Technology

Refreshing Your Association Website: Five Pages to Include

| GS INSIGHTS

In today’s crowded online market, you need more than a generic website for your association. Whether you’re aiming to grow memberships or encourage deeper engagement among existing members, you’re sure to benefit from rethinking your online presence based on current trends.

The key to an effective association website is actively promoting awareness to attract members and drive event registration. To accomplish this, you need to be proactive in creating a user-friendly experience that serves site visitors with the information they want and need most.

An effective website looks different for every association, which can make it difficult to choose the right design to convey your mission in a way that captures attention. To help, there are easily customizable templates that meet the differing needs of every association. There are quite a few pages every association should consider during the design process, such as:

  1. Membership Information
  2. Events Page
  3. Donation Page
  4. Discussion Forum
  5. Blog

With each webpage, prioritize straightforward navigation as well as mobile responsiveness. Each visitor should be able to quickly find exactly what they need, no matter what device they are using. To gain a better sense of how to do this, explore Morweb’s list of best-designed websites. You’ll see a well-designed association website in action, and it may spark some inspiration for your own.

Ready to reach new heights with your association’s website? Let’s get started!

1. Membership Information

Membership Page

Members are the lifeblood of associations, so make them your top priority by featuring your membership program. Create a section where you tell visitors how and why they should join. Explain the different types of memberships you offer (e.g. individual, group, etc.) and provide direct access to your application.

Upon joining, members should be able to quickly and easily access your member portal, where they can pay dues and access member-specific resources. Your portal should do the following:

  • remind members about upcoming events;
  • send automated notifications about membership renewal; and,
  • allow members to update their payment information and communication preferences.

With your content management system (CMS), make sure you can add, edit, and categorize members into a membership directory. With interactive mapping capabilities, members can easily search for others and connect with them, taking their engagement to the next level.

Keep in mind that attracting and keeping association members should be your website’s main goal. To simplify the process, invest in professional membership website builder tools built specifically for associations. Otherwise, you may overlook vital features that members will find useful.

2. Events Page

Uniting members certainly requires a lot of digital work, but physically bringing everyone together is just as essential. To encourage involvement, you’ll need to host regular get-togethers. Conferences, conventions, and fundraisers are an excellent way to connect and interact with members. As such, you need to create a dedicated page that showcases these involvement opportunities.

Through your event page, spread the word to supporters using the following best practices:

  • Feature an up-to-date calendar. Your calendar should list each and every one of your events, including details on what, when, and where each is. As soon as your event dates are finalized, add them to your calendar so your members can get excited to participate.
  • Include registration forms. Create and share registration forms that capture important information, including names and contact information. This way, you can accurately predict attendance and properly plan for your event.
  • Privatize members-only events. When hosting events that are only for members, you’ll need to privatize the page so that others aren’t able to access and register for it. To do this, ensure your CMS allows you to manage user permissions for each web page.

In order for your events to be successful, you need to take the time to promote them. Otherwise, no one will know about the opportunity to get further involved. Making it easier for members and guests to access information about your events vastly increases the chance that they’ll attend. By creating dedicated event pages on your site, you’ll spread the word and spark community interest in no time.

3. Donation Page

Donation Page

For associations, one of the greatest sources of non-dues revenue is donations. As such, you’ll need to develop a well-designed donation page and grow your donor base.

As with any page on your website, brand it to your organization and ensure smooth navigation. This is only a start, though. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when creating your donation page:

  • Prioritize mobile responsiveness. Around 25% of online donations come from mobile devices. Because of this, your donation page should adjust to fit any screen size, making it accessible to everyone. Simplify this process with a CMS that offers automatic mobile responsiveness.
  • Fit your form onto one page. Don’t clutter up your donation page. Instead, invite prospects to complete the donation process by condensing your appeal. Limit the number of images and required fields so that donors stay focused on submitting their gifts.
  • Include multiple giving options. Maximize funds by offering several ways to donate. For instance, feature a recurring donation option to secure a steady stream of funds. Also, include suggested giving amounts to give donors a frame of reference when deciding how much to give.
  • Highlight your donation page in your navigation menu. This ensures users can easily access your donation page from anywhere on your site. Whenever they feel compelled to give, all it should take is one click to reach your donation form.

When designing your giving page, edit from the front end of your site rather than hopping between back-end and preview views. This way, you can easily improve your design as you go. For more tips on creating the best possible donation page, visit this design guide.

