the dashboard, as everything is too crammed together. Ideally only include three to four visualizations in each dashboard page. Also, include filters in each page to allow users slice and dice their data.

4: Subscribe to PowerBI Newsletters

PowerBI is a tool that’s constantly evolving. Subscribing to relevant newsletters gives you insights for new game-changing features that have been added. For instance, PowerBI Online now includes dataflow, which is an ETL tool that works similarly to PowerBI Desktop’s query/transform mode. This allows more flexibility in your data cleaning process.

Consider checking out the official Microsoft PowerBI site to register for their weekly updates. Other resources like sqlbi and PowerBi Weekly offer regular tips and white papers surrounding the platform. Brushing up on new updates and tips can help you fully harness the power of your system.

5: Always Build a Proof-of-Concept Before You Build the Real Thing

Proof-of-concept is to make sure that the PowerBI Online App you are building includes everything you need for it to work. Not doing a proof-of-concept may cause you to miss certain key issues in the app development process. For example, if you want to schedule PowerBI to refresh without using PowerBI DataFlow, then you have to host a gateway on a secure windows PC. Thi is so that the data is able to be imported through that gateway to your PowerBI online app. If you had not tried this out as a Proof-of-concept, you might have assumed that uploading the PowerBI app is enough to schedule your data refreshes.

In all, PowerBI developers not only need to make sure their metrics are calculated correctly, but they also need to think about time and space. Time refers to the time it takes to load a dashboard; Space refers to the ETL process: how to clean and store the data needed to be used in their metrics.

Thus it is important for them to pay attention to the features and limitations of the apps they are using. It is best to test things out as often as possible, go through the app’s documentation, and plan out the dashboard building process.

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

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.

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!

Technique for Technical Writing

Avatar photo February 6th, 2020 by

Technical writing

Technical Writing?

Let’s start by answering the question – what is technical writing? It’s typically defined as writing direction, instruction, or explanation for specific technological and occupational fields. What used to just be creating how to manuals has evolved into encompassing all sorts of documentation for technical processes; it’s a way of communicating steps for technology in a user friendly manner. You are basically taking the information out of the heads of the creators and putting it into the heads of the users. Technical writing is about taking a program and explaining it in a way that makes sense to the reader (user).

A form of technical writing is documentation. Documentation is where you walk a user step-by-step through a process using both screenshots and text. On-boarding, testing and training are all areas where documentation can play a critical role.

So, let’s pretend you were just given a documentation assignment…do you know the steps you should take?

When approaching a project of any kind it’s a good idea to tackle it with a plan, and documentation is no exception.

The Documentation Process:

To make this easier, let’s break the documentation process down into four phases.

  1. Plan Phase: In this phase you will want to identify the purpose of your document. In simplest terms you will want to find out why this document needs to exist. You will also want to identify your target audience and figure out both what they understand and what they need to know. Also, gaining an understanding of how the documentation is expected to be delivered will also be helpful in this phase.
  2. Research Phase: In this phase you will be interviewing subject matter experts, reviewing existing documentation and using the software to gain an understanding of the system you will be writing documentation on.
  3. Writing Phase: This is where things really get started. In this phase you will be developing your content and adding in screen shots when/where necessary. In this phase you will want to make sure your content is as clear and concise as possible. Using plain language can sometimes help readers understand more clearly than technical jargon.
  4. Review/Edit Phase: After writing your document take the time to edit for grammar and punctuation. Taking the time to run a test for usability is an important step.


As you work through these phases it’s important to remember that documentation is a working document. When something is a working document, it means there will always be changes and edits that will need to be applied on an on-going basis.

Technical Writing takes time and can be tedious, especially when documenting procedures and steps, but if done correctly it can be a real time-saver for readers. By taking the time to develop quality documentation you are showing users that you are willing to take that additional step to give them an easy experience.

New Chrome Browser Will Affect Website Tracking and Marketing Efforts

Susan Baumbach January 30th, 2020 by

What is Happening and Why?

Why Associations Need Tool Owners, Not Tool Experts On February 4, 2020, Google Chrome is changing the security around the use of third-party cookies. First of all, what are third-party cookies? A cookie is considered third-party if it has a different domain from the main website. For example, if the domain is “” and Pardot (a marketing automation tool) is using a cookie to track website visits, that cookie would be considered a third-party cookie since it was set by Pardot, a “third-party.” Third-party cookies may also be stored as a result of a user’s interaction with chatbots, buttons, forms, etc.

With the new update from Google Chrome, third-party cookie tracking will not work unless updates are configured.

How Should My Organization Prepare for this Release?

Your organization’s webmaster will have to update the website to designate cookies for third-party access. Specifically, the “SameSite=None;” and “Secure” attributes will need to be present. See this article from Google Chrome for more technical details. In addition, your website will need to use HTTPS, which provides encryption between the web server and your browser.

If you use:

  • Pardot, you will need to add the new SameSite attribute and ensure that the tracker domain being used is SSL-enabled.
  • Marketing Cloud, Salesforce is working within the application to ensure this change does not affect website tracking for Marketing Cloud cookies. Updates to Marketing Cloud will be effective no later than February 7, 2020.
  • HubSpot, you will need to add the SameSite attribute and ensure you are using an SSL-enabled domain.
  • Google Analytics, you don’t need to do anything because these are considered first-party cookies, not third-party cookies.

How Can I Use Website Tracking Data for Marketing?

If your association is using a marketing automation tool like Pardot, Marketing Cloud, HubSpot, or another tool, then tracking a visitor’s interaction with your website, along with the email behavior provides an important view of potential or existing members.

For example, let’s consider Jonah, who is interested in model cars. He completes a form on the model car association website to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, which is available to members and non-members. He consistently opens and reads this newsletter, which is tracked in the marketing automation tool. After a month or so he visits the Membership Benefits page of the website. A third-party cookie from the marketing automation tool captures that visit and links it to his profile, along with a membership sales rep being notified. If the website hasn’t been updated with the “SameSite” attribute, then this key piece of information would be missed!

A journey can then be triggered based on the newsletter engagement and the membership interest signal. This journey may include emails with more detailed information about membership benefits, a special membership discount, or limited-time access to member content. Dynamic content could be included in the emails based on what other interactions Jonah has had on the website.

Bringing together information from multiple channels, such as email and web in this example, allows associations to further refine their marketing strategy to increase overall engagement and membership participation.