5 Ways to Listen to Your Members

Your members are the lifeblood of the organization. If they’re not happy, then they’re not going to come back. This often forces membership coordinators to guess what their donors want in an effort to retain them and acquire more. Instead of guessing, they should know exactly what their members want and how they feel about the organization.

Listening to your members is a lot easier in the digital media age, where nonprofits can instantly contact thousands of donors and fans with a few mouse clicks. There’s no one-size-fits all solution, but here are five ways for nonprofits to listen to their members in a way that produces actionable results.

Pull Guests Aside During Events

Most nonprofits host fundraisers, celebrations, and galas throughout the year to raise awareness and money for the cause. Smart marketing departments use this as an opportunity to collect information on potential members and build their email lists when they buy tickets online. But what about attendees who pay in cash? What about guests of attendees?

Set up a table at your fundraising event to gather feedback from attendees. You can either structure the survey based on that specific event or expand your reach to seek feedback on the organization as a whole. It doesn’t take much to solicit feedback: almost anyone will fill out a survey form for a chance to spin a wheel and win free sunglasses or keychains.

Ask Follow-up Questions When they Renew

The renewal process and ecommerce experience should be fast and painless, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask survey questions to learn more about the name behind the donation. Take a page from your credit card company or cable provider and ask customers if they would be interested in taking a survey after the process is complete. Include questions about why they decided to renew their membership and what their thoughts are on the organization.

It’s just as important to poll customers who aren’t renewing their membership as those who are. In this case, you should send follow-up emails or ask your customer service team to call members who have declined to continue their donations. These donors can provide valuable insight into problems with your
program if you notice a consistent trend.

Place Polls and Pop-Up Surveys in the Member Interface

You don’t have to create intricate surveys with pages of results to gain insight into your members’ thought process. Many blogs and website add surveys to the bottom of their pages that ask simple yes-or-no- questions. If the site user engages with the survey, they receive another question or are asked to share their thoughts.

For example, start with a simple question: did you attend [X Event] last month?

If the answer is yes: on a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your experience?

If they respond, ask them to share their thoughts in open-endedly and then finish the survey. The whole process should take no more than 30 seconds and you should be able to collect results over a few weeks until you have the feedback you want.

Invite Active Members for a Focus Group

With so many ways to digitally communicate with members, the lowly focus group might seem like an outdated method of communication. For larger nonprofits with thousands of members, they might not be a good fit; however, they’re a fantastic way for local nonprofits to learn from their members and show that they’re listening.

Many nonprofits have a handful of outspoken members who try to offer their advice to anyone who will listen, so why not give them a platform? Send out invitations through your newsletter or social profiles and let them know that sign-up is limited. You might want to host three or four focus groups so you know the feelings of one group don’t skew the entire process.

Use this meeting to pitch different ideas for events or branding, discuss where the nonprofit is headed in the coming year, and seek their opinions on how the nonprofit is perceived in the community. You may end up with new ideas and you will definitely receive feedback on your current strategy.

Turn Your Membership Survey into an Annual Event

While your members might ignore an email invite to complete a post event survey, they’ll be hard pressed to ignore several emails, posts on social media, and notifications on the interface. Consider pulling a census of many (if not most) of your members and compiling it into a report. Once you have it, you could launch “The State of [Nonprofit Name] Membership 2016.”

Because this is a major event, your survey can be longer than it normally ease. Break it down into sections like the organization’s vision, events, stewardship, and involvement. By making it an annual event, you can benchmark your progress and track improvements year over year. This will help you set internal goals and proves that you take your member feedback to heart.

Listening to your members is only valuable if you take actionable steps from the information you learn. If you collect survey data and then ignore it, you might as well save yourself the time and not collect it at all.

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