Thank you to Jason Firch of OSIbeyond for sharing this blog post on how cloud solutions drive results for association membership. The article starts with an ode to the typewriter and it put me in mind of the first time I assembled the annual printed directory of 3,000 members — one keystroke at a time. That prompted me to purchase an Amstrad home computer with two floppy drives and no hard drive to build my own database. My first step towards the cloud.
Putting Your Members into the Cloud
50 years ago the typewriter was king. No professional letter left an office without the crisp inked imprint of the type hammer swung down on a piece of paper.
The freshly minted letter was then placed in an envelope, sealed, and sent through the mailing system to arrive at its destination 7–10 days later.
Fast forward to 2015, and this once time-consuming process has been streamlined to a 90-second task. Just as technology has evolved to simplify daily tasks, membership departments must also seek to incorporate new technologies to drive their decisions.
Technology Driving Membership Decisions
Think about your database and how data is being used in membership initiatives. This database may contain tens of thousands of records on membership information, all of which is critical towards furthering your organization's mission.
However, has your organization given thought to the technology driving this important function?
Are you able to answer the following questions?
- Will current systems be able to support membership growth?
- