4 Ways to Make Member Engagement a Priority
No one could have expected the impact COVID-19 would have on so many types of organizations. Events have been cancelled, people are working from home and membership activity may not be a top priority.
Nonprofits and other charitable organizations are probably all facing similar challenges. This global pandemic has caused a financial strain on many, including your members and donors. You’re probably wondering if you should pause engagements for the time being to not overload these supporters. However, this is not the time to stop fundraising completely.
If your nonprofit organization has a membership program, it’s safe to assume that your members have a strong interest in the future of your mission. They want to know what your organization’s next steps are, especially in times of crisis. Though you might pause your regular fundraising asks, you should still check-in with members and see how they’re doing. Some of them will want to help.
Member engagement is now more important than ever. Nonprofit organizations thrive on long-lasting support from donors, and if you stop all engagements, you’re likely to face major member attrition. Though you’ve had to cancel face-to-face meetings and in-person events, there are still many ways you can digitally engage your members to maintain these relationships. Show your members that you still intend to move forward, all while still practicing safe social distancing.
Here at Fonteva, we often work with associations to strengthen their online member engagement and believe that similar practices can also be applied to nonprofit memberships, especially when equipped with the right software and tools. Consider the following ways to continue nonprofit member engagement in the digital space:
- Modify or create new key performance indicators
- Maintain consistent communications
- Encourage engagement in your online community
- Offer virtual experiences
This is a confusing time for many organizations, especially for nonprofits. However, it’s more cost-effective to focus on retaining your members now than have to try and acquire new ones down the line. In the end, these tactics will help strengthen your organization overall and can be utilized even when COVID-19 no longer poses as big of a threat.
Ready to get started? Let’s begin.
1. Modify or Create New KPIs
One of the best ways to keep track of and improve your member engagement efforts is to create new key performance indicators or modify existing ones. KPIs are strategic metrics that organizations set to help measure progress toward specific goals. KPIs help your nonprofit track its online member engagement based on those key metrics.
KPIs are important because they help your nonprofit understand where it currently stands on certain objectives, such as online member engagement. These insights help your nonprofit adapt and improve online engagements. If a certain KPI shows a program is doing well, you’ll increase that engagement. If a KPI indicates an activity is starting to falter, that’s a clear indicator that something needs to change.
First, you have to define what online member engagement looks like to your nonprofit. Consider where your members are active and how you already engage with them. Remember, you need concrete, measurable metrics. Some good examples include:
- Online gifts secured. It’s a good idea to track your online gifts. It’s likely that they’ll start to decrease as the global pandemic continues, but don’t let the low numbers discourage you too much.
- Website page views. With more people staying home, they’re probably spending more time on their computer (or mobile device) than before. Make sure you keep track of website visits to get a sense of who's interested in your mission. If you notice your page views start to falter, consider doing a website audit and optimizing your layout.
- Email open and clickthrough rates. If you notice your email open rates are going down, it’s time to rethink your communications strategy. From what you say, to how often you say it, we’ll talk more about this in the next section.
- Social media interactions. Social media is a great place to keep in touch with your supporters and update them on your organization. To encourage more social media engagement, ask your followers to share or comment on one of your posts.
Once you’re actively keeping track of your member engagement KPIs, you can better plan your next move. Start focusing on those KPIs with lower engagements and increasing those with higher engagements.
2. Maintain Consistent Communication
As we enter challenging times, it’s hard to continue fundraising like normal. And honestly, you shouldn’t be fundraising like normal. Your nonprofit members are also impacted by the global pandemic and have their own concerns as well. However, this does not mean you should disconnect altogether.
Consistent communication is crucial, especially in times of crisis. If your communications start to falter now, you risk your donor retention rate decreasing over the long run. Take a look at your current email tool and determine if you’re doing all you can to ensure your communications are optimized.
Though you might not want to ask members for a cash donation right now, your supporters will appreciate knowing what your nonprofit’s next steps are. Transparency is key here, so if your nonprofit is going through challenging times or has to cancel future fundraising events, let your members know.