4. Discussion Forum

Creating online communities should be a major priority for your association, no matter its size. To start an ongoing conversation, build a discussion forum. By adding this to your website, you’ll enable members to discuss recent events, industry trends, and their personal experiences. Plus, your team will have an accessible outlet for quickly announcing updates and answering member questions.

When creating a strategy for your discussion forum, try the following to build a strong online community:

  • Actively promote your forum. Don’t assume that members will stumble upon your forum. You’ll need to spread the word about it. Start by featuring it in your navigation menu on your site as well as on your blog. Then, promote it across your communications.
  • Monitor discussions. Someone should monitor the forum to remove inappropriate messages and make sure everything is running smoothly. Try designating a board member or having a group act as community moderators to start conversations and monitor discussions.
  • Interact with members. Consider starting a conversation with forum members by asking for their opinions on your programs and events. When you receive insightful feedback, incorporate it in your planning or decision-making. Members will appreciate knowing their voices are heard.

Restrict access to your forum so that only members can use it. This is a great way to incentivize joining. With the right CMS, you can easily do this by creating private pages and managing user access. When you open the door for conversations with members, you should see a boost in member satisfaction and retention. Soon enough, the word will spread about the positive culture your association has instilled.

By encouraging conversation among members, you’ll foster a stronger culture of engagement and provide irreplaceable value.

5. Blog

Blog

Fuel your association’s growth by putting industry knowledge at readers’ fingertips. The simplest way to do this is to feature a blog with helpful resources. For your association, blogs work as an extra source of marketable content so you can easily spread the word about your mission.

Use your resources page as a free content source for members and other supporters to read up on topics that matter to them. Whether you’re featuring industry knowledge or monthly updates on your association, ensure it’s content worth reading. You’ll bring in more members and keep them involved by creating high-value posts.

Using your CMS, craft posts directly on your website. Make sure your blog is easy to find and designed similarly to the rest of your website. When designing and updating your association’s blog, implement these suggestions to create valuable posts:

  • Drive traffic using calls-to-action. CTAs allow you to funnel users directly to high-value content, such as upcoming events and donation opportunities. When prospects feel motivated by your post, CTAs tell them exactly what their next steps are.
  • Enable social media sharing. When readers enjoy your content, they’ll want to share it with their friends and families. Make sure they can do this and spread the word about your association with social media share buttons.
  • Feature engaging imagery. Visuals will benefit your posts as they evoke emotion and encourage action. However, don’t overload your posts with graphics as this will distract the reader and slow down the page.
  • Use SEO tools. Make your website and posts easier to find in search engines. To do this, leverage a CMS that enables custom meta titles, meta descriptions, and customizable URLs that target keywords you want your association to rank for.

Creating and keeping up with a blog can be a lot of work. Go into it with a positive mindset, and aim to provide readers with content they will find interesting and useful. By continually posting quality updates, you’ll develop a strong following as your content expands. Once you get into the flow of maintaining a blog, updating it will become a part of your weekly routine.

While the above suggestions will likely generate support, there’s still more your association can do. To continue your research, head on over Fonteva’s member engagement guide for more professional tips.

The most effective association websites are more than just a collection of images and text. By providing value to members and other supporters, you’ll compel readers to return to your site often. Refresh your website by adding the valuable pages discussed in this article, and you’ll start driving more engagement.

Now that you know what pages to include on your association’s website, it’s time to get to work. Create a more intuitive website for your association using the above tips, and watch your association’s supporter base grow!

Action steps you can take today
  • Invest in a comprehensive CMS platform to simplify the web design process.
  • Rethink your current website and determine if it’s driving value for your association. Then, refresh it by incorporating the above pages and tips.
  • Create a plan for continually updating your website to drive deeper engagement.

Four Tools to Improve Your Association’s Membership Retention

| GS INSIGHTS

A large component of your association’s membership retention strategy is having a top-notch association website.

Your website is where current members (and prospects) go for information and insight, interact with each other, register for events, and contribute donations.

In other words, there is a lot riding on your association website, which means you’ll want to make every visit as engaging as possible by encouraging action and providing members with value.

 

 

In this post, we’ll cover four tools to incorporate into your website:

  1. Online Communities
  2. Regularly-Updated Blog
  3. Private Pages
  4. Donation Tools

To offer these and other membership engagement tools, you’ll need to start with a powerful website builder. Check out Morweb’s list of top membership website builders to begin exploring your options. From there, you’ll be able to effectively advance your membership retention tactics.

