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Using Digital To Connect With Your Members

Using Digital To Connect With Your Members

Savvy association executives know that technology is a key driver in serving membership—from user-friendly websites to apps that help keep members connected and engaged. What may be a surprise, however, is how pivotal technology is at making a member feel like they are part of the community.

A recent study by software provider Community Brands makes strong links between how well associations leverage digital tools to serve members better, and how connected—and satisfied—those members feel.

The study, Examining the Gap Between Member Expectations and Association Technology, surveyed more than 1,000 members of professional associations and 400 staff members in fall 2017. The takeaways show that associations have significant opportunities to drive member loyalty through technology, but many organizations are not taking advantage of them. The ones that are investing in technology to connect members—primarily through personalization of communication and content—are reaping tremendous benefits.

“In our study, we discovered technology and personalization play pivotal roles in driving member loyalty, but there is a growing disconnect between where members believe their organization is delivering the best experiences and what they value,” said Sig VanDamme, membership software evangelist at Community Brands. “The experience gap is especially pronounced with personalization. Members who believe they are receiving personalized content feel significantly more satisfied and connected with their organization.”

The survey shows that most associations—at least 60%–are using four primary digital tools: email marketing, CRM software, events-related tools, and webinar services. Other tools that align with member needs and priorities—such as job boards and learning management systems for training–are less common. Mobile apps are used by only half of the organizations surveyed as well.

A look at the members’ desires shows a disconnect. Among those born from 1965 to 1999—think Generation Xers and Millennials—at least 65% say technology plays a “big role” in their lives. More than 80% use a mobile device every day, and the same number pay for at least one digital subscription, such as Netflix.

Data Mobile Devices

It’s no surprise, then, that among the different ways that members can connect with their associations, the mobile option is the only one where more respondents said they wanted to engage than were actually engaging. This shows a gap between what associations are offering, and what members want.

“Organizations need to take these technology experience gaps seriously and progress to more seamless experiences that align with evolving digital behavior, and meet increasing member expectations for flexibility and personalization in everything they do,” VanDamme said.

What’s the easiest way to begin closing these gaps? Start with personalization. More than 70% of respondents said that personalized content appeals to them and makes them feel more connected with their organization. The type of content can vary—from discounted offers to conferences based on a member’s history or skill set, or specific articles on topics of interest based on a member’s profile.

“A majority of members (69 percent) feel more engaged with an organization after receiving personalized content, based on their past activity, because it shows the organization is interested in meeting their needs,” the study said.

Start small: birthday wishes, congratulatory notes when certain certifications are reached, or even products and services that align with the member’s profile. The key is to ensure the data you have is up to the task.

Grassroot Communications specializes in data analytics—and our team would be happy to help you! And if you’re wondering how to jump-start building a valuable database that stretches beyond your membership, contact us.

Community Brands Study

7 Reasons for Repurposing Your Organization’s Content

As we discuss content planning and continue the conversation about creating content that will allow your association to engage its target audience, it’s important to emphasize the idea of repurposing.
In an age when data, information, and records are amended and updated regularly, content creators are left with a dilemma – due to no fault of their own. Like anything else, content ages. It grows old, and this can be reflected in a few different ways:

• Your content likely has a timestamp.
• Your content might discuss “current” events that are no longer current.
• Your content’s legitimacy might be affected by a recent study or new discovery.

And these are all reasons why you should make time to replenish and improve your archive of aging content. But repurposing – the idea of recycling old content and marketing it as new content – is something entirely different. It doesn’t just
“save” your content from growing old. Instead, repurposing gives you a plethora of marketing advantages.

 

Grassroot Communication | Repurpose Conetent

Let’s take a brief look at several of these benefits.

1. Cover topics more comprehensively over time When you revisit something – whether it’s an article, an ad, or a graphic – you can almost always find ways to improve on it. The same goes for your content. So, next time you rewrite an old article with the intention of publishing it as brand new content, see whether you can dive a little deeper. Elaborate further on a particular point or add a couple of new facts.

2. Improve your SEO ranking by reinforcing keywords and using backlinks In terms of marketing, many would argue that search engine optimization is where repurposing presents its greatest advantage. By covering one topic repeatedly, you’re able to use the same keywords and include backlinks to your original content. This strategy will help you increase your SEO ranking over time.

3. Gain greater credibility on a subject The more you cover a topic, the more authority you’re going to gain on that subject. This becomes especially helpful when a reader is interested in a topic and chooses to reference your content as a constant source. With enough time, you build a specific audience for a niche that you know inside out.

