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Engaging Members: Five Email Techniques to Try

Posted By Tara Burghart, Director of Content and Marketing, .orgSource, Friday, March 4, 2016
Updated: Thursday, February 25, 2016

In the first part of this “Engaging Members” series, we we looked at why associations are seeing their “organic reach” on Facebook drop so dramatically. Simply put, Facebook wants businesses and organizations to pay for advertising. In the second part, we examined one of the best alternatives for associations that lack the big advertising budgets of corporate brands: Email marketing.          

It’s an “old school” tool with a lot of life left in it! But few associations have tapped all the opportunities that email marketing offers. So today, as we wrap up the “Engaging Members” series, we present five techniques that could move your email marketing efforts into the fast lane:

Don’t be a stranger: Personalized emails always outperform communications that are not personalized. An obvious example is using the member’s first name. But in a recent survey of more than 5,000 subject lines, Informz also found good results with personalized company names, chapter names and geographic data. The subject line “Your membership has an expiration date of ‘Expire Date’” had a 52 percent open rate, well above the benchmark average of 35 percent.

Or how about using the details of the last event a member attended to encourage her to RSVP for another one?

Make subject line testing part of your regular routine: By doing A/B tests regularly, and not just for special occasions, you can figure out what really works with your members. Do they like plays on words? Lots of capital letters? Short subject lines? Long subject lines? Depending on your membership, you can even test out an emoji!

Consider adopting automation: Keep in touch with your members “automatically” when they join the organization – in fact, consider a series of emails that could introduce them to all the benefits your association has to offer. Create a win-back campaign aimed at former members. Suggest some new CE offerings for members who have recently taken a CE course. Or, in the vein of e-commerce providers that email when you abandon your shopping cart mid-purchase, create a trigger email that would encourage members who might start to sign up for an event or meeting without finishing the process.

Think about mobile at the very start: The emails your association sends out are most likely mobile-friendly. (If not, they should be!) But if you find that a segment of your readers are consistently opening up emails from you on their smartphones instead of a desktop, think about tailoring the content you offer those members to be easy to read and interact with.

Don’t forget the design: AssociationsNow addressed this issue in a popular post in November entitled “The State of Email Design Stinks.” If your email isn’t pleasant to the eye and easy to digest, members could start to ignore it. Think about investing money in the creation of a few custom, flexible templates that your association can use for its various email marketing needs.

As your association continues to build and strengthen the important relationships with your members, email marketing should be an important part of your strategic plan.

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Six Steps for Achieving Digital Transformation: Step 3

Posted By Sherry Budziak, Founder and CEO of .orgSource, Friday, February 26, 2016
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2016

This is the third entry in a six-part blog series about achieving digital excellence. Here, we advise on focusing your efforts through a clear roadmap of activities and goals.

Digital excellence takes a lot of work. But it could end up being a lot of work done in vain if it lacks focus. Therefore, you must start your digital journey by asking a fundamental question: What is most important for us to achieve? It could be increasing operational efficiencies internally, providing superior customer value, or engaging member experiences.


Whatever the answer, it will set the course for your digital transformation.

In order to develop a clear roadmap for digital excellence, you must focus your visions on organizational capabilities, customer needs and competition in your industry.

Take into account these proven strategies:

  • A well-coordinated system of priorities for digital channels, each with its own defined role in conveying your brand’s value proposition and delivering benefits.
  • Clear criteria for evaluating any new opportunity or idea, allowing for innovation but protecting against the “shiny new object.”
  • Balance between long-term commitments and quick wins.
  • Establish and manage the right resources for planned projects and activities.

Also, assess your digital readiness by asking:

  • Are our existing products and services digitized?
  • Can we consider new digital marketing channels?
  • Can we analyze customer data?
  • Are our systems integrated?
  • Do we have policies and business practices to adapt to the changes digital will bring?
  • How much opportunity is there for the organization to gain a competitive advantage?
  • Do our employees have the skill sets needed?
  • Do we have the right resources? Budget, people, time?
  • Are people in our organization excited about the opportunity to make digital a focus?
  • What commitments have been made to the board?

Through an honest, thorough assessment and prioritization, you’ll be equipped to plot your roadmap for your desired digital destination.

Check out the first two blogs in the series, focusing on how to create a digital strategy and getting to know your customers better by making data-driven decisions.