Let’s begin!

1. Online Communities

Online Communities

People join associations because they enjoy connecting with like-minded individuals who share a passion for the same field or cause. Create these connections by developing an engaging online community for your members.

Establish online communities by leveraging the following website tools:

  • Online forums: Create a discussion board to allow members to share personal experiences and collaborate on ideas to promote association growth.
     
  • Social media tools: Add social media sharing buttons and incorporate social media live feeds on your website to encourage people to interact with your organization on different platforms.
     
  • Contact form: Offer a contact form on your website to encourage direct communication between members and your team.

Opening the door for communication is a great way to establish a positive spirit among your members and demonstrate the value in belonging to your organization. This can directly impact member acquisition and retention.

2. Regularly-Updated Blog

Regularly Updated Blog

A blog is an excellent tool for creating member-centered content on a regular basis. When you’re posting about things that truly affect and interest your members, they’ll be able to use it as a reliable source of information.

Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit storytelling offers the following excellent tips that can easily be applied to association blog posts:

  • Post about compelling characters. Focus on individual stories. Give your “characters” a face, name, and voice, and make sure they’re characters that your members can relate to.
     
  • Relate each story to a specific goal. What is your organization trying to accomplish with each blog post that you share? Whatever your goal, make sure your stories drive people toward it.
     
  • Use impactful visuals. Photos, videos, and infographics are excellent tools for creating engaging blog posts. They have a way of engaging your audience and helping them to feel emotion that can inspire them to act.

A regularly-updated blog can get your association’s members visiting your website frequently. To ensure that you’re posting valuable content on a regular basis, we suggest creating a content calendar that you can use to stay on track.

3. Private Pages

Private Pages

To be able to offer members-only content, you’ll need to restrict access and privatize pages so that only members can view them. With the right association website builder, you’ll have the tools you need to manage user permissions and offer password-protected resources.

Consider featuring the following content in the members-only area on your site:

  • eLearning opportunities: Put industry knowledge within your members’ reach by offering educational resources. Interactive content like insightful webinars, online courses, and articles can help your members build marketable skills and deepen their engagement.
     
  • Member directory: Sort and categorize members into a directory so they can search for others to connect with. Make sure to only list the information that members want made public to other members!
     
  • Event pages: If you want to offer a members-only event, a secure event landing page can be a great asset. Include event information, registration forms, waivers, and more, all in one place.

Providing members-only resources will add an element of exclusivity to the membership experience. This exclusivity encourages members to continually renew their memberships to preserve their access to these resources.

4. Donation Tools

Donation Tools

For the most part, you likely rely on membership dues, event registration fees, or grants to fund your association’s operations. However, including a well-designed donation page on your website and directing your members to it is also a great fundraising habit to build. 

Here’s what to prioritize when designing your page:

  • Secure payment processing: Look for a website builder that allows you to create custom forms directly on your website with payment processor integration so people feel secure while giving.
     
  • Branding: Brand your donation page with your organization’s logo and colors, creating a more consistent donor experience as people navigate between the pages on your website.
     
  • Offer recurring giving options and suggested giving amounts: Recurring giving options enable you to secure long-term support, while suggested giving amounts provide people with an idea of what a “typical” donation might look like.

The right donation tools will enhance the donor experience. By effectively turning your members into donors, you’ll know you’ve successfully enhanced their experience and can be confident that you’ve secured long-term support.

The Gist

By leveraging association website best practices and including the essential tools on your site, you’ll be on your way to increased member engagement and retention. Remember, though, improving your retention strategy is more a marathon than a sprint. By taking a careful approach to the online resources you’re offering, you’ll set yourself up for success in the long run.

Action steps you can take today
  • Invest in a website builder created with associations’ needs in mind. This kind of website builder will provide all the tools you need to engage your members.
     
  • Create online communities among your members using online forums, social media tools, and contact forms. You should also regularly post valuable content on your organization’s blog.
     
  • Private, members-only resources and a well-designed donation page can help you deepen engagement with your members and improve your association’s membership retention.

Twitter Feeds We Love

| GS INSIGHTS

DIARY OF A SOCIAL MEDIA ROOKIE

One of the benefits of social media is the ability to learn from experts in your field, to connect with others who are passionate about the same causes, and to have access to a vast array of information and resources. You can learn a lot just by “listening.” Here are some great Twitter feeds we follow to learn more about grants, tech, social media, and nonprofit sector news.