4. Remain current on a subject And you can’t build credibility without being accurate, right? When you revisit a subject repeatedly, you’ll be able to improve your knowledge on that topic but picking up new facts and ideas along the way.

5. Save time spent researching and writing Of all repurposing’s benefits, the time you save might provide the biggest payoff. If the content is yours, why not simply rewrite it? Why not make minor tweaks here and there? You have the ability to use your content over and over again – in ways that allow you to bypass a few steps in the content creation process. Cut down on research. Cut down on writing. Focus on marketing.

6. Increase your creative palette by utilizing different content forms There are so many ways to tell a story. Perhaps you wrote an article, but you know that the same information might be just as effective when presented as a short video. Maybe the information in your short video can also be presented as an infographic. Don’t settle for one creative form when you have a variety of methods at your disposal. Use repurposing to experiment with these different forms.

7. Tailor the same content to different audiences Once you’re knowledgeable about a topic, you have the ability to narrow or broaden your target audience. A short blog post directed to a handful of your association’s members might also be repurposed as a white paper made that you make publicly available in the future.

Are you using the power of repurposing to reap the 7 benefits we mentioned above? If not, why not start today? Dig up one of your old articles or videos and see how you can reuse that information to publish something fresh and exciting!

(The Right) Content Is Still King

Have you ever come across appealing content only to find that you can’t actually access it?
When this happens, you probably spend the next minute or two troubleshooting potential ways to bypass the block, only to confirm that this content is indeed “member-only”.

To the outsider, this can be extremely frustrating; but to the insider, member-only content is an exclusive benefit. As an executive, leader, or marketer within your association, you may have trialed member-only content in the past, and those results may have landed anywhere on the spectrum spanning from “enormous success” to “utter failure”.

But if you’re new to the idea of member-only content, it presents a decision that you and your team will likely need to make at some point. Member-only content or public content? It’s a seemingly binary decision, but there are greater implications that come with the choice you make. So, let’s weigh the pros and cons of member-only and public content so that you can make the right decision for your organization’s content moving forward.

Let’s start with member-only content. If you’re on the fence about producing content that only members are able to access, you should ask a few questions. The very first of these questions is: what is the purpose of my content? Are you looking to inform your readers of a particular issue? Are you trying to drive more traffic to your site? Are you simply issuing content as an incentive for membership? Are you trying to monetize your content by teaming up with other influencers, sponsors, or brands?

Depending on how you use your content, you can start to determine whether your content should be made available to the masses, or to a handful of devoted members. If you’re using content to drive traffic, it would make sense for your content to be published publically; but if your content is a membership benefit, however, then perhaps your association should place restrictions that hide your content from non-members.

But that leads us to a second question: How effective is my member-only content? As a leader of an organization, you know that people give, donate, or sign up for membership for a number of different reasons. Some are actually incentivized by your membership benefits. Others care primarily about your organization’s cause and aren’t as interested in your membership benefits. As you’d imagine, this plays a huge role in whether or not your content should be exclusive. Are you staying current on your content’s data? Most website hosts can provide you with real-time analysis of your content. How many of your members read your emails and announcements? How many click through to your content? Think about it – if your members aren’t paying much attention to your content, is it really a valuable benefit? So, if you’re not finding success with your members, it may be time to open your content up to the public – or better yet, improve your content.

A third basic question to ask is: how relevant is my content? And this is when you have to take a good look in the mirror. If not even your members are clicking through to read what you have to say, you might have to consider whether there’s a greater issue with the content itself . . .

Are you covering subjects that are helpful to people, or are you producing content for the sake of producing content? Does it feel stale? Bland? Uninspired? Gather some feedback by doing any of the following:

• Ask your members what topics they would like to see covered.
• Poll your members on which content type they prefer to consume (i.e. video, graphics, blog posts, etc).
• Issue a survey with a list of potential topics and use that information to plan out future content.

With a little homework, planning, and communication between your organizations and its members, you can prime your content weeks – perhaps even months – in advance. And the best part? You’ll have valuable, relevant content that you can use however you wish. There’s still a market for member-only content, and of course, there will always be room for content that is made public as well. But when you identify your content’s purpose, its effectiveness, and its relevancy, you’ll be able to make adjustments that will improve its influence.

Marketing Flashback: McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog

Jack Keil, the advertising executive who created and gave voice to McGruff, the cartoon hound who exhorts Americans to “take a bite out of crime,” died on August 25th at his home in Westminister West, Vermont. He was 94 years old. (The New York Times Obituaries Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Public service announcements are, by their nature, boring. Being told to be careful around strangers, or not to feed the bears in the woods, or to take care not to start a forest fire, is all perfectly sound advice. But it’s not a way to keep top of mind. Moreover, most people don’t like being told what to do; it comes across more like nagging than providing a friendly reminder.

