Author: Rob Barr is Divisional Director for Access’ Not-For-Profit (NFP) division, with responsibility for 1,000 customers and the NFP product roadmap. Rob has many years’ experience in the NFP sector and is passionate about ensuring that Access software remains relevant and adds value to the organisations it serves.


3 key elements of a successful digital transformation

Screenshot of Access thankQ system.

When you’re busy dealing with the day-to-day it can be easy to get stuck in the status quo. Sometimes it’s tempting to leave things as they are rather than face issues. Maybe you have an old membership system that just about manages a renewals run and a basic members login area on your website. You know they’re not great, but people seem to accept them for what they are, and time and budget issues always get in the way to consider a change. This is, however, a risky approach given that the world around us is in a constant state of flux, something which is no different for membership bodies as their audience grows and evolves.

With the rise of the tech savvy millennials there’s a good deal of talk about how they expect a far greater digital experience both in the way they interact with the membership organisation and with other members. I do question this to some extent because it assumes that if you’re not a millennial that you’re not interested in technology. That’s simply not true. With the benefits of technology, that is, where it’s adding value such as enabling better communication and collaboration – then we’re more likely to embrace it because it makes our lives easier.

Digitisation at the heart

It is for this reason that membership bodies need to put digital at the heart of their organisation and face the challenges head on. And this means getting to really understand members and what they require from your organisation both now and in the future – and then look at how technology can help to underpin that. It’s not enough to have a Twitter or Facebook page. There has to be a strategy behind it.

Of course, every membership organisation may be different depending on the make-up of their audience, how the environment within which they operate is changing and how quickly. How far you should digitise will very much depend on the changing behaviours of current and new members, the marketplace and trends.

However, in my view if membership bodies don’t embrace technology, then they face the real possibility of extinction, or at the very least losing relevance amongst their own members. Even long-standing organisations will not be saved from this fate as membership numbers wane or members look elsewhere for relevant content. Mobile has already taken centre stage – Google now state that mobile devices have overtaken PC as the entry point to their services in 10 major global territories. The way we access information has changed forever and those not remaining ahead of the curve could see a rapid demise if they fail to act – and act soon. After all, if an organisation doesn’t live up to our expectations then it will lead us to look elsewhere for professional support and information. But for those that respond to change and innovate, there is a great deal of opportunity to become the bedrock of the sector they’re there to serve.

Engaging audiences

Central to any success is engagement and engagement relies on really understanding your audience and then shaping both your offering and the delivery of that offering to members. This could be incorporating gamification or badgification that creates ‘identities’ for different types of member. This could be based on their professional level within an organisation or it could be on a specific behavioural type or interest group. It’s about building a community and collaboration; this is one way to create more value for members, by providing the mechanisms by which they can network and interact.

Do your research

But before deciding which route to go down it is essential that research is carried out to get a clearer understanding of who your members are – not who you think they are. Is your attrition rate going up? If so why? Are people moving to other roles and industries (this in itself can be a warning sign)? Do they feel they’re not getting full benefit from membership – why is this the case? What exactly would be helpful to them? You could find that you have a goldmine of information on which to base your analysis. It’s important to not get caught up in stereotypes around age or gender for instance. Even if membership of your organisation is compulsory for professionals practising in your sector you could still find you lose engagement as providers of other digital portals or resources provide more relevant content.

This research stage is the most important because done right it will highlight things you weren’t expecting. And that’s good. What you’re doing is building a foundation for digitisation based on data and evidence rather than opinion. Once you understand the real requirements of the people you’re serving, you can decide on the technology vehicles that are best going to meet that need. With some careful analysis of data, particularly over time, you should be able to get a better idea of future change and growth areas. This will also help you to plan software and technology changes taking a more incremental approach. Yes, we all know that plans can be out of date as soon as you’ve created them but at least with a plan you have a greater chance of making better decisions. In fact, it allows for greater flexibility because there’s something concrete to base those decisions on.

Contact for Rob: [email protected]

Access is an established software solutions provider to the not-for-profit sector. We help organisations improve performance, increase cost efficiency, and make the most of their funds by delivering integrated organisation-wide solutions spanning finance, HR and payroll, fundraising CRM and membership, including grant-giving and document management. Customers rely on Access to unlock the potential of their people as well as their charity through better organisation insight. You can meet representatives of Access NFP Division at exhibition stand 10 at the upcoming MemberWise conference Harnessing the Web 2015 on 4th November in London.

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