#GrantChat
Join this live chat every Tuesday at 12pm ET for a friendly Q&A session. Connect with other grant professionals of all levels to ask and answer questions centering around a different topic each week.

Blackbaud
A power for social good, software company Blackbaud offers insights on technology, fundraising, and nonprofit resources.

Julia Campbell
Julia Campbell provides terrific guidance for fundraising, technology, marketing, and social media for nonprofits.

Grants.gov
Making the federal grant process more accessible, Grants.gov shares helpful news, tips, and training.

CharityHowTo
This company offers excellent online training and resources from leaders in the nonprofit field.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
The Chronicle helps you stay updated on the nonprofit sector, including daily news roundups and notable grant awards.

Beth Kanter
The author and self-care advocate provides helpful information for fundraising and tech, and also focuses on health and wellness for nonprofit professionals.

Classy
The fundraising platform company shares nonprofit and tech resources and news, as well as information about fundraising and Giving Tuesday.

Darian R. Heyman
Learn about best practices and tools for online fundraising and social media for nonprofits from the noted fundraising trainer and speaker.

National Endowment for the Arts
NEA offers diverse and interesting news about visual and performing arts, music, and culture, along with funding opportunities.

Action steps you can take today

We hope you’ll join us too for news and resources you can use!

Please connect with us on:

Life in Zoom World: Dealing With the New Normal

| GS INSIGHTS

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a whole new lexicon, a slew of neologisms, acronyms, abbreviations, and old words combined in new ways. Perhaps you are bunkering down with your quaranteam. WFH has become almost as common as LOL. How much time do you spend doom-scrolling through the day's news?

And then there is Zoom fatigue. (You might use a different web-meeting interface, but Cisco Webex fatigue doesn't really roll off the tongue. Perhaps you're suffering from a Google Hangouts hangover, instead.) This new ailment is a product of our sudden super-reliance on web-based interactions. Somehow, after either watching or presenting to people over a video feed, you are more exhausted than you would have been if you had held the meeting in person. Why is this?

National Geographic has looked at some of the ways these types of interactions affect our brains. A large part of the issue is that, as social animals, we are trained to understand nonverbal communication. When communicating by video, these nonverbal cues are diminished and harder to understand. We may miss out on hand gestures and other movements. We stare at a small video screen that is in two dimensions instead of three and try to translate it to an analog of seeing the same thing in person. To make up for the lack of visual cues, we focus more on the words themselves and the way they are spoken. However, most of the people we are listening to are not professionally trained speakers. And the more people involved in the conversation, the more taxing and difficult these interactions become, which leads to mental, and even physical, exhaustion. 

(Keep in mind that there is a certain subset of the population where these virtual interactions are actually less exhausting, for example, some individuals on the autism spectrum or with other aversions to in-person interactions, such as extreme introverts.)

While some of our work situations may be going back to normal, or something approximating it, many of us will be working remotely for the long haul. And many of us back in a real office will be in communication with people who are still working from home. Video conferencing will continue to be a big part of our everyday lives. Without efforts to mitigate the fatigue, it will continue to build and build, like that pile of faces when more and more people keep joining your online work meeting. Here are some strategies that can help you avoid burnout.

First of all, is video necessary? If not, try an old-fashioned phone call. (Or, if your day has been really tough, a phone call with an Old Fashioned, of the beverage variety, in hand.) With only vocal cues to decode, you may find yourself with better retention and less exhaustion at the end of the conversation.

Smaller groups may also be less exhausting, as there are fewer people and therefore fewer stimuli to pay attention to. Though it may actually take some more time, you may want to consider having a couple of smaller meetings instead of one large all-hands-on-deck meeting. The tradeoff between time spent and mental exhaustion may be well worth it. In addition, these smaller, more focused meetings may lead to greater content retention.

In the same way that reducing the amount of people can reduce the amount of stimuli, you can also reduce your stress by cleaning up your computer’s desktop and avoiding multitasking while on a video call. If you are reading your email or working on your calendar for the week, you won’t be giving any of the concurrent activities the attention they deserve, and your brain will have much more on which to focus.  

Less visual clutter on your screen can also help. Consider minimizing the image of your own face, because that can be very distracting for many people. You can also ask the other participants beforehand to place themselves in front of simpler backgrounds, which can also lead to less brain strain. Or you can set the program to show only the person speaking at that moment. If there are fewer things to catch your eye during the video chat, you will feel much more relaxed afterwards.