Clever marketers, guys like Mr. Keil, understood this problem and devised a clever way around it. Mr. Keil’s basic insight was recognizing that the most memorable way to present information – any information – is through a story. Taking this idea one step further, Mr. Keil realized that creating an unforgettable character who would act as the spokesman for the cause – in this case, relaying tips and advise on how to reduce neighborhood crime – would give the message the needed “sticky-ness.” And, thus, McGruff, a tall, tough, trench coat wearing dog detective was born. “He wasn’t vicious, not tremendously smart, maybe, but he was no wimp either, “said Mr.Keil about his canine character. “He was a father figure, or possibly an uncle figure.”

Giving the message a mascot and a catchphrase was a stroke of marketing genius. Instead of brushing off warnings to lock your doors and advice to start a neighborhood watch, people would see McGruff the crime-fighting dog, and they would immediately remember it was incumbent upon them to “take a bite out of crime.” In fact, McGruff is so iconic that most people forget (or simply don’t know) that there is an actual nonprofit organization he represents called the National Crime Prevention Council. According to three studies conducted by market research firms on behalf of the NCPC, 8 out of 10 children recognize the crime-fighting dog as do 9 out of 10 adults. And remember, the mascot was created almost 30 years ago. That’s stickiness!!

The point is that associating a cause or message with a loveable mascot endows that cause or message with a provocative narrative element that’s impossible to ignore. As a result, the exhortations to pay attention to something or take action for someone are softened in just the right way for an org’s target audience to process, absorb, and respond to.

Jack Keil understood better than most that the better a story-like element can be woven into an organization’s pitch, the more powerful it’s “ask” would be. He was truly a pioneer or message marketing, and he will no doubt continue to live on through his most beloved creation: McGruff the Crime-Fighting Dog.

See article: ‘Jack Keil, 94, Who Created McGruff, Crime-Fighting Dog’ by Daniel E. Slotnik; The New York Times 9/10/17

Exciting News!! We’re Moving!

GRC will be down on Wednesday February 21st as we will be moving to our new location! We will be back up and answering emails and phones on Thursday February 22nd. In the mean time, please feel free to email us and we will get back to you as soon as possible! – GRC Team

 

We’re reaching out to you with some very exciting news: we’re growing!
After nearly 18 years at our current location, we’re moving to a new, expanded location.
Our new address is:
9203 Mike Garcia Drive, Manassas VA 20109

We will have lots of news in the upcoming months on how the move will help us serve you better. For now, however, the most important information we want to convey is how the move will affect you.

Our final day of production in the current location is Wednesday, Feb. 21.
We then move our entire operation to our new facility. We expect to be up and running 100% by March 1 at the latest. Our goal is to minimize the production downtime, but for your planning purposes, please assume that no jobs will be delivered from Feb. 21 – Feb. 28.

If you’re working on projects with us that you need before March 1, we encourage you to reach out to us asap to ensure we can meet your timeline. Simply put, the sooner you get current projects in to us, the better!

Please reach out to us with any questions. We appreciate your patience during this process and are looking forward to serving you from our new location!

Sherene Rapoport
VP of Sales and Marketing
Grassroot Communication

Ph: 540.428.7000 x3032
Fax: 540.428.2000
E: sherene@grassrootcommunication.com

We’re now Grass Root Communication.

Ever since our company was founded in 1986, we’ve been helping organizations grow by creating compelling, results-oriented outreach campaigns. We’ve continued to evolve, and—responding to our clients’ needs—take on larger roles in helping them with their outreach strategies.

As part of this evolution, we’ve rebranded our company to better reflect the role we play in supporting you.
We’re now Grass Root Communication.

While our name has changed, our goal remains the same: we’re completely focused on helping organizations of all types share their core message with their supporters.

One thing that our 31 years in business has taught us is that grass-roots strategies play integral roles in almost all outreach efforts—from initial pushes to campaigns created for large organizations that have been in business for years.

Equipped with that knowledge, we’ve shifted our focus to ensure that every campaign we touch benefits from both our production skills and our strategic insight. Our new name reflects this change.

Effective grass roots outreach involves a large degree of personalization backed by data gleaned from impeccable sources and accurate lists. Finding that data to empower personalized communication has long been a hallmark of our approach.

For instance, our targeted direct-mail campaigns take advantage of persuasive appeal letters designed to inspire our org’s constituents to take bold action-adopting the organization’s goals as their own. Thus, just as grass roots movements aim to mobilize citizens from the ground up, our personalized direct mail campaigns target those very same people on the ground in their homes by engaging them in an honest conversation.