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Six Steps for Achieving Digital Transformation: Step 2

Posted By Sherry Budziak, Founder and CEO of .orgSource, Friday, February 19, 2016
Updated: Friday, February 12, 2016

This is the second entry in a six-part blog series about achieving digital excellence. Here, we focus on getting to know your customers better by making data-driven decisions.

How well do you know your customers?

Today, it’s easier than ever to track online habits, produce surveys, and provide forums where customers’ opinions and experiences are viewable to the masses.

But are you tracking the right movements? Asking the right questions? Identifying the key issues to resolve?

Consider these questions:

  • How do your best members or customers spend their time online?
  • Where do they go and how do they behave online?
  • In what ways do they interact with your association and what are the expectations?
  • What information is most important to them?
  • What information do they need to make decisions?
  • How can you provide information through content, social media, and real-time support?
  • Where are your customers most likely to find this information online?
  • Are your competitors providing it?

Without a common view of customers, it is extremely difficult to accomplish advanced customer engagement techniques such as personalized service or location-based marketing. It’s tough to gain a good understanding of the customer when customer data is spread across many systems.

So put your customer experience at the center of your digital transformation. Part of digital transformation is transforming the business experience. This includes uncovering bottlenecks and issues with your members caused by limits from old technologies, and then determine how to resolve them. Evaluate your progress or current standing with:

  • Semantic website and personalization
  • Social CRM
  • Integrated strategies for the website, mobile, social and cloud computing
  • Technology partners, and complete elimination of DIY systems
  • Systems delivering actionable information
  • C-level planning and execution
  • Collaborative and customer-focused IT support

Want to ensure you are delivering the right products, services, messages and experiences that delight your customers? Then, make the commitment to never stop learning from your customers—and from data.

Check out the first blog in the series, focusing on how to create a digital strategy.

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Engaging Members: Email Marketing Is Not Flashy, But It Works

Posted By Tara Burghart, Director of Content and Marketing, .orgSource, Friday, February 12, 2016
Updated: Thursday, February 4, 2016

In the first part of the “Engaging Members” series, we looked at why associations are seeing their “organic reach” on Facebook drop so dramatically. Simply put, Facebook wants businesses and organizations to pay for advertising.

So where does that leave nonprofits that want to better engage their members but lack the big advertising budgets of corporate brands?

One of the best alternatives is something associations have been doing for so long that it’s become like a favorite pair of sweatpants: Comfortable, reliable, but certainly not exciting.

That something is email marketing, which is consistently shown to outperform “sexier” options like social media and display advertising.

Here are some stats to back that up:

  • Email is nearly 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter combined, according to this study from McKinsey & Company
  • Email reaches its intended recipient 90 percent of the time, compared to about 2 percent for Facebook posts
  • Facebook has more than 1 billion users, Twitter about 255 million users. There are nearly 4 billion active email accounts.
  • A survey by Informz of more than 1,300 large and mid-size associations who used the company’s marketing platform found open rates in the United States averaged about 34 percent with click-through rates of about 15 percent.
  • Email conversion rates are three times higher than social media, with a 17 percent higher value in the version, according to McKinsey & Company.

Even though it feels like email marketing has been around forever, more sophisticated techniques and tools allow for more specific targeting than a decade ago, along with the potential to mine a lot of valuable data. 

Here are just a small number of the things that associations can use email marketing to accomplish:

  • Promote events and continuing education opportunities
  • Increase membership renewal rates
  • Welcome new members with information, tips and resources
  • Share industry news and positions taken by the association
  • Create a regular digital newsletter to replace or enhance your print products
  • Direct traffic back to your website
  • Strengthen relationships with members

OK. So this “old school” tool seemingly has a lot of life in it. But few associations have tapped all the opportunities that email marketing offers. Those opportunities are what we’ll take a look at in Part 3 of the “Engaging Members” series, so stay tuned!

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Tags:  content  email marketing  engaging  marketing 

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Six Steps for Achieving Digital Transformation

Posted By Sherry Budziak, Founder and CEO of .orgSource, Friday, February 5, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, January 27, 2016

This is the first entry in a six-part blog series about achieving digital excellence. Here, we focus on how to create a digital strategy.

Over the course of two decades, “digital” has become central to our lives. Yet many associations still struggle to make digital central to their operations.

They wrestle with managing the risk of growing volumes of content, transforming content-intensive business processes, using content to better engage customers, employees and partners, and gain business insight out of the plethora of information being gathered.