Some experts feel that part of the reason why constant video chats are so exhausting is that they have led to a lack of physical separation between the various roles in our lives. For example, I may make a video call from my office for work. Then, from that same space, I will meet some friends for a “virtual happy hour.” The next day, I might have a conversation with my parents, again from that exact same space. Before the pandemic, you would have had these interactions in three distinct spaces: your office, the local tavern, and your living room. Dedicate certain spaces in your abode to certain types of conversations: this is where I work, this is where I relax, this is where I take care of other business. (If your primary computer is a desktop, you may have to get a bit creative to make this work, like a different backdrop for each situation.)

You will also want to train yourself on how to be a good participant, and ask your virtual companions to do the same. Learn some of the quick keys to make your Zoom usage more seamless. For example, you can mute or unmute your microphone using the spacebar if you have that setting turned on. Unless you're participating in rapid-fire back-and-forth banter or jumping into the conversation constantly, you probably don't need to have your microphone activated the entire time. I've been on several group chats with friends where there were birds or dogs making noises in the background, kids blasting the television in a different room, and the dishwasher running five feet from the laptop, and the microphone was constantly left on even if those individuals hadn't said a word for the past five minutes. Multiply that by several participants and it becomes difficult and exhausting to pay attention. The keyboard shortcut lets you quickly and easily turn your microphone on and off only when you need it.

Lastly, know your limits and when you need to take a break. It’s okay to look away from the screen for a bit to re-center yourself. Consider putting time limits on your meetings. Make an agreement beforehand that if you run over on time, you will table it for later, or continue after a five- or ten-minute break. Set ground rules with the other participants so that if they need to, it’s okay to turn off their camera for a bit. If everyone is flexible, the experience will be better all around. 

Keep in mind that what works for some people may not work for you. It will take some trial and error to figure out the best way to make video chatting less stressful. Be patient with others and hopefully they will be patient with you. The world around us may seem like it is zooming ahead at a million miles per hour, but by taking a deep breath and trying to simplify your situation, you can take it all in stride. Zoom and Zen may seem like polar opposites, with nothing in common but a single letter. But by using the above strategies, perhaps you can bring some Zen to your Zoom.

Action steps you can take today
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. Less clutter on your screen and in your workspace leads to less stress.
  • Check out GrantStation’s series on telecommuting, which will help those of you new to the work-from-home lifestyle: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • Go back in time. Video chatting might be the big new shiny thing, but would a phone call, email, or text get the job done more effectively?

Let’s Be Social: Moving Beyond Facebook

| GS INSIGHTS

You may have heard about the changes Facebook is making to its algorithm, which could affect what you see in your news feed. If you are a business or nonprofit, you are probably wondering what the changes will mean for you. While we on the business and nonprofit side can stay informed and make changes, it remains to be seen how much different things will be. The good news is that there are many other ways to connect with people. Consider trying a new social platform to expand your reach.

GrantStation is heavily invested in social media in 2018. We regularly post content and links on news, online education, philanthropy, and media that affects the social sector. We are branching out this year to include Pinterest and YouTube, in our continuing effort to offer valuable insight and information. You can interact with and follow GrantStation on our various social media channels. We hope to see you there!

Here are the social media channels where GrantStation has a foothold today:

  • Facebook
    We like to post relevant and current news in the world of philanthropy, educational opportunities, and highlights of GrantStation news. Be sure to check out our Event listings for current online education class listings too!
     
  • LinkedIn
    Here we focus on sharing GrantStation news, articles, webinars, and our weekly Insider newsletter. We also have a Group page for professionals to connect with each other.
     
  • Pinterest
    This is our newest social media addition, which we just launched in January. We will be curating writing and grantseeking tips and information.
     
  • Twitter
    We share anything related to the world of grants, nonprofits, social enterprise, and philanthropy. This is a great place to find current news, grant opportunities, online education, and connections to others in the social sector.
     
  • YouTube
    Here we offer free short-form webinars to help you learn about topics from the world of grantseeking, strategy, and management.

Subscribe or follow GrantStation now to stay informed!

Tools for the Thrifty Nonprofit: Easy Graphic Design with Canva

| GS INSIGHTS

When you run a nonprofit or small business, every penny counts. Sometimes you’ll want to cut corners on things that seem less essential or things that seem out of reach. I’m here to tell you that one thing you shouldn’t neglect is your look. Looking professional and polished can only benefit you, and it takes less time and money than you may think to use quality images and graphics. You don’t even need to hire a graphic designer or learn a difficult computer program.