As we continue to sharpen our focus on creating and managing complete campaigns, you’ll be getting the same high-quality offerings you’ve come to expect from GRC, just more of it. More data, more personalization, and more original content creation.

In the future, we will continue developing our social media and email marketing services to synergize with our micro-targeted direct mail strategies. We will find new ways to combine data science with content marketing so that we can deliver a highly effective omnichannel engagement experience for your org’s donors and members.

So from all of us, we officially welcome you to the new GRC.
We look forward to playing a role in your continued success.

GRASS ROOT COMMUNICATION

DESIGN. EXECUTE. ENGAGE.

Sherene Rapoport
VP Sales and Marketing

sherene@grassrootcommunication.com

How They Might Keep DACA from Dying

Much has been said about President Trump’s decision to end the ‘Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’, program. The program was put into place by the Obama administration and its purpose was to shield the children of undocumented immigrants who were very young when they were brought to the country illegally. But even though this protection only applies to a narrow group of individuals who were technically illegal residents, many have perceived the program as not just immigration reform, but full on amnesty.

In any case, if Congress does not pass its own version of DACA within the next six months, all beneficiaries of the program- about 800,000 “Dreamers” will be forced to leave the country, despite having been socially and culturally naturalized over the past few decades.

This dire situation illustrates the need for orgs advocating on behalf of minority groups, (like Dreamers) to have an engagement strategy ready to go in order to mobilize support. In fact, Trump’s decision didn’t really come as a shock; he made it one of his campaign promises to gut the program. Progressive orgs fighting for amnesty should have built a series of campaigns that could be deployed quickly in response to President Trump’s decision.

Now, more than ever, orgs like the National Immigration Law Center, Educators for Fair Consideration, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference need to leverage the techniques of fundraising and peer to peer organization in order to put pressure on lawmakers. Converting those who already empathize with Dreamers isn’t really the issue, the challenge is getting ordinary Americans voters to jump on board for the cause. For this task, the tools of personalized communications and targeted appeals are indispensable. The orgs advocating for action need to illustrate how the mass deportation of young, productive, and well-adjusted immigrants would adversely affect the lives of ordinary people. Narrative- based campaigns must tell the Dreamers’ story in a way that speaks to the innate American values of freedom, opportunity, and meritocracy that most citizens of this nation possess.

nterestingly, data analytics can be brought to bear on the monumental task of converting voters on the fence with regard to the issue of amnesty. By obtaining some simple background information on the people who have been targeted by the org to receive campaign materials, the message in the appeal sent to them can be tailored to best connect with each audience segment. Most likely, those advocacy groups running the influence campaign pre-selected their target audience based on factors such as their political leaning, their interests, and even the causes they donated to in the past. The same sort of psychographic dimensions can suggest which specific argument should be made to each type of audience member.

For example, if we know that the target prospect is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the appeal sent to him should emphasize DACA beneficiaries are vital to American businesses, both small and large. Letting this prospective supporter know that almost 75% of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ Dreamers, according to the Center for American Progress might depend on the reader’s political affiliation, given that it is left-leaning think tank!

The point is that the appeal letters’ language, substance, and style must be tweaked depending on who the letter is being sent to. For Advocacy orgs, especially, the arguments they present- whether they appeal to reason or passion- must be crafted to resonate with the target audiences personal beliefs, biases, and concerns.

This is the next generation of advocacy campaigning, and only time will tell if the orgs fighting to save DACA have what it takes to save the Dreamers.
Need help with your org’s fundraising and acquisitions? Call us.

What’s Your Organization’s Corporate Giving Strategy?

“In this maelstrom, the most clarifying voice has been the voice of business. These CEOs have taken the risk to speak truth to power.” 
– Darren Walker, the President of the Ford Foundation and a Board Member at Pepsi Co.

After the firestorm kicked off by President Trump’s dithering about condemning white supremacists and New- Nazis, it seems that business leaders have stepped in to fill the political vacuum by explicitly promoting racial justice and other progressive values. CEOs always take a risk when they become involved in fraught social debates; that they have chosen to do so illustrates the pressure being placed on them by their customers.

This corporate activism is a natural consequence of the increasing politicization of American life. Consumers don’t just want to consume; they want to advocate, and they want their brands to advocate with them. All these underscores the growing popularity and influence of grassroots organizations. As the President’s actions make clear, the traditional party structure that has driven generations of voters to voice their beliefs can no longer be counted on to speak up on behalf o minorities or marginalized groups. Those who push for racial equality, human rights, and other critical causes must unite on their own outside of the two-party apparatus.