So, how can associations achieve digital excellence? If you answered “through technology,” that’s only partially correct. While it’s true your organization won't be able to take the digital leap without the required technological tools, it requires much more. It requires big picture priorities and supporting structures and processes. It requires strategy.

In today’s .orgCommunity webinar, “Achieving Digital Excellence: Creating the Right Approach to Transform Your Organization,” we discussed what goes into a good digital strategy. Some considerations:

  • Identify business drivers. Assess whether you are more focused on technology operations or business innovation, and where you lie on that spectrum. Rethink your operations from people, process and technology perspectives and consider inefficiencies in your business processes.
  • Establish digital vision. You need a strategy that is embraced at the top of the organization, aligned across the business for effective execution, and a recognition that digital strategy is not simply technology or marketing but a new way of doing business.
  • Assess current alignment and/or gaps. Outline what technologies are needed and ensure the workforce is trained in the required skills to implement those technologies. Are there skill gaps in your association that could be filled through training and development of talent? Is your IT department comprised of not only technology enablers, but strategic visionaries, entrepreneurs, project planners and individuals who are agile?
  • Evaluate and prioritize IT initiatives. Is it investing in people to improve internal processes? Enhancing technology or project management standards? Improving member satisfaction and the value of membership by delivering the right products, services, messages, and experiences?
  • Adjust IT strategy as necessary. Finally, associations must recognize that a digital strategy is an ongoing process. With a rapidly changing field like technology, priorities are likely to change—sometimes often. Smart organizations recognize this and adjust their digital strategies as needed over time to respond to the inevitable changes.

The benefits you’ll reap from a good digital strategy are a better digital workplace and an increase in stakeholder engagement. This is possible because of your proper planning for growth and innovation, customer value and operational efficiency.

As your association begins its digital transformation journey, be sure to start with a good strategy. For assistance, call upon .orgSource (, leaders in IT and digital strategies for more than 10 years.

Up next week: Get to know your customers better by making data-driven decisions.

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Engaging Members: It's Not You, It's Facebook

Posted By Tara Burghart, Director of Content and Marketing, .orgSource, Friday, January 29, 2016
Updated: Monday, January 25, 2016

Have you found that your association’s members are engaging less with your organization’s page on Facebook, and that your posts are reaching fewer of your “fans”?

Don’t blame your social media posts, their timing or wording.

For several years now, Facebook has been fiddling with its news feed algorithm in a way that decreases organic reach. (Organic reach refers to how many people you can reach for free on Facebook by posting to your page.)

Facebook also points out that there is more content shared every single day and therefore more competition for your member’s attention. “Rather than showing people all possible content, News Feed is designed to show each person on Facebook the content that’s most relevant to them,” Brian Boland, Facebook’s vice president of advertising technology, says in a post about organic reach on the social media platform. “Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300.”

Not surprisingly, Boland urges business and organizations to consider buying ads on the social media network’s right column or paying to “boost” a post to a targeted audience.   

“Paid media on Facebook allows businesses to reach broader audiences more predictably, and with much greater accuracy than organic content,” Boland writes.

But of course associations are nonprofits, and they lack the budget of big corporate brands to pay for advertising. Plus, these are people who have already “liked” your organization’s page, indicating they do want to hear its news and updates.  

Many nonprofits are frustrated by their lack of ability to reach “fans” they spent years cultivating.

“It’s an absolute catastrophe for us and every organization that’s paying attention,” Seth Ginsberg, president of the Global Healthy Living Foundation, an advocacy group for patients living with painful joint conditions told the International Business Times.

Despite the changes to the Facebook algorithm, there are still some strategies you can try to improve organic reach:

  1. Take a look at the data. Facebook Insights does exactly that – provide insight into everything you share. This tool is located at the top of your page, next to tabs for “messages,” “notifications” and more. You can find the reach of individual posts, the types of posts that do well, when your fans are online, external referrers and more. You can export the data to an Excel spreadsheet so it’s easier to digest. This should show a pattern of what’s working for you – and what isn’t – and provide some guidance on when is the best time for you to post on Facebook, what types of posts do best, etc.
  2. Focus on quality, not quantity. Some experts think that posting less often (just two or three times a day) helps organic reach, but again, look at what your specific data tells you.  
  3. Mix it up. Don’t post the same kind of update day after day. Instead, a use a mix of photos, videos, graphics, memes, links and text. Similarly, make sure everything you’re posting isn’t strictly related to your association. Make sure to share content from a wide variety of sources – mainstream media, blogs, other nonprofits. And continue to try to directly engage your members with questions, or asking for help or suggestions, even when you might not get a lot of feedback. Eventually one is likely to strike.