One of my essential work resources is Canva. I use it constantly to make customized images for social media and our website. This resource will enable you to create beautiful designs for free. The templates include sizing for social media, your website, slideshow presentations, and even things you want to print like brochures and business cards. You can use the templates as they are, and just plug in your text and images. If you feel more confident, you can change colors and sizes, move things around, and even create your own designs. Small businesses will appreciate the option of a free basic version, or reasonably priced paid version with more features. If you’re a nonprofit, you can apply for the premium version for free, and find tutorials and inspiration specifically designed for you.

Canva has a library of tutorials, not only about using their design tools, but also tutorials that teach design basics, color, branding, and how to use images and text effectively. I’ll demonstrate a quick design here to get you started.

  1. The easiest way to start is with one of the templates. Choose one that is sized for your intended purpose.
    Canva Templates
     
  2. Browse through the library of design layouts to find one that works for your idea. I try to keep in mind how much text I want to include and whether I want to use a picture when choosing one.
    Canva Design Layouts
     
  3. If you like the image already on the layout you can use it. You can also change the image to one in Canva’s library, or you can upload one of your own.
    Canva Image Work
     
  4. Next, add your text. You’ll be able to change the color, font, size, and placement.
    Canva Editing
     
  5. When you’re happy with your design, simply save and download it. Have fun creating!
Action steps you can take today

The Revolution Will Be Telecommuted

| GS INSIGHTS

Why Nonprofits Are Letting Employees Work Remotely

If you're reading this article at work, there is an increasingly good chance that your desk is situated in your own home. Currently, more than 43% of nonprofit organizations offer some sort of telecommuting policy.

GrantStation shifted to a telecommuting model years ago. We have people on the West Coast, in Middle America, on the East Coast, and in places in between. We even have several employees in Spain! A couple months ago, I saw my boss and supervisor for the first time in almost ten years; we've done all of our communication digitally during that timespan, except for a couple phone calls.

I'm currently writing this article from my home office in Oregon. I have a passably comfortable chair and an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and a bathroom I don't need to share with other employees. My pet chinchilla is sleeping only ten feet away. I'm drinking some hot coffee fresh out of the French press. It's quiet and relaxing and a situation that allows me to be focused and productive.

The setup is ideal for me, but does it work for other employees? Let's look at some data about remote workers.

  • Studies show that remote workers can be up to 20% more productive than their office-bound counterparts, and they are also more likely to put in extra hours. When workers themselves are interviewed, 91% believe they accomplish more when working remotely.
  • In addition, employees who work from home report lower stress levels and greater job satisfaction and morale, with 82% saying they were less stressed and 80% indicating higher morale. 
  • Telecommuting policies also help improve recruitment and retainment. The ability to work remotely is a crucial benefit for many job seekers. Seventy-four percent of Millennials say that they want flexible work schedules, and they are also more likely to join companies that offer telecommuting options. Among current employees, remote workers are also 50% less likely to quit.

But despite the documented benefits, telecommuting isn't a cure-all for every organization. Last year, the Chicago Tribune looked at the pros and cons of working from home.

While many organizations offer some sort of remote-work policy, only 2.8% of the nation's workforce do the majority of their work from home. According to the Tribune, the employees who are most engaged spend three or four days out of the office, with one to two days in the office. The face-to-face time with colleagues helps nurture relationships in a way that telecommuting doesn't allow.

Some offices set up a specific dynamic between the office and home: the office is for collaborations and working through ideas collectively, and home is for focusing on work that includes a great deal of focus and concentration.

While workers largely approve of working from home, the virtual office can provide a lot of difficulty for managers. How do you keep track of someone you almost never see? How do you monitor their work or evaluate their performance? The answer lies in setting clear expectations and lines of communications to ensure both parties are happy with the situation. The transition may be easier for some companies and individuals than others. Managers must keep in mind that working from home may not be the best option for some employees.

In the coming years, the telecommuting trend will move even more nonprofit workers from their offices to their homes. Nonprofit organizations that adapt with this trend can help keep their employees happier and more productive.

In the next couple of months, we'll look at ways to move your organization toward more remote-work options, and at ways for individual telecommuters to improve their comfort and efficiency. 