Consider the following best communication practices:
- Check in with members to see how they're doing. It’s always a good idea to simply let members know that you care. They don’t want to feel like just a bank, especially in times like this.
- Update them on your organization’s next steps. What is your nonprofit doing in response to the COVID-19 impact? Make sure you let your members know in an email update or in your monthly newsletter.
- Provide them with useful resources and guidelines. Your members already trust your nonprofit — that’s why they joined your membership program. Provide them with helpful resources to cope during this pandemic, whether it’s work from home tips or CDC guidelines.
- Ask them if they’d like to change the engagement style. Let your members decide how you communicate with them. If they say they’re not ready to give a gift right now, accept that and continue with non-ask engagements.
- Provide opportunities for online engagement. If your members do want help out in any way, provide them with online opportunities. Whether it’s an online fundraiser or an invite to a virtual event, they’ll appreciate the opportunity to get involved.
Once you’ve checked in with members and have a sense for how they’re doing, then you can use your best judgement and see if they’d like to make a gift. Even if they can’t right now, you’re setting up the foundation for future engagements down the line.
3. Encourage Engagement in Your Online Community
With more people beginning to work from home and practice safe social distancing, there’s going to be a drastic increase in internet use. This is a great time to encourage your nonprofit members to not only engage with your organization online, but also with each other.
A cohesive online community provides your members with opportunities to learn from each other and discuss relevant topics. This not only brings more value to your nonprofit members, but also promotes member loyalty down the line. Members will feel like they’re a part of something bigger and be empowered to make meaningful changes as a group.
However, members will only engage with each other as much as you provide engagement opportunities. What can you do when members can no longer meet in person at a fundraising event or membership meeting?
Here are some great online engagement opportunities to offer your members:
- Online discussion groups/forums. Let your members discuss their heart's desire on an online discussion group or forum. You can host this on your website for easy access!
- Facebook groups. Many organizations also have Facebook groups where members can come together and interact online.
- Other social media platforms. Encourage your social media followers to engage on platforms, like Instagram or Twitter. Post a compelling post to spark the comment section and inspire your members.
- Zoom party. For more face-to-face interaction, host a Zoom party or meeting with your nonprofit members.
Engagement opportunities like these provide a dedicated space for your members to come together and interact.
4. Offer Virtual Experiences
One of your top member engagement opportunities were likely in-person events and meetings. This was a great way for members to see the impact of your organization and also interact with each other face-to-face. However, with COVID-19 encouraging us all to stay apart, you’ve probably had to cancel these events for the foreseeable future.
This doesn’t mean you should stop trying to deliver the benefit of these experiences. With technological advances and the right tools, your nonprofit can pivot its efforts to a more digital space with virtual events.
If virtual events are an entirely new concept to you, don’t worry. Many of the concepts associated with regular event planning can still be applied to virtual events. Conversely, a lot of virtual event best practices can also help optimize how you plan live events in the future.
When equipped with the right software and tools, you can plan a virtual event seamlessly and still encourage your members to attend. Make sure your event management tool can:
- Facilitate online registration through a branded, customized form. It’s crucial that you offer online registration for your virtual event. Ensure this process is seamless and secure, while still branded to your nonprofit’s mission.
- Process online payments securely. No one is going to want to input their financial information into an untrustworthy form. Learn more about nonprofit payment processing best practices in this iATS Payments article.
- Communicate the right information to guests. Your members are likely just starting to experience more virtual events. Ensure that you provide all the necessary information and instructions to prevent any confusion down the road.
If you’ve had to cancel a live event and want to pivot to a virtual one, you need to ensure that the original tickets get refunded or converted to the digital event. Maybe you hired speakers to come to your event and have to implement a livestream or host a webinar instead. For more ways to make the transition to virtual events, check out this article.
Member engagement is always important, but it’s especially crucial right now. Don’t let your engagement efforts falter and keep up those important relationships with your nonprofit. Good luck!
Jake Fabbri is the VP of marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation and events.