That said, no matter what you do, you are going to have an increasingly hard time connecting with your Facebook fans without paying. For instance, Ogilvy & Mather predicts that for corporate brands, organic reach on Facebook will eventually hit zero.

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Brand First, Logo Second

Posted By Doug Klegon, PhD, FACHE, Managing Director - Customer Experience and Marketing, .orgSource, Friday, January 22, 2016
Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2016

Several years ago I wrote an article for FORUM about designing a brand identity—not just a logo (October 2011). That article came to mind today when I read that Microsoft Bing has new logo. The new version is green (or perhaps teal). It also uses an upper case “B.” The new color is intended to be easier to read than the previous yellow and display better across Microsoft products and services. Perhaps the timing also relates to Bing, the search engine that powers Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, becoming profitable.

But Bing still significantly trails Google.  In my original article, I quoted Douglas Edwards, Google's first brand manager. In I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59," he tells the story of setting up a meeting to discuss his marketing plan. He argued that in a world in which search engines might become equal, Google would need to rely on "branding" to differentiate itself. As Edwards tells the story, the room grew quiet until cofounder Larry Page spoke up: "If we can't win on quality, we shouldn't win at all." The core business strategy articulated by Page was to deliver superior quality.

A second story I included in that article was from Dan Pallotta (Harvard Business Review Blog, June 2011). He wrote: "Back in 1969 NASA didn't have the best logo. But man did it have a brand. It has a nicer logo now — but the brand no longer stands for anything. If you don't know where you're going or how you're going to get there, that's your brand, no matter what fancy new name you come up with."

So, as I think about Bing’s new logo the question is whether a better user experience is behind that redesigned logo. If I click on the logo or use it as my default search, will I have a better experience? What is the brand promise? How will my expectations be met and exceeded?

Ultimately it is the organization’s brand promise that leads to the creation of products and services adding customer value. The organization comes to be defined not by a visual identity but by the users’ experiences—all the touch points that can create an emotional connection between the user and the brand.

The lesson is clear. The organizational logo may be the symbol of your brand. But your success or failure will be based on your understanding of your customers and your ability to organize strategies, processes and resources (including people and technology) to deliver value.

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Are You Ready to Transform Your Organization?

Posted By Destiny Nance-Evans, Friday, January 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Are You Ready to Transform Your Organization?

As a successful association executive, you know what it takes to work with volunteer leaders, energize staff and continually challenge yourself to keep your association moving ahead. You may have also noticed that it is not as easy as it used to be. Membership may be declining. Non-dues revenue isn’t as easy to come by, and more competitors than ever are vying for your members’ attention.

If you’re a CEO, COO or assistant executive director, you don't want to miss Association Strategy Circles, a unique program created and facilitated by Mary Byers, CAE in partnership with the Indiana Society of Association Executives. Strategy Circles are facilitated meetings designed to help you create a clear vision for the future and a strong action plan for the present, despite the challenges and responsibilities swirling around you each day.

You will meet with Mary quarterly in Indianapolis throughout 2016. She will challenge your thinking and teach you how to identify the steps necessary to create a vibrant, healthy and relevant association. Earn 24 CAE credits for attending all four sessions. Plus, ISAE members receive the member discount of $600. That’s only $25 per credit hour! Review all of the details and register online at


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Money-Saving Resources for Nonprofits

Posted By Sherry Budziak, CEO and Founder, .orgSource, Friday, December 11, 2015
Updated: Friday, November 20, 2015

Money-Saving Resources for Nonprofits

By Sherry Budziak 

With already-stretched budgets and often smaller staffs than their for-profit counterparts, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations can benefit from free or inexpensive resources to help them get their important work done. From fundraising to tech to creative, here are just a few offerings. 


Online mega retailer Amazon’s AmazonSmile website allows shoppers to donate money to eligible charitable organizations of their choice when they shop. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5 percent of a purchase price to the organization of a shopper’s choice. To be eligible, organizations must be registered and in good standing with the IRS as a 501(c)(3). 

Google Ad Grants

Eligible organizations (check your organization’s status with Google here) can receive up to $10,000 per month in free advertising through Google Ad Grants’ AdWords advertising program. Participating organizations can build and manage their own AdWords accounts and can run keyword-targeted text ads that appear on Google search results pages.