And now, large corporations have indicated that they too wish to join the movement. For Advocacy orgs, this means their engagement strategy must include a corporate-giving component if CEOs and board members are eager to get inspired to support orgs like yours. It doesn’t need to be a Fortune 500 company, consider local small businesses and their customers as part of your target audience. And like the rest of your donors, you should send personalized communications to pique their interest as well as appeal to issues they hold dear. As Howard Shults, the Chairman of Starbucks notes, “ The reason people are speaking up is that we are fighting for what we love and believe in, and that is the idealism and the aspiration of America, the promise of America, the America that we all know and hold so true.”

Prominent business leaders in our community are primed and ready to hear from your org. And lucky for them, social and political advocacy happens to be your business.

And helping orgs like yours is our business.
Let us help you expand your target audience and base of support.

Pushing Through Fake News

Are we entering the Fake News Era? Judging by headlines generated from across the U.S. political spectrum, it would be easy to conclude so.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that about half of the respondents—”technologists, scholars, practitioners, strategic thinkers and others” selected unscientifically by Pew—believe that the problem is here to stay. [http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/10/19/the-future-of-truth-and-misinformation-online/]

While that may sound depressing from a big-picture standpoint, it’s also an opportunity for content producers. And if you’re in the business of generating donor-driven revenue or adding members, you should be in this category.

Fake News

Simply put, your audience looks to you for guidance on the issues that are important to you. Sharing relevant facts—from simple statistics to detailed pieces of research—is one way you can help engage your members, donors, or target audience. More importantly, you can be a trusted source that helps shield them from the “fake news” syndrome.

How does this work in practice? Say you’re a charity that supports providing subsidized pet spaying and neutering. You can blog about how many homeless pets are handled by your community’s shelters, and how not all of them end up in new homes. Instead of simply relying on basic statements—”spaying your pet is good for everyone,” or worse, having false statements (“fake news”) shape the narrative, point out the ramifications of not supporting your position: some unwanted pets do not find homes, and are euthanized as a result.

Sharing real-world stories and verifiable data that underscore your position is an ideal way to gain trust. Gaining trust is a key step in ensuring that prospects become donors and/or members—and keeping them in the fold.

Fundraising: The Year-end Push

The last few months of the year are filled with much joy and reflection—from warm gatherings to celebrate holidays to looking back over the last 12 or so months to see what’s been accomplished.

For fundraisers, the time is often hectic, however, as year-end donor pushes are often what make or break a year.

If you are planning a donor push as 2017 comes to an end (or 2018 kicks off)—don’t panic. Even if you’re in the midst of developing your toolbox (how’s that analysis of your data coming along?, you can still put together a solid campaign that delivers results.

The key: have a plan, and execute it.

The incredibly useful Supporting Fundraising blog has the perfect post  to help you sort out the basics for a well-constructed fundraising plan. It breaks the process down into four steps, which we’ve outlined below, adding some of our own insight.

1) Know your donors and your prospects

Understanding who will give and who may give is the foundation of any fundraising campaign. This starts with identifying who has given, and who has expressed interest in giving. Knowing this ensures you are sending the appropriate message to each segment, and will improve your conversion rates.

2) Use multiple channels

This is a message we communicate often, but it can’t be said enough: if you rely on just one type of outreach, such as an appeal letter, phone calls, or online donations, you are not maximizing your potential returns. Simply put, people respond better when exposed multiple times to the same (or very similar) messages. Plan a letter and back it with social media or an ad. Include mentions of your campaign in routine communications, such as renewal notices for members or subscribers. Whatever the tactics you chose, choose more than one.

3) Leverage matching-gift opportunities

This can be an easy but effective way to boost donations. As Supporting Fundraising notes, you won’t know which of your donors are affiliated with organizations that match, so make sure you communicate the matching-gift opportunity in all of your outreach. This can be especially effective for new donors, who like to make as big an impact as possible right out of the gate.

4) Tap peer-to-peer power

In the fundraising world, few tactics are as effective as direct outreach to people in your circle. Start with the people you know, and ask them to extend the courtesy. While such outreach may not cover the same number of prospects as a direct-mail piece or an ad, the impact of tapping people you know directly can greatly boost the likelihood of a conversion.

As you approach your next campaign, remember to take a step back and come up with a simple yet well-thought-out plan that covers the basics: knowing your audience, connecting with them, boosting donation opportunities, and reaching out to those you can influence most.

Looking for help with a campaign or specific elements? We would love to hear from you! Contact us today for a short consultation.