Are you encountering any of these three common learning business challenges? If so, consider the solutions in this guide and how to use them in your efforts.

3 Learning Business Challenges & How to Overcome Them

Perhaps your association is taking a retrospective view of your operations over the past 18-24 months. The goal is to discover what went well, what failed to meet expectations, and what you can change to better serve members moving forward.

When conducting this retrospective analysis, you may notice recurring themes pop up. For example, maybe a specific type of outreach, such as virtual webinars, had a consistently higher engagement rate than originally expected. That’s great! However, you may also notice not-so-great recurring themes— roadblocks that your association struggled to overcome during the past two years.

These roadblocks are just as valuable to take note of as the successes. Keeping these in mind will help you develop a plan to overcome your association’s greatest challenges and more effectively engage members over the next 12-18 months. That’s the purpose of this guide— to provide solutions to some of the most common roadblocks that associations face.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following three common challenges faced by learning businesses:

If you’ve encountered any of these challenges, recognize that you’re not alone! With a few adjustments to your learning tech, business strategy, and team composition, you can set your association’s learning programming up for ongoing success.

Let’s get started.

Challenge: Decreasing Learner Engagement

If you observed decreasing learner engagement throughout 2021 and possibly into early 2022, it’s understandable if you feel alarmed.

If engagement is low, that may mean that you’re doing a sub-par job at providing learning experiences that members want to engage with. Members tend to join associations for two reasons: to access professional development opportunities and network with communities of like-minded individuals. This can be accomplished through a variety of means, from virtual networking events to your online member directory, but your e-learning resources are one of the most valuable of these engagement, networking, and development tools.

So, if your members are not completing the courses you’re providing, that means you’re likely failing to align with what’s most valuable to those learners, or at the very least the way that you’re presenting the information is poor or confusing in some way.

Additionally, it can be expensive to create and administer eLearning programming. So, if members aren’t taking courses, you’re likely losing funds.

With so many eLearning and professional development opportunities available on the market— through associations, employers, and even private companies such as LinkedIn and Udemy— it’s not surprising if you’ve seen a decrease in engagement. Your members have more options to learn than ever before, and they may not be turning to your association every time they’re seeking professional development.

Solution: Invest in an LMS that is designed to drive engagement.

Low learner engagement is one clear sign that it’s time to invest in a new learning management system (LMS). There are multiple ways that your LMS could be hampering learner engagement— including making it difficult for learners to complete courses and failing to inform learners about new opportunities that may interest them.

Consider investing in an LMS with features specifically designed to increase learner engagement. This includes tools such as:

  • Course recommendations based on a learner’s past history in the LMS.
  • Automated reporting that allows you to understand the popularity of courses and what your learners may be seeking in future opportunities.
  • Course authoring tools that allow you to create courses based on what learners are seeking, without having to hire an external development team.

Purchasing a new LMS isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s crucial that you invest in a solution that can serve your association for years to come, growing as your learning business does. Do your research during the selection process, carefully writing an LMS request for proposal (RFP).

You’ll share this document with LMS software vendors, inviting them to send back a proposal that outlines how their solution can be used to meet your business goals. In the RFP, include an entire section about LMS features where you can outline the new learner engagement tactics you want to utilize and the features you’re seeking to bring those tactics to life.

Challenge: Low Non-Dues Revenue

Member dues generally aren’t enough to cover all of your association’s baseline operations, let alone empower your organization to go above and beyond to impress and retain members. A steady stream of additional non-dues revenue is essential for your association to thrive year over year.

You’d think that your association’s learning business would be a natural driver for non-dues revenue— after all, businesses inherently exist to generate revenue. However, for many associations, their learning programming may only break even or operate at a loss.

That’s because many associations don’t charge for eLearning courses and other educational opportunities, instead looping those benefits into the initial cost of membership. At the same time, the costs of providing these opportunities add up quickly. Not only are you paying fees for the LMS that administers the courses, but you may also be paying for the expertise of subject matter experts, eLearning consultants, course authoring partners, and for staff to manage the programming.

Solution: Reconsider your eLearning pricing practices.

There are a number of ways to monetize your eLearning programming and increase non-dues revenue. Web Courseworks’ comprehensive guide to eLearning pricing models breaks down multiple strategies to consider:

  • Membership Model: Members pay a recurring subscription fee to access all of your eLearning content throughout the year. This model provides a regular, recurring stream of revenue for your association.
  • Members-Only Model: Members and non-members are both able to purchase access to eLearning courses. Members are given special discounts and value-add opportunities (such as first-look registration), while non-members pay at a higher price point.
  • Pay-Per-Course Model: Members purchase courses as they choose. This type of a-la-carte pricing is best used for high-value courses that are more expensive to host (and therefore may present too much value to be included in membership fees).

Get creative with your eLearning pricing strategy, noting that these models can be combined to create the ideal solution for your association. Also, remember that pricing doesn’t need to only include learners— consider how you can monetize learning through sponsorships as well. For example, sell sponsorship ads for your virtual conferences and events and within your LMS.

Challenge: High Administrative Burden

Administering a learning business can be a significant responsibility for your team, including but not limited to tasks such as:

  • Creating and executing a strategy for your learning business.
  • Navigating your LMS.
  • Authoring eLearning content.
  • Marketing courses.
  • Analyzing data and making business decisions.
  • Assisting members with navigating your LMS.

And, that’s before we consider that your learning business is only one aspect of your association’s overall operations. Even if your learning business is well-managed, it can be stressful and eat up your association’s human resources quickly.

Solution: Partner with an eLearning consultant.

One of the best ways to not only reduce the administrative burden on your team, but also improve your learning business overall, is to partner with an eLearning consultant.

eLearning consultants provide advice and guidance to help your association run a successful learning business. According to Web Courseworks’ guide to eLearning consultants, this can include services such as:

  • Learning business strategy creation. A consulting partner can evaluate your learning business goals and map out a plan to help you reach them.
  • LMS search and selection. A consultant can help you choose an LMS that meets your nonprofit’s needs and integrates with your other existing solutions, including your association management system, membership software, marketing software, eCommerce software, and other tools.
  • Content development strategy creation. They can help you evaluate which content types will best engage your audience and help you author new courses accordingly.
  • LMS administration. This includes keeping your LMS running smoothly and answering questions to support inquiries from members.
  • Virtual and hybrid event planning. A consultant can help you create virtual or hybrid events or convert in-person events to virtual and hybrid formats.

Choose your consulting partner carefully; ideally, you’ll want to choose a consultant with whom you can partner for years to come as your learning business grows.

As you reevaluate your learning business’s operations from the past 18-24 months, you’ll likely notice a few opportunities for improvement. Luckily, whether you’re confronted with decreased learner engagement, low non-dues revenue, or high administrative burden, there are clear strategies to overcome these challenges!

Consider upgrading your LMS, adjusting your eLearning pricing, and partnering with a consultant as you move forward. Not only will these strategies help you overcome pervasive challenges, but they’ll also create a foundation for ongoing learning business growth. Good luck!

About the Author

This is Web Courseworks guest author Amber Bovenmyer.

Amber Winter is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Web Courseworks. She’s committed to helping association executives realize the potential of their education programs and turn them into high performing revenue generators. Amber was named one of Madison, Wisconsin’s 40 under 40 and the number 1 LMS salesperson by Talented Learning.

Are your e-learning courses underperforming? Here are four ways to elevate your courses to increase both member interest and engagement in the new year.