Google Apps for Nonprofits

Google also offers a suite of business apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive free for all members of Google for Nonprofits. The suite includes cloud storage across Gmail and Google Drive, and members receive free 24/7 technical support.

Microsoft Office 365

Similar to Google Apps, Office 365, Microsoft’s answer to cloud computing, includes the Microsoft suite of products, including the email client. Basic Web apps are free for eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofits. The nonprofit plan also includes online document sharing and collaboration through Microsoft OneDrive.

Salesforce for Nonprofits

Customer relationship management service provider Salesforce offers resources for nonprofits to help with donor/volunteer management. These include free user enterprise-level software licenses (up to 10) and discounts for additional licenses. 


Qualifying nonprofits can receive a free website hosting plan from DreamHost.  Users would only need to pay for domain name registration.

Budgets for creative projects within nonprofits are notoriously strapped. Organizations can take advantage of free or nearly-free services for the following creative needs:

Stock Photography

For a relatively small monthly fee, StockUnlimited provides subscribers access to unlimited downloads of stock graphics, images, icons, buttons, backgrounds and more.

While users of flickr know the site as a place to store and share photos, many might not be aware that it also can be a place to find free photos under its Creative Commons license. Some of the photos on the site are free for organizations to use for noncommercial purposes, but be sure to carefully verify which photos meet that requirement. 

Enhanced Digital Experiences

The Layar Creator feature of augmented reality and interactive print specialist Layar allows organizations to enhance marketing materials such as postcards, flyers, packaging and more with interactive content, including Web links, video messages and music clips. The site offers lower-than-average, pay-as-you-go pricing. 

Freelance Help

For organizations looking to hire freelancers for certain projects, fiverr, an inexpensive, online freelance marketplace, may be the answer. Hire creative professionals to do anything from designing a banner ad to building website pages starting at as little as $5 per job. 

These are just a few of the many free or discounted resources available to nonprofits. Start taking advantage of them today. And for assistance with your digital communications needs, call upon .orgSource, leaders in IT and digital strategies for more than 10 years.

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Three Reasons Why Your Marketing and IT Departments Need to Be Partners

Posted By Sherry Budziak, CEO and Founder, .orgSource, Friday, December 4, 2015
Updated: Monday, November 9, 2015
Payste embed code from YouTube or other video sharing service.

Three Reasons Why Your Marketing and IT Departments Need to Be Partners

Rapidly evolving digital technologies are changing the way Americans live, do business and connect with others.

With those technologies comes data – data from our cell phones, social media sites, climate control systems, electronic transaction records, digital photos and videos, among many other sources. There’s so much data, in fact, that 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years.

Associations now have a large amount of complex information available to them, too. Where and how do you gather data about your organization’s members? It is solely from their visits to your association website? What about their behavior in relation to your emails? Or your e-newsletters, conference apps, membership directories? Do you offer continuing education too? Yep, that’s another place to mine for data.

But if your association is going to properly use, manage and maximize the data from these sources – and to take advantage of the opportunities the digital revolution offers -- it is going to require your marketing and IT departments to become trusted partners. Neither will be successful without the other – and neither will your association.

Here’s three reasons why: 

1.      Members want a seamless user experience. They want to be able to read the details of what’s planned for your annual meeting on their mobile phone, register for it on their desktop and use their tablet to navigate around the conference floor. They expect your digital products to know their preferences and expectations. None of this can be achieved without your marketing department joining forces with your IT department.

2.      Technology has also changed the way members interact with associations – in person, on mobile apps, social media and on the website. You should be able to quickly gather important details about your relationship with your members: When they last attended the annual meeting, when they last called for help with a problem, the subject of the last email they opened from you and what stories or addresses caught their eyes and prompted their clicks. Drill down a bit, and you should be able to find even more useful details. As your IT resources process this information, your personalization efforts with your members become more on-target. Every interaction with them provides you with more insight into how to tend to their needs.

3.      When your marketing and IT departments work together on shared objectives from the start, it can cut down on conflict and delays later. Traditionally, an IT department might be told about the new system or tool the association needs, go off to create or find it on their own, and then come back to the table to be told it isn’t quite right. When marketing and IT work together during the process, systems can be tested and refined along the way. The path way to advancement and digital success is suddenly much smoother!

If you’re ready to create a more collaborative relationship between your marketing and IT teams, .orgSource can help. Take a look at how much we believe in the power of digital transformation, then drop us a line at


Tags:  information technology  marketing 

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