Action steps you can take today

Visit GrantStation’s Pathfinder to search for links to additional resources.

Doing a Tech Analysis at Your Nonprofit

| GS INSIGHTS

With the start of a new year, there is no better time to audit your technology systems and figure out what is working for your organization and where there is room for improvement.

Your technology is your central hub and it is important that it is as efficient and effective as possible so that your team can spend more time focusing on the people your organization serves instead of managing digital systems that aren’t quite working for you.

I’ve put together some considerations, as well as three steps to take when undergoing a tech analysis. Start your new year off right!

Things to consider:

Your Goals

What are your organizational goals and how does your technology support them?

Take a look at the big picture. Is your goal to serve more meals, research medical breakthroughs, or see your town become a no-kill city?

Now how can you achieve those goals?

Most likely you need donors and volunteers. How is your CRM helping you grow your donor and volunteer database?

You need ways to communicate with those you serve. Is your email management platform integrating with your other digital systems?

You need to put on special events to gain community involvement. Do you have a streamlined process for collecting ticket sales?

There are so many technology applications available these days that it can be overwhelming to understand what seems helpful vs. what is actually helpful to your specific organization. It’s always good to look at the big picture of what will help your organization make the biggest impact.

Your Users

A technology system is only helpful if the people using it actually use it.

Sure, on paper that CRM has all the bells and whistles you could ever imagine, but if it is too versatile and too large, the average user might get so overwhelmed that they avoid using it altogether.

What do your users think? Are there common pain points? Steep learning curves? Or even general disinterest in using your technology because, maybe, they don’t see the point?

All of these questions are worth considering before moving forward with your technology plans.

Your System Processes

Think about your processes. Do you go to one system to enter something, then another to do something else, then a third to record the first thing you entered?

For example, do you have any reports that need to be compiled in Excel from multiple data sources/systems? If so, that's a major red flag for data accuracy and wasted time.

Are your systems talking to each other? Nowadays most technology apps can be integrated together to make the steps you need to take to, say, record a donation much simpler.

What are the benefits and risks of your current systems? Where is there room for improvement?

There is a good chance that some of the systems you use have overlapping functionality. If so, it might be time to trim out a few of these systems in order to help your processes run smoother.

Taking time to think through these processes might really highlight some areas for improvement.

Steps:

1. Document your systems and what business need they fill (or fail to meet).

Make a list of all your digital systems - CRM, peer-to-peer system, grant management, volunteer database, events system, email marketing platform, etc. Then write out what you use each system for.

Are these systems doing what they are supposed to be doing, or are they falling short?

Take a look at your already in-use systems and see if they might offer additional tools you aren’t utilizing. Does your CRM offer a peer-to-peer fundraising integration? Or does your email marketing platform integrate with your events system? See where you could reduce or connect your systems to simplify your processes and make your technology management more streamlined.

If you are noticing a lot of needs going unmet, it might be time to consider a new technology system for your organization.

2. Identify the level of user adoption in your organization.

Interview or survey users and stakeholders to learn all about how they use your technology and how they wish they could use it.

Some questions to ask are:

  • What do you use the system for?
  • What is the most time-consuming part?
  • What do you wish the system did better?
  • How does it help you on a daily basis?
  • Overall, are you satisfied with this system?

Notice trends in responses. You might be surprised at what you find. What is working for one user, might be a headache for another department. Consider some different options to make it easier for the people who use your digital systems.

3. Engage vendors to assist with system improvement/new system selection and implementation.

Now that you have identified needs and challenges you are facing with your current technology systems, finding some assistance to help you make the most of your digital systems is highly recommended.

If it’s figuring out how to better utilize a current system you have, reaching out to the developer is a great first step. Most CRMs have people standing by or training programs to help you implement their product tools. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Consultants can also be a helpful advocate for you. They generally know the right questions to ask to get at the root of an issue or pain point you might be having. Many times they also have knowledge of many different systems and can recommend solid solutions that are tailored to your organization’s needs and goals.

When you reach out to a consultant, identify specific topics or technology areas you would like to explore in more depth. At Tackle, we typically draft a findings report, often with a spreadsheet of business actions/requirements/needs/paint points. Then we figure out where trends lie and where the most improvement can be made with the least amount of work.

In summary, technology should work for you, you shouldn’t have to work for it. Take some time these next few weeks to think through these considerations and steps. You will be glad you did when your organization’s “busy season” strikes again.

Action steps you can take today