Using a member appreciation month to spark community engagement [case study]
Do you work for a membership-based organization? Are you challenged with keeping your community of members engaged and connected with your nonprofit – and with each other? The Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) shows gratitude for their members and sparks engagement by holding a Member Appreciation Month each November.
Timed to coincide with their fall membership renewal, NTEN uses their Member Appreciation Month to express gratitude for their community of small, mid-size, and large nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, foundations and individual consultants or other professionals working in the nonprofit sector. NTEN Members work in a variety of roles from IT to fundraising/development staff, with marketing/communications and IT being their two largest audience segments.
“Our community contributes so much, from experts providing webinars, to members participating in online discussion forums and attending events. We use Member Appreciation Month to recognize that members are our driving force; to connect with them and help them connect with each other,” explains Megan Keane, Membership Director, Nonprofit Technology Network.
“As a membership-based organization, member acquisition and retention is always a goal. Most importantly though, we always strive to increase the number of members actively involved in the community, and Membership Appreciation Month is another opportunity to help us address this challenge.”
NTEN’s 2013 Member Appreciation Month elements
During Member Appreciation Month 2013, NTEN offered a mix of members-only free programming, special content, and prizes and giveaways.
Each year, NTEN uses the “#ntenthanks” hashtag on social media to share their thanks and encourages community members to share their thanks by tagging their posts, pictures, and other media with “#ntenthanks”.
NTEN reached out to sponsors for prizes or special offers and sponsors were recognized at events and in communications. The prizes were awarded at random to members along with several engagement awards for members who were particularly involved with the community during the month. A renewal grand prize was offered as an incentive for members who renewed before a specified date.
Blog and newsletter content
The focus of NTEN’s blog and newsletter content for the month was also on member appreciation. Nonprofit Technology Conference speakers were invited to submit a guest blog post to the NTEN blog as a way to drive excitement around their upcoming session.
Free webinars were scheduled throughout the month, with a goal of having each week focus on specific job types or areas of interest. For example, fundraising/development staff would be the focus for content and programs for a week. Themes were kept as loose focuses for content and program planning.
NTEN’s 501 Tech Clubs, are free local gatherings of folks interested in nonprofit technology. The clubs are community-driven, but NTEN provides a monthly stipend to help offset costs of food, drink and other event expenses. During Member Appreciation Month, NTEN encouraged tech club leaders to host appreciation events and offered a higher stipend for the month to help with making it special. If requested by clubs, NTEN sent the leaders special prize packages to give away to event attendees. Tech club events are free to the public, not just NTEN members, so these events helped people to learn about NTEN and the organization’s work.
NTEN modeled their community emphasis by involving staff – not just marketing and membership staff – in Membership Awareness Month and engaging with the community. This included having staff-authored blog posts, different staff running webinar events, and all NTEN staff interacting with the community or on other social media channels.
“We set specific metrics to track and target numbers for each activity and goal, including renewals, number of event participants, number of tweets using the #ntenthanks hashtag, etc.,” said Keane. NTEN gathered their stats and reported back an event recap to their community:
- 4 dedicated emails that went to 3,000+ members
- 10 webinars, with an average of 53 participants per webinar (529 total)
- 33 sponsored prizes given away, along with special community engagement awards
- 10+ NTEN blog entries
- 16+ local, in-person tech club events
- 328 #ntenthanks tweets (goal=300)
They also put together a few of their favorite tweets, pics, and #ntenthanks.
— Norman Reiss (@nonprofitbridge) November 1, 2013
— David Krumlauf (@dkrumlauf) November 4, 2009
— Lindsay Bealko (@LindsayBealko) November 3, 2011
Lessons learned for next year
Keane has identified a number of lessons learned this year that will be applied to future Member Appreciation Months:
Planning: According to Keane, NTEN’s biggest change for next year will be to start planning sooner. “Member Appreciation Month came at a very busy time of year for us, as it coincided with the opening of early-bird registration for our annual conference and plans for our annual fundraising campaign. As a result, we didn’t get as much staff participation as we’d hoped.”
Streamlining communications: “We also had a lot of other email messaging going out so we had to do a lot of careful planning and even still, it was a challenge not to overload our audience with too many emails.” Also, though video content was planned, with limited staff time the organizers decided against having videos as a major focus during the month.
Aligning content: “With more planning time next year, we’d like to align our webinars, staff contributors, and weekly themes for MAM more strategically – or perhaps even nix the weekly themes entirely. Primarily, we’d like to see more of the free content and topics we offer be community-driven and interactive.”
More local events: Building on the success of local gatherings in 2013, the organization would like to have even more locations participate in 2014.
Documentation: “The project plans we had from previous years proved invaluable in planning for this year. This year, we documented every step of the process, including templates and our ‘what we should do better next year’ to simplify and improve the planning process for next year.”
A working model that will be implemented again
Overall, Member Appreciation Month was a success for NTEN in 2013, achieving the primary goals of demonstrating gratitude and encouraging interaction and engagement among members.
“Member Appreciation Month requires lots of planning and logistics, but never fails to leave us feeling our own sense of #ntenthanks for the member community we get to work with. We want to continue to make this an event to honor our members that truly make our organization the tight-knit network it is,” reflected Keane. With the lessons we learned this year and future ideas we brainstormed, our plan is to make this an evolving, community-driven and community-rewarding month of content, events, and connections that provide value for our members.”
Connect with the Nonprofit Technology Network on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ – and don’t miss their signature event, the Nonprofit Technology Conference taking place March 13-15, 2014 in Washington, D.C.