4 Ways to Elevate Your Next Association E-Learning Course

It’s your job to provide worthwhile networking and professional development opportunities that keep members engaged year after year. High engagement means increased revenue and membership… low engagement for multiple years in a row could mean your association is struggling in numerous ways.

However, providing those opportunities can be expensive. The last thing you want to do is invest in custom-creating a new e-learning course only to have few members (if any) purchase it. Just like a forgotten instrument, treadmill, or book gathering dust in the corner of your closet, courses that members don’t complete provide little value for your organization.

Whether lack of personalization, relevance, or even accessibility, there are several reasons why you might be seeing low engagement with your e-learning courses.

If you’re investing in custom e-learning course development, these courses need to be top-tier and worth the investment. Here are four tips to elevate your next e-learning project and increase engagement all at once.

Create content that helps members do their jobs better.

What’s the story behind your industry? Who was the Benjamin Franklin, Milton Hershey, or other innovator who made the initial discovery that led to the roles your members serve in today?

We’d guess that there’s a storied history that led to what your industry looks like today. It can be tempting to include tidbits of that story throughout your courses (or, take a deep dive into it at the start of each course). Don’t do this! Remember—what’s interesting isn’t always helpful.

Focus on creating courses that will actively help members be more effective in their day-to-day roles. To do so:

  • Incorporate tips that are specific to your members’ experiences. Take OSHA compliance, for example. Workplace safety guidelines can differ drastically depending on if your members work in offices or construction sites. Adjust your compliance training to align with what your members actually experience in their roles, rather than providing generic best practices.
  • Keep courses updated. Consider the past two years. Chances are, a lot has changed across your industry. From working from home to new office safety procedures, we’d guess that life looks substantially different for your members. That’s how quickly parts of your courses can become outdated! Regularly update your courses to provide valuable information for members as the world changes.
  • Remove “fluff.” This is where your history lesson falls. Take a critical look at each line of information you include in the course. Ask yourself how this will directly help learners do their jobs better. If you can’t think of a direct action that the information will improve, cut it!

Creating useful content is by far the most important tip to elevate your e-learning courses. You can overcome most obstacles with slight updates to your courses—but if the content inherently is not helpful to members, you’re behind the starting line.

Prioritize accessibility for all learners.

Have you ever watched a movie in which a door gets stuck, and the main character jiggles the handle incessantly until the handle inevitably falls off? Then, a comedic montage ensues as the character waits for someone to set them free.

The character wasn’t able to open the door. This wasn’t because they didn’t know how to use a door—but that when the handle fell off, they no longer had access to the tools to use the door. If you create an e-learning course that’s not accessible, you’re replicating that experience: you’re providing educational materials with no “door handle” for learners to access them.

There are a few key tenets to keep in mind when it comes to accessibility in e-learning:

  • Accessible Graphic Design: Select a design theme with sufficient color contrast, which is helpful for learners with visual impairments. Don’t use light gray text over a white background, for example, as it may be challenging to read the text.
  • Descriptions of Visuals: Use alternative text for all images, illustrations, videos, and animations. This text alternative should describe the visual content, helping users who can’t discern the image to better understand it. Additionally, include closed captions for all audio elements so individuals who have hearing impairments can read the content.
  • Navigation: Design your course so that it can be navigated using a keyboard. This will help individuals with mobility impairments, as they’ll be able to press the “Tab” key to go from page to page and press the “Enter” key to activate any buttons. If your course can be navigated with a keyboard, individuals using assistive technology (such as an eye tracker) will also be able to maneuver through the content as well.

All learners, including those with visual and hearing impairments, deserve to have a positive experience with your course. Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. Instead, make it a priority from the start.

Consider ways that members can personalize their learning experiences.

Let’s say you’re going shopping for a new suit. When you arrive at the store, the fitting attendant presents you with only one option—a plain black, boxy suit. For others, that might be the perfect fit… but it’s not your style. You soon discover that it’s the only suit that the store offers. Would you stay there? No!

The same idea applies to your e-learning courses. While your association is a collective, it’s full of individual members. Each member will have slightly different interests, learning needs and styles, and goals. These individuals will see your courses as significantly more valuable when they’re personalized to their experiences.

There are a number of ways to “personalize” e-learning courses to make them more relevant and valuable on an individual level.

For example, you could create supplementary microlearning courses that expand upon topics that are skimmed over in a larger course. If learners take the larger course and are curious, they can check out your micro-course offerings for more information on specific topics.

You could also build out “Choose Your Own Adventure” branching scenarios. Essentially, you’d build the course like a tree, and learners would click to navigate down “branches” and learn more about topics that interest them. The point is, you need to create a customized experience that reels your learners in until they’ve finished the course.

Remember that content should be both educational and engaging.

Step into one of your learner’s shoes for a minute. Are you a busy healthcare professional, currently tackling your normal duties with the unhelpful addition of a global pandemic? Or, are you a marketing professional who normally would work in an office setting… but now your office is in your home, and you’re working double the time to make up for lost sales in the past year?

The idea here is that, regardless of what role your members serve in, one thing remains true—they’re busy. Very, very busy. That brings us to a hard truth: if a training course isn’t explicitly required (such as for a certification), your members may not want to purchase it. They just don’t have the time to make the purchase worthwhile!

It’s up to you to make a compelling argument for investing in ongoing professional development courses. Do that by making courses that are both educational and engaging.

Keep the following tips in mind to ramp up the interest in your e-learning courses:

  • Use scenario-based learning to immerse members in the course. Let’s say you’re discussing video conferencing best practices. Rather than listing out the tips, have members participate in a simulated Zoom meeting. They’ll be able to practice how to use the mute button (an essential skill) and be immersed in the course.
  • Empower members to practice key skills with gamification. You can create a multi-level e-learning game through which members can learn a specific skill and practice it, while having fun. Each level could cover a different skill or even get more challenging as the learner progresses through the game.
  • Consider innovative, interactive methods to display information. What’s more likely to help you remember the steps in a process: reading them on a page or dragging-and-dropping them to sort them in the correct order? The second one. Consider how you can make each part of your course interactive to keep learners engaged.

With these tips, courses won’t just be helpful to have, but enjoyable as well. It’s easier to make time for things you enjoy doing!

When it comes down to it, elevating your association’s e-learning courses simply means making them as useful as possible for members. When they see value in the courses, they’ll keep purchasing them and you’ll see engagement rise.

These tips are a great starting point. Good luck!

If your association conducts an awards program, then it is essential for you to know the fundamentals of creating an effective and engaging program website.

Designing the Optimal Association Awards Program Website

What Roles Do an Association Website and AMS Play for Awards?

An association’s AMS is a critical point of record and the association website is an essential platform for marketing the activities within the association. Having an effective awards program requires both a software portal for application submission, as well as a public-facing website for promotion.

Oftentimes the association’s website will dedicate one page to promote the awards, as a homepage, and then the awards website will be on a separate platform. Most associations view their main website as an entry point for the awards program. The awards management software will then use a public-facing website to detail the association’s submission process, categories and deadlines.

When it comes to the AMS, the awards program creates a lot of useful data. If the AMS and awards website are not speaking to one another there is a tremendous amount of valuable membership information that remains siloed. In addition, an AMS can enable judges and applicants to seamlessly log in using their same AMS credentials, otherwise known as the single sign-on.

Designing the Optimal Awards Program Website

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the design and aesthetics of an awards program website:

  1. Keep it really simple and focus on the reliability of the platform. It just needs to work.
  2. Branding and custom design is essential.

One is not better than the other, but it is important to decide where your priorities are because that will influence how you approach optimizing your website and content. There is also a significant difference between having a website dedicated to a single awards program versus having a website that encompasses many programs at once. 

In the following article we will cover everything from a basic site to advanced custom site design to help you identify the best possible approach for your own organization.

The “Keep it Simple” Approach

If your organization’s priority is simplicity and functionality, then a basic design is the approach you will wish to take. Below is an example of the American Geophysical Union’s Fellows program landing page. They are utilizing OpenWater’s default look and feel that comes with a standard navigation banner. You can also upload a banner of your choice.

Take a look at this simple, function awards program design from Union Fellows.

The landing page content is dedicated to the Union Fellows program with a call to action in the navigation bar to “Nominate a fellow”. You may also wish to have additional navigation bar items that include FAQs, policies, rules, or contact information for administrators.

The benefit of a simple design like the above keeps the applicant focused on just completing the work required and reduces any clutter or distraction. It also reduces the burden of implementation by requiring a banner and some content. No other design items are required.

About half of all OpenWater customers go with this default look and feel.

The “Match Look and Feel” Approach

The next most common approach is to do what is known as a Match Look and Feel. This means that your awards program submission form and website match your own website. There is no differentiation between your awards website and your regular website.

This approach is best if you want a consistent brand between your organization and the submission process. This makes the most sense for something like a grant or scholarship application. It is also a good choice for those who run multiple grants and scholarships on a single site. Let’s take a look at the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s page below.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology takes a clean, consistent branding approach to their awards program website.

They do a great job listing some basic instructions followed by a call to action. Additionally, they provide a table of programs along with their availability and Apply Now links.

What you are looking at is still the OpenWater platform, but the header and footer match that of the IET website to ensure consistent branding between both platforms.

Advanced Custom Design and Branding

In some cases, the awards program itself is the brand, not the organization. Notable examples of this are the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmy Awards. And if you want to build a brand around your awards program, then you should have a dedicated website with its own brand.

The MSL of the Year Awards run by the Medical Science Liaison Society is a relatively new awards program, but they have done a fantastic job creating a website showcasing the program.

MSL of the Year starts off with a full page, designed banner with a large call to action to “Submit a Nomination.”

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The next section conveys important information about the awards program, such as dates as well as categories.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The section below categories is a video highlighting the MSL of the Year awards and previous winners and finalists.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

Highlighting the judges and their expertise is a great way to further the brand.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

As you get lower down the page, you provide additional information on eligibility and FAQs.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

A timeline of events keeps both applicants and judges informed on important dates of the awards program.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

Other great examples of custom design websites are AdAge’s A-List & Creativity Awards and Sandow Media’s Awards.

You may also draw inspiration from AdAge's bright, clean, and orderly awards program website design.
Check out Sando Media's impressive HiP awards program website design.

We hope sharing these different approaches inspires your team to evaluate your awards program branding and decide what is best for you. Go here to learn more about OpenWater awards management software

Other Awards Website Best Practices

1. Include a Winners Gallery

Having historical data of your awards in a gallery is a nice thing for visitors to see, not just to look at, but also to get a better feel for your program. (Take a look at the website for The Oscars as an example.) Providing an archive of your awards adds to your legitimacy and prestige; by adding a gallery of winners, you are enticing entrants with the prize itself.

2. Review & Update Your Information

Keep information on the site updated regularly so visitors will be able to easily find what they need. Make sure all of the submission information is clear and concise. Review your website with the eyes of a newcomer and see if there’s anything you could add to help entrants. (Remember: better instructions means better submissions.)

Awards Call for Entry Best Practice

The call for entry (CFE) page on your awards website is nothing without the right elements in your CFE itself! When you’re carefully crafting this, be sure to include these 9 vital elements:

1. About the Awards – Your CFE is meant to excite people! By including information about your program’s history and tenure, you can generate interest and establish legitimacy too.

2. Categories – Listing out your categories will let interested entrants know whether or not their submission would be a fit for your program.

3. Judging Criteria – Showing how entries will be judged will help entrants structure their submissions and heighten the qualities of the entries as well.

4. Entry Criteria – Be sure to tell entrants all of the information they’ll need to submit upon entering! This will help them prepare and evaluate eligibility requirements.

5. Judges – Judges are typically industry experts, meaning that they can attract potential entrants too. Be sure to show off your judges for additional publicity.

6. Relevant Dates – Let entrants know when your CFE begins and ends so they can prepare their submission in time.

7. Fees – You don’t want entrants to get to the end of your program and then be surprised (often in a negative way) by the necessary fees. Detail different costs (like general entry fees, early-bird discounts, and late fees) explicitly and your entrants will thank you.

8. How to Submit – Include a link to the application to simplify the submission process for those who are interested. This can increase your number of entrants and create a hassle-free process for everyone involved.

9. Contact Information – Contact information makes it simple for those who have questions or want additional information to get it quickly and efficiently.

How OpenWater and Fonteva Work Together

Trade Associations and Membership Societies that use Fonteva as their AMS can integrate with OpenWater for single sign on, membership specific pricing and to exchange data with the AMS to enable seamless reporting on nominations for awards, submissions, judging and much more. Click here to learn more about OpenWater’s integration with Fonteva.

These three tips from the for-profit business world can easily help your association or nonprofit organization build a stronger community of supporters.

3 Ways to Build Community for Your Organization in 2022

At a time when many organizations are pivoting and reimagining their strategies, your organizational culture is more important than ever. Whether you’re aiming to recruit new members, find new customers, or engage employees and volunteers, establishing a culture of communication and openness will make a difference in how your community perceives you. 

At Rain POS, we help businesses connect with and provide value for their communities through our all-in-one point of sale, website, and marketing system for main-street retailers. Through that work, we’ve seen firsthand how important it is to build a strong community behind an organization. While researching ways for main street retailers to connect with their local communities, we’ve found three tips that could uplift your association as well:

  • Make it easy for individuals to engage with your organization.
  • Use a multichannel marketing strategy to reach a greater audience.
  • Empower organization employees with tools to simplify administration.

These tips can be applied to any association or business that cares about its community and is dedicated to building long-lasting relationships with its supporters. We’ll dive into each tip in more detail to help you jumpstart your community outreach efforts. Let’s get started. 

Make it easy for individuals to engage with your organization.

Many of your community members will engage with your organization online before they ever engage in person. This is why it’s crucial to create adequate opportunities and spaces for your community to reach you.

Here are a few ways to make it as easy as possible for community members to engage with your organization online:

  • A website with a calendar sign-up widget and an up-to-date list of offerings. This can include classes and events or inventory for businesses. This enables your community to stay up to date with what you’re doing and what current opportunities there are to engage with you. 
  • Automated reminders and notifications. For community members who may not check your website frequently, setting up automated reminders and notifications through emails, outbound text messaging, or even an app can help them stay up to date on your offerings.
  • Virtual engagement. While we have become accustomed to virtual events during the pandemic, they can still come in handy for your organization for years to come. Virtual engagements, like webinars, events, and classes give your community members more flexibility in how they want to engage with your organization. 

Having multiple touchpoints to keep your organization top-of-mind while offering a variety of ways for supporters to get involved will make you more accessible in your community.

In the local business world, this could look like sending an automated reminder that a customer left something in their cart that they haven’t paid for yet. For associations, it might be reminders about upcoming events, with different communications going out to members who have and have not signed up yet. 

Use a multichannel marketing strategy to reach a greater audience.

Not all of your community members are the same age, have the same devices, or use technology in the same way. To ensure that you’re reaching as many people as possible, it’s advisable to implement a multichannel marketing strategy.

In practice, this means setting up multiple channels through which your supporters can find out about your events, services, and other offerings. Here are a few ideas for ways to diversify your marketing efforts: 

  • Google and Facebook reviews. Consider the business-world example of a dive shop that rents and sells gear. Encouraging customers to leave you reviews when they’re happy with your service is a great way to help new customers find you. Apply this same tactic to your association by encouraging members to leave reviews, which can help recruit new members.
  • Email automation. Communicating regularly with your community is a must and email can be an ideal way to do this. An example of good use of automated emails is sending out a value-packed email with news, early access to events, and more to your members. This guide to membership programs recommends using membership management software to automate your communications.
  • Text messaging. For more immediate communication, and especially for younger community members, outbound text messaging is a convenient way to send out quick updates and even get sign-ups for events. Just make sure your constituents have opted-in before you send them any messages!

Whether you’re a business or an association, it’s important to reach community members where they are. A multichannel marketing strategy is essential for cultivating lasting and authentic relationships with your community. 

Empower organization employees with tools to simplify administration.

Software can help your internal team’s organization and efficiency, so they can spend less time doing administrative work and spend more time connecting with community members. As many more organizations and employees shift to hybrid work, software can also help improve remote communication, make collaboration easier, and keep employees engaged on the days that they’re working from home.

Double the Donation’s guide to employee engagement estimates that organizations are 22% more profitable when their employees are engaged. Giving your employees back some of the time they might have spent on administrative tasks to instead allocate to what they’re passionate about will increase productivity as well as their workplace satisfaction.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding what kinds of software you’ll need:

  • Industry-specific features. If you run a quilt and fabric storefront, the software you’ll need may differ from other stores. You may host sewing classes that require sign-ups and event management. However, a fishing gear store may not have any need for event management software. The same holds true for associations. Invest in software that most directly addresses your association’s specific business needs.
  • Software that updates your website in real-time. Your organization likely sells services, products, or experiences to members. It’s crucial that, if you maintain an online inventory and events page, these elements remain up to date with your most recent offerings. Point-of-sale and event management software that updates your website in real-time ensures that your community members can easily browse what’s available. 
  • Intuitive association management software and events management software. Keeping track of your member data and integrating that information with your events management software can keep your organization running smoothly. Having high-quality software for both member management and event management helps ensure that your supporters get all of the information they need. It will also help them easily sign up, and make it possible for you to communicate with them before and after your event. 

The idea of investing in software can sometimes seem daunting. However, in order to run your team more efficiently, keep employees engaged, and get back to the big tasks that matter to you and your community, selecting the right software is well worth the investment of time, effort, and money. 

It’s a common misconception that for-profit businesses and nonprofits, associations, and other organizations have nothing to learn from each other. In reality, many of the same best practices and tips can be applied to any organization— regardless of their for-profit or nonprofit status. 

With these tips, your constituents and association members will see and benefit from the effort that your team is putting towards building a rock-solid community and foundation for your future. Good luck!

Learn how to market your virtual association event!

How to Market Your Virtual Event

Whether you’re organizing a lecture for staff members or a conference for association members, attendance is everything. There’s no point in pouring your heart into planning an event if nobody shows up.

Luring in attendees is challenging enough for traditional events and even more so for virtual events. So to help you out, we’ve made this concise guide on how to market and drive attendance for your virtual events.

There’s something in here for novices and masters alike that you can do right now in your quest to draw in an audience

Why Bother?

So why bother with virtual event marketing? Well, 93% of event marketers believe events lead to valuable one-on-one customer engagement. From the obvious reason of generating direct business, research also shows that 64% of event marketing leads to increased brand awareness. So there are long-term benefits as well. 

Additionally, when it comes to virtual events, there’s an added emphasis on pushing for better marketing. As much as 73% of event planners agree that virtual events will become even more common in the future. 

This reality is further complicated due to the fact that the no-show rate for virtual attendees is 35%. This has culminated in an astounding 71.1% of event organizers agreeing that drawing in and engaging virtual attendees is their biggest problem moving forward. 

But never fear. This industry has proven itself to be resilient. So get a jump on your competition by reading up on how to pivot to virtual events successfully.

Event Tech Provider

Before you get too caught up in this world of virtual event marketing, you can always get help from the experts, leaving you to concentrate on what you do best.

Throughout time, successful people and leaders have delegated or outsourced tasks to professionals, to those who specialize in specific areas the leader might not have experience in. 

Well, when it comes to marketing your virtual event, you have the option of doing that too. Event technology is a booming market at the moment, with technology able to do some remarkable stuff. 

We would recommend Fonteva Marketing Manager for an intuitive system that will streamline all your marketing needs.  

Master Plan

Alternatively, you can do it yourself. So the big question is, how to create a killer content marketing strategy? Well, below, we’ve highlighted some key points that will come together to develop a master plan worthy of any prize event. 

Know Your Goals

It’s perhaps stating the obvious, but knowing your goals is the jumping-off point for any virtual event marketing master plan. 

When you plan a journey, with all the many things you’ll need and places you’ll be stopping, you need a destination in mind.

Such is the way with virtual event marketing. What is the final destination? It could be as simple as achieving (x) amount of attendees or making a certain percentage of profit from the event. Just ask yourself, why are we doing this? 

It focuses your energy, and it motivates you when challenges arise. Every decision you make throughout the marketing process should be in reference to your primary goals. 

Know Your Audience

Knowing who your audience is is essential for a successful event marketing campaign. Our guide on how to Know your target audience is the ideal place to start. 

For example, it’s essential to know key demographic information like their age, where they live, what they do, and what they like. Who they are will define what kind of marketing content you generate and on what platforms your efforts are concentrated.

With Fonteva’s AMS system you can schedule and automate reports on these metrics, analyzing attendee data with an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface and built-in dashboards.

And aside from marketing, this knowledge of who your audience is and what they like will help you build a more personal and fulfilling event itself. And, if you can get smart event software to do the research for you, this process is made all the easier. 

Create a Website

An event website is essential. It’s a central focal point from which you can keep people can be kept up to date with the latest news and buy tickets; and it’s your opportunity to build excitement for the event to come. 

But perhaps more importantly, it stops your main website and socials from being oversaturated with event business. Your primary website is for your main business duties. You don’t want your website to be cluttered with conflicting messages.

And finally, take time to make it look good. How your website feels is how your potential guests will imagine your event will be. If you don’t have an in-house team to sort it for you, you can build your custom website efficiently and cost-effectively via website-building platforms like Wix or Squarespace.

Alternatively, an event technology platform will allow you to build a custom website and integrate with event app technology. This will not only give your platform a more professional look, but support a seamless management experience and a premium event experience for your attendees.

Create a Content Pipeline

When it comes to your content rollout, you need to have a planned pipeline. Now is not the time for improvising. The most straightforward way to do this is through an event management system that incorporates it as part of the event lifecycle. As opposed to a collection of documents and notes scattered across drives and pieces of paper, an event management system can automate, analyze, and easily display your content pipeline as visual data.

You want enough content at regular intervals that you achieve good exposure to prospective attendees, but not enough that people grow tired of seeing your logo.

Think of it this way: a fire needs wood to burn, but too much will put it out; a plant needs water to survive, but too much water will kill it. Likewise, your event marketing needs content, but too much, or you’ll start to drive people away.

And as for the nature of the content, your strategy should convey what your event is and why your specific target audience should engage in it. No more, no less.

Rebranding Your Socials

Yes, we said you shouldn’t bombard your primary socials and your website with event content. But a brief, calculated rebranding of your socials could be the perfect guerilla tactic to drive people into attending. Check out our guide on how to generate traffic with social media marketing to master this fast-paced strategy. 

Post a Countdown

If people think they have forever and a day to make a decision on whether to attend your event, they’ll be less likely to commit. 

If you tell people something is limited – or there’s a finite time to buy tickets – they’re automatically going to want a piece of the pie. 

What’s more, it builds excitement for those that are already signed up. Countdowns build momentum and keep you on people’s minds without overwhelming them. 

Create a Memorable Hashtag

Hashtags are frustratingly catchy. Even the ones you don’t admire live in your head rent-free like a pop song you’re scared to admit you like. 

It’s easier said than done, but your event can live in someone’s head with a well-thought-out event hashtag. 


In the context of this article, we’d like to highlight three reasons why blogging is a fabulous method of virtual event marketing. 

Firstly, it keeps people up to date with your latest event news and allows you the chance to sell it like the premier event it is. That is your primary concern. 

Secondly, with a simple grasp of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), your blogging can help your website rise in Google’s rankings, leading to greater credibility and more organic traffic and leads. 

And thirdly, writing quality content is beneficial for industry credit. Being known for producing excellent blogs is good for your reputation and will push your name out there. You can even use this event-concentrated content marketing as a foundation for writing more blogs relevant to your field. 

Email Marketing

Since people have had personal or work computers, email marketing has been a staple of all of our lives. The reason why it’s lasted this long is that it works, and it’s easy too. 

It doesn’t have to be too complicated; simply send casual, regular updates on the latest news of your events: unique offers, guest speaker announcements, new partnership announcements. We know you all have mailing lists, so use them! 

Give Them a Taste 

If you’ve got something unique to share with your audience, give them a small taste of what they can expect if they sign up. 

People love video content, and it’s more accessible than ever to start producing your own videos- even if they’re shorter or more informal. Just look at this piece from our friends at Fonteva on the Power of Video: Your Ticket to Boosting Engagement & Impact. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can do! 

Free Stuff, Discounts

So say there’s someone who is interested in your event but not quite ready to commit yet. Help them off the fence with some free stuff. 

For starters, offer early-bird discounts, because everyone likes a bargain! Next, give them swag bags – physical or virtual – full of cool branded merch and vouchers and gift cards and other items. 

After that, entice them with the chance to win stuff! Promote a prize draw or a cool competition where they could win great prizes. 

Help From Your Friends

Here’s where having partners for your events becomes most effective. From your sponsors to your content creators to your partners in the supply chain, asking them to help promote your event is a huge value-add to your event marketing plan! 

When they share your posts, that’s more exposure to followers of theirs you may not have access to. It’s mutually beneficial, too, so don’t be afraid to ask your partners for shares! 

Wrapping up 

So there you have it, our concise guide on how to market your virtual events. As you can see, we’ve not reinvented the wheel. Many of the classic marketing techniques you used to attract in-person attendees can be transferred to the marketing strategy for your virtual events. 

The fact that you’ve clicked on this article and read this far shows that you know virtual events come with their unique challenges. We hope you’re leaving us inspired and with some actionable ideas to try out. 

If you have any questions — or you have some fantastic ideas of your own that we’ve not thought of, we’d love to hear from you!

This article was contributed by Harry Prince, Creative Content Manager at Spacehuntr.

4 Best Practices for Engaging Your Members with Direct Mail

4 Best Practices for Engaging Your Members with Direct Mail

What is membership engagement and how does it affect your organization? When your members respond to your emails, attend your events, or donate their time and money to your cause, they’re engaging, and that engagement keeps your organization running

Dedicated members want to participate, some are on the fence, and others aren’t aware that you have engagement opportunities. To get the word out, your organization needs to get in touch with supporters in a way that will result in interaction and not silence. 

At GivingMail, we specialize in helping nonprofit organizations make the most out of direct mail communication. Our experiences boosting engagement have taught us four key lessons for how to improve response rates and use direct mail as a solution to fill communication gaps your organization might have with its members. In this article, we’ll explore how to:

  1. Personalize each appeal
  2. Incorporate strategic audience segmentation
  3. Invest in top member management software
  4. Work with a direct mail platform

These strategies aim to help your organization understand your members on a personal level and create the appeals that will resonate with them the most. Let’s get started. 

1. Personalize each appeal

Building relationships with members leads to further engagement, which in turn can lead to increased support. Personalized appeals create connections between members and your organization as customized messages show supporters that your organization took the time to acknowledge their individual contributions. 

Of course, writing unique messages to every member isn’t practical. However, your CRM and other supporter engagement software can help you automate your message creation. This guide goes over a few best practices for using technology to help your organization decide when, how, and what to communicate to supporters. 

For example, you should continually collect information about your members and keep a record of their interactions with your organization. Using this data, create profiles for each supporter that has:

  • Their basic personal information. Basic demographic information such as name, age, and location will help your organization communicate with individual members and understand your members as a whole. Your members’ names are key to keep track of for personalized appeals as it always is more meaningful to be addressed as a person and not a “Valued Member.”
  • Their contact information. Contact information includes obvious data such as their email and phone number. If your members give you a variety of communication channels, keep track of which ones they are the most responsive to, or ask what their preferred contact method is.
  • Their history with your organization. Along with their name, personalized appeals should acknowledge how members have engaged with your organization in the past. For example, mentioning events a member attended or a campaign they recently donated to shows supporters that your organization is aware of and appreciates their efforts. 

Your CRM or member management software should have templates (or the ability to create templates) that can be populated with personalized information, giving every member an email, letter, or another form of communication tailored to them.

2. Incorporate strategic audience segmentation

In addition to personalization, segmentation helps you create outreach content based on your members’ past activity and interests. Segmentation involves separating your supporters based on shared characteristics and designing different messages based on those details for each group. 

Segmentation can also be combined with personalization to create appeals focused on shared traits of a group that also reference personal information such as the member’s name and specific donations. 

But be sure to segment your supporters purposefully. For example, you could divide your supporters based on a demographic characteristic like gender. However, segmenting supporters this way doesn’t align with many organizations’ goals, nor is it clear how dividing supporters along gender lines would lead to more engaging messages. 

By contrast, segmenting supporters based on how long they’ve been a member can be linked to obvious benefits. In this case, your organization could target new members with welcome messages to introduce your organization. For members who have been with your organization for years, you could send messages reflecting their long-term involvement such as a retrospective documenting how your organization has grown with their help. 

Segmentation requires more templates than broad personalization as different campaigns, events, and other engagement practices will require different base messages.

Luckily, Fundraising Letters’ guide to letter writing can help supplement your organization’s fundraising outreach tools and additional research can find similar websites for other message types such as newsletters, post-event thank you letters, and more. 

3. Invest in top membership management software

As mentioned in the previous tips, member/donor management software can help you personalize and segment your audience to create more valuable messages for your members. However, not all member management software has the same features, so be sure to do your research before making a big purchase. 

GivingMail’s guide to donor management software offers practical advice for how to assess potential CRMs before making a purchase and compares and contrasts a few top choices. In particular, it emphasizes the following features and capabilities in member management software:

  • Donor profile creation and management. Each donor should receive their own profile in your system that tracks basic personal and contact information. Look for additional features as well, such as analysis of giving behavior, which can help you identify potential major donors. 
  • Reporting capabilities. Member management software is useful because it stores important details about your members that allow you to analyze behavior trends and segment supporters. For example, your member management software should allow you to sort and filter by member type so you can identify and tailor communication for new members. 
  • Integration. All of your software needs to work together. As the main hub of information about your supporters, your member management software needs to integrate with other software tools such as your email service provider or direct mail platform with minimal hiccups. Take the time to review integration practices and plan how you will align your new and old software. 
  • Price. Your member management software is one of your organization’s most important tools, but it is possible to find one with all the features you need without overspending. Member management software usually comes with base features and add-ons that can be purchased later, so make a list of must-have and optional features as you research your options. 

Ask questions and apply for demos before making a purchase to ensure you are choosing the software that meets your organization’s needs. Doing research ahead of time and keeping a running list of options will also help if you later decide you need to upgrade your software

4. Work with a direct mail platform

After you use your CRM to track information about your members to create personalized messages based on segmentation strategies, you’ll need to choose a medium to get your method out there. At GivingMail, we recommend using a direct mail for nonprofits service provider as traditional mail communication continues to be the single greatest source of donations for nonprofits in the U.S.

Direct mail tends to be especially effective with older supporters, who also tend to donate more. Direct mail also encourages engagement by virtue of delivering physical objects to members, which can’t be scrolled past in an inbox or on a social media feed. Interacting with physical objects reinforces your organization’s presence for your members, which can lead to continued or new involvement once your organization begins a campaign or event. 

Like with any communication channel, learning best practices to encourage member engagement takes experimentation and investment of time and money. Working with a direct mail platform gives your organization an experienced partner to turn to for advice on how to better your outreach campaigns. 

Fostering engagement requires letting your supporters know you know who they are, appreciate them, and want to continue connecting with them. These relationships can be built through personalized and memorable outreach strategies such as a targeted direct mail campaign. As you look into increasing your engagement rates, consider getting creative with direct mail to send cards, postcards, or even calendars to keep your organization in your members’ minds all year long. 

Grant Cobb

Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.

Selling online courses for your association is a key engagement strategy that drives genuine value for your members. Explore our favorite tips and tricks here.

Tips for Selling Online Courses to Your Association Members

A major driver for becoming a member of an association is the opportunity to further a skill or advance in a particular field. Depending on your association’s mission and offerings, you likely host in-person events with speakers, or maybe even multi-day conferences, all to provide ample networking and learning opportunities.

However, your regular plans were likely thrown in for a loop the past 18-24 months. Now, virtual events and online experiences have taken the reign. Included in this genre are e-learning and online courses.

Selling online courses to your association members is an effective way to provide engaging and educational experiences and opportunities. If your association is made up of professionals in a similar field, online courses can even be offered for official accreditation that members can announce and pin to their online profiles.

If you want to expand your own online learning opportunities for association members, this article is here to provide you with some guidance. Selling online courses is more than just pulling together educational materials and handing them off to your members. From the topics you offer to the ease of your registration process, we’ve compiled a few key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Offer courses that will appeal to your members
  2. Make the online registration process easy to find and complete
  3. Invest in a secure online payment processor
  4. Follow up with a course registration confirmation email

Providing members value through online courses is not only an effective recruitment tool but can also increase retention rates for your association. You just need to offer courses that appeal to your members and encourage registration. Let’s begin. 

1. Offer courses that will appeal to your members

This may seem obvious, as you wouldn’t offer online courses on the subject of business marketing to members of a professional medical association. However, there are additional steps you can take to ensure that the online courses in your catalog are driving genuine value for your members. The best way to do this is by analyzing your data. 

Your association management system should store key information that you collect from your members. This should include both personal information like names, contact details, job titles, and engagement metrics such as what types of events they usually sign up for, and more. Make sure this information is easily accessible within your management solution.

This data can give you a clue into what online courses and events will garner the most registrations and meet the needs of your members. For instance:

  • Consider past courses or conference workshops that have been popular and pivot them to take place online
  • Make note of common job roles and levels and create online courses that target them

Along with looking at your existing data, you can also research similar associations in related fields and explore the online courses they offer.

Or, be more proactive and send out a survey to your entire member base. Ask them if they have a particular skill they want to develop or a course they want to take for accreditation. From there, you can begin planning how you can take this learning experience entirely online. Using live streaming software and other e-learning platforms will be your best approach. 

2. Make the online registration process easy to find and complete

Once you have a catalog of online courses for your members to select from, it’s time to start encouraging your members to register. No matter what, your online registration process should be easy to find and complete. 

Within your association’s website, have a dedicated space for your online courses built into your main navigation or include a prominent link on your homepage. Include calls-to-action within your event calendar or other association offerings. 

Send out an email to your members letting them know about the online learning opportunities. Ensure that you place a clearly displayed link to your registration page so that users know exactly how to sign up if they want to. From there, it’s critical that your online course registration process is as streamlined and convenient as possible. Often, a registration form that takes too long or asks too many questions can be what causes the potential attendee to simply give up in frustration.

Creating an intuitive and quick sign-up process is where a dependable online registration tool will come in handy. Let’s take some insight from this scenario featuring the Northwest Hydroelectric Association. They needed a solution that not only automates the registration process but also centralizes data for helpful reporting. After investing in a solution, they said “It frees up time from having to manually input every entry,” ultimately streamlining the sign-up process and positioning them for increased registrations.

Make sure your own registration solution has the following capabilities:

  • Customization to ensure the form is branded to the association. This not only improves user experience but also helps build the relationship between the registrant and your association. 
  • Embedding options for your organization’s website. Sending users to a third-party site not only interrupts the registration process but can also confuse the registrant and even make them suspicious of legitimacy. 
  • Personalization to cater the registration process to each individual. Look for tools with conditional logic abilities that react to the registrant’s answers by changing the form and the questions. If a member indicates that they’re interested in a follow-up course, the form could change to include additional information regarding their options. If they say they’re not interested, the form does not change at all. 
  • Integrated payment abilities. This way members can checkout during the registration process, meaning you don’t have to charge them with another tool or bill them later. We’ll talk more about your payment processor in the next section!

Along with the above capabilities, make sure that your registration page has all of the necessary information that attendees will need before they sign up for the opportunity. After all, online courses aren’t the traditional form of learning but have been rising in popularity due to their cost, convenience, and wide accessibility. If specific online software is required or the course you offer requires multiple sessions, these details should be prominently displayed before individuals register.

3. Invest in a secure online payment processor

The final step of the registration process for your online courses is payment. You don’t want to mar your member’s registration experience with an insecure and unsafe online payment process. One data breach can ruin your association’s reputation and make the selling of online courses (and acceptance of membership dues or event tickets) much more difficult in the future.

Make sure that you invest in a dependable and integrated payment tool, ensuring that course signups get finalized and that everyone’s data is protected. Your payment tool should

  • Be PCI Compliant. According to iATS Payments, “The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) was created by major credit card companies to set high technical standards to safeguard customer information. PCI Compliance is mandatory for all merchants, regardless of size.”
  • Automate payment invoices breaking down the transaction and registration. 
  • Offer payment plans and auto-billing to ease costs. 
  • Provide comprehensive payment reporting using a centralized system that both registration coordinators and accountants can access

To jump-start your online course registration offer discounts or early-bird signups to your most active association members. Some tools can even automatically trigger and apply discounts depending on the applicant. 

Consider creating different discount codes for member tiers. Taking insight from this Fonteva article, segment your members based on different discounts, like who has taken previous online courses or who has been a member for longer than a specified period of time.

4. Follow up with a course registration confirmation email

As the online course registration wraps up and payment is completed, it’s time to send out a course registration confirmation email. 

Registration confirmation emails have a couple of key uses. For one thing, they prevent confusion down the line about whether the registration was accepted. This verifies to the registrant that they have successfully signed up and that their payment has been received.

This type of email also opens up a communication channel between your association and online course participants. If there are any questions that registrants need answered, they can simply hit reply or use the preferred contact details provided in the email. 

This is also the place to relay all pertinent course information and target actions in the email. For instance, if a particular form needs to be completed before the course, make sure you have a bright button indicating that. Or, if the course requires a Zoom profile, the email should make this the focus action. If there are any urgent deadlines or other dates, make sure to bold them so that readers don’t accidentally gloss over these important details.

If you are having some trouble figuring out exactly what to say in your online course registration emails, Regpack has a handy guide along with three templates. Use the templates as inspiration and then tweak them to fit your association’s exact needs. 


Selling online courses to your association members provides them with engaging experiences and exciting learning opportunities. From making sure you offer the right courses to streamlining the registration process, the above tips and strategies will help you take your own member engagement to the next level moving forward. Good luck!

About the Author

Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.

Social Learning: Creating Community Around Learning

Social Learning has been a buzz word for some time now. It’s easy to talk about the benefits of wrapping social features around more traditional courses and education initiatives but how does it all really work? 

1. Build a Community

Before we get into the details around software and ideas on how to wrap community software around learning, it’s important that you’ve built a sense of community with your association members in general. From optimizing your website to taking advantage of event software to investing in reporting features, these five tips for digital member engagement can help set you in the right direction.

Now that you have started to build a sense of community with your users it’s time to start using community software. There are many options out there so find the one that works best for you — we recommend making sure it can play well with other items in your tech stack, such as your association management system and your learning management system.

2. Segment Community Groups

Once you’ve set up a dynamic, auto-populated community you’ll want to start segmenting people into different groups. Basing groups on users who are engaged in a course or attended an educational event is a great way to kick things off. Do it on a course by course basis, or create a community group based on something slightly larger than a single course – perhaps a community group for a specific curriculum or category, or for all learners. 

Depending on the nature of your courses and programming, you can determine what the right level of anticipated engagement might look like and then create an automation rule to put people in those groups. Community participation (I.e. make X number of posts / replies) could even be a criterion for course completion and certificate awarding. 

In a similar fashion, you could set up community groups around live events and webinars that happen through your LMS. Then invite attendees and your speaker/instructor for a follow up Q&A to happen in the community. This also generates a lot of great content for your community that could be made available to the group after the fact. 

3. Gamification 

Gamification is another buzz word up there with social learning and it’s becoming increasingly important. Sure, if people need to obtain continuing education credits each year or specific certifications to move to the next level in their career, they’ll take your courses. And yes, there are always people who want to continue learning. However, people are busy and have short attention spans. So why not make learning a little bit more fun? 

Badges are not only a great way to reward your learners for their participation, they also serve as a marketing tool for others to find out about your educational programs. Say you’re in a general community group, or maybe in a discussion forum after an event and Mary, who has the Expert Course-Taker 101 Badge leaves a comment. This might trigger you to find out what she had to do to get that badge and follow in her footsteps to take that course (or courses!). 

Badges can be displayed in private communities, but can also be displayed in broader social worlds, like LinkedIn, allowing recognition of badges from your educational content to reach a much greater audience. 

4. Marketing 

You’re engaging your current learners with communities and gamification, but what about those who haven’t joined in yet? You need to keep marketing! With some communities, their automation rules are driven off of user activities, and because LMS activities can be sent over to the community and counted among these, it’s easy to generate a variety of automation rules to segment your audience to better personalize your marketing. Think – is a renewal campaign going to be more effective if you send the same email to every member? Or is it going to be better if you target users based on their activity? Should you send the same renewal email to someone who has never taken a course vs. someone who is getting a ton of member benefit out of your LMS?  

With an LMS / AMS / Community integration you’ll know these things easily. The same goes for pretty much any call to action you might be putting in front of your members – not just renewals, but onboarding, event registration, volunteer recruiting, etc. Improved segmentation leads to better rates of conversion in pretty much any of these cases.

Jocelyn Fielding

Jocelyn is responsible for all marketing activities at Blue Sky eLearn, as well as overseeing sales from an operational standpoint. She has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing, with 7 of those years being spent at Blue Sky, marketing and selling to associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside – whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).

6 Tips to Improve Your Association’s Management with Data

When associations thrive, they see boosts in member recruitment and improved retention rates. They experience strong event turnout and growing engagement through other channels such as social media and discussion boards. They may even see more consistent non-dues revenue streams!

If your association isn’t quite there yet, you may be wondering where your efforts are going astray.

That’s where data comes into play. By examining your association’s member data, you can pinpoint the specific areas where your efforts are making an impact, or not. This information is vital to making informed decisions on what actions should be ceased, improved or prioritized. This holds true whether it’s your member engagement efforts or your internal operations.

We’re going to explore the many ways that your data can provide insights to improve your association’s operations through the following:

  • Better prepare your data.
  • Offer events that interest your members.
  • Communicate more effectively with members.
  • Discover opportunities to recruit new members.
  • Understand lags in membership. 
  • Identify opportunities for technological innovation.

Are you ready to make the most of your association’s data? Let’s get started.

Fine-tune your data. 

Before you can begin using your association’s data to improve management, you first need to review, clean and fine-tune your data. Simply examining your raw data will be time-consuming and is unlikely to offer many actionable insights. Plus, if you’re working with flawed or disorganized data, your actionable insights may send you in the wrong direction.

Therefore, our first tip for using data to improve your association’s management is cleaning and organizing your database beforehand. This process of working towards an error-free database is called data hygiene.

Data hygiene involves conducting an audit of your database and discovering areas with flawed information. From there, you can resolve those errors and create rules to eliminate them going forward. Start with:

  • Standardizing the entry of commonly used terms. This includes dates, addresses, titles, and numerals. This prevents duplicate, similar entries.
  • Merging duplicate entries and completing incomplete information. Ensure you have one entry for each member, representing a full picture of their interaction with your organization.
  • Segmenting members into common groups. Separating members into groups by common characteristics allows you to discover trends within your database, which you can act on later.

Need more support on data processing and creating actionable solutions? Check out AccuData’s primer on data hygiene.

Once you’ve cleaned and segmented your database, you can start examining your segments to better manage your association. 

Provide events that interest your members.

One of the biggest reasons members join associations is for professional networking opportunities. Association events are a popular way of providing those networking experiences, and you can improve these events with the right data. 

Planning and hosting an association event is a resource-intensive initiative. When you do, you want to make sure you’re providing the highest value possible to attendees. Examine your association’s data to discover:

  • Geographic locations where many of your members reside. Hosting events in those areas will make it more likely that your members will participate.
  • Topics of interest in your membership or field in general. Covering trending topics in your event makes sure your members are up-to-date on the latest news in the field.
  • Aspects of past events that have been particularly popular (or less so). For example, if you successfully incorporated new registration measures, or unsuccessfully incorporated new engagement strategies, plan your next event with that in mind.

If your association’s event management software is integrated with your CRM, it will be easy to see which of your offerings members have gravitated toward the most.

Communicate more effectively with members.

Data can improve your member communication strategies in a variety of ways. First and foremost, personalization is a powerful tool to boost member value by improving the member experience. Data is the key to getting started.

Something as simple as addressing email and direct mail communications to the member by name is a great start. However, personalization can go far beyond just changing the salutations. Consider these tips:

  • Only send members information about upcoming opportunities that they would be most interested in, indicated by factors in your database segments. This is the first email marketing design trend on this list.
  • Respect the communication preferences of members. If some of your members have opted out of email or direct mail communications, ensure those preferences are respected in all of your campaigns.
  • Discover and make the most of the many communication channels available. Examine your data to discover which platforms (email, direct mail, social media) your members are most responsive to and utilize them accordingly.

Communicating with members is a careful balance of effectively spreading the word while not going overboard with outreach. Data is key to being efficient and effective in this practice.

Discover opportunities to recruit new members.

Having and maintaining a strong member recruiting program is essential for your association to continue growing and thriving as time goes on. However, as the demographics of your membership change and technological innovations continue to evolve, recruiting is now more challenging than ever.

When it comes to recruitment, your staff has a few different challenges to overcome. These include: 

  • Locating potential new members.
  • Discovering what they’re interested in and how you can appeal to them.
  • Contacting them in a way that’s most likely to resonate.  

What might have worked when recruiting in the past may not work in today’s digital-first world. Your staff can utilize data to more efficiently recruit in the 21st century by:

  • Surveying recent additions to your membership. Use that data to discover the biggest drivers for members to join your association, and use them as selling points for potential new members.
  • Discovering new prospective members. Pay attention to information about non-members who regularly interact with your association through digital means. This could be a prospect who filled out their email to download a resource from your website.
  • Recognize which recruiting tactics are most successful. Use data to discover which of your digital outreach methods are having the highest success. This includes social media, email marketing strategies, cold calling, or even downloadable resources. Optimize those methods that have led to the biggest increase in membership. 

With data on the recent additions to your association and predictive analytics tactics, you can reasonably guess what potential new members of your association are interested in.

Understand why members lapse.

A strong member recruiting strategy is essentially useless if you have a low retention rate. Data is a valuable tool for discovering the reason behind a lapse in members and what you can do to alleviate those deterring factors.

For instance, examine your database to discover which members chose not to renew. Send a survey to those members asking what made them choose to end their membership, whether it be a lack of interest or an inability to pay the dues. Track those responses and brainstorm ways to circumvent that complication.

Furthermore, examine your records of lapsed members and look for common characteristics. 

For example, were members lapsing at a certain time period such as at the 3-year mark or the 10-year mark? If you’re using software specifically made for associations, what is the member adoption of your programs and services like? Pay attention to these common factors and consider what you can do to lessen the impact.

This same tactic is extremely useful for identifying at-risk members before they lapse. When you identify at-risk members, you can funnel them into a special engagement strategy to remind them of the value you offer and keep them around. 

Identify opportunities for technological innovation.

Your association’s data is a powerful tool to discover opportunities to improve your association’s operations with technology. 

You can use surveys or polls to discover what technology your members are most interested in interacting with or learning about. You may find that they’re most interested in learning about artificial intelligence and its impact on your industry or interacting with virtual reality experiences. At times, meeting member demands is a practice of having the right technology to do so.

You can also discover areas where your management efforts are falling short. For example, you may be putting a lot of time into certain engagement efforts but not seeing data-proven results (like your email newsletter or even a specific social media network). In that case, it might be time to discontinue or scale back the effort and incorporate another engagement method.

By examining your association’s data, you can discover the areas where your association’s long-held practices are no longer effective. Instead of staying stumped with management practices that are subpar, you’ll be able to use specific data to discover the exact failed practice and fix it.

Every interaction between members and your association can generate valuable data. Each of those data points provides a wealth of information on your association’s performance, and how it can be improved.
Consider these six tips when evaluating your association’s management efforts. With access to the right data, you’ll have solutions that are specific to your association in no time.

Author: Gabrielle Perham, MBA, Director of Marketing

Gabrielle is the Director of Marketing for AccuData Integrated Marketing. She joined the organization in 2017 and possesses more than 15 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding, communications, and digital marketing. She earned a B.S. in Marketing and an M.B.A in Marketing Management from the University of Tampa.

Top Three Association Technology Trends in 2020

In this age of innovation, associations need to stay competitive. Recent studies have shown that by the end of this year, about 17 percent of work will be automated. Thanks to companies like Tesla, Netflix, and Amazon, the fourth industrial revolution is increasing the pace of change and customer expectations. To keep up as technology evolves, the way you run your association must evolve as well. 

Consider the benefits of future-proofing your association to make sure you have the capability to leverage the three association technology trends listed below:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Business Intelligence
  3. Digital Transformation

Continue reading to learn more about these top association technology trends.

1. Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial intelligence refers to the ability of a computer to think like a human (or more than one human) and adjust its behavior based on learned observations over time. Machine learning (or m-learning) is a subset of AI, which involves learning by applying an algorithm to data in order to gain insights into that data and make informed decisions based on these insights.

One example where artificial intelligence can be beneficial for associations is with content curation. Manually creating a personalized stream of information for each member of your organization is both inefficient and impossible, especially if you have a large member base with a lot of content to choose from. Artificial intelligence can facilitate personalization by combing through massive amounts of content within the association and matching the most relevant content based on each member’s preferences (prior interest in topics/subjects, type of events, etc.) and known factors (location, job title, etc.). 

2. Business Intelligence 

Although often confused with artificial intelligence, business intelligence is another association technology trend that’s going to take center stage this year. While AI aims to mimic human intelligence, business intelligence (BI) refers to the use of technology tools to collect and analyze data. The main purpose of BI is to provide organizations with useful information and analyses in order to make data-driven decisions. 

An association LMS or learning management system is an example of a tool that can be leveraged by your association to collect and analyze data. Psychometric and site-wide usage reporting features can provide invaluable insights to help you understand more about your learners and ways your educational offerings can be improved.

3. Digital Transformation

Digital transformation at its most simplistic level is moving operations from paper to electronic. Making this transformation is not nearly that simple and it must have support from the top down to be successful. Technology will always be a central part of these efforts, but for associations, it must go beyond switching from one vendor to another. 

Acquiring software for associations is just one aspect of digital transformation. While it’s true that organizations won’t be able to make the digital shift without the tools, a complete transformation also requires modifying your association’s priorities, processes, and strategies. 

Author: Amber Winter

Amber Winter is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Web Courseworks. She’s committed to helping association executives realize the potential of their education programs and turn them into high performing revenue generators. Amber was named one of Madison, Wisconsin’s 40 under 40 and the number 1 LMS salesperson by Talented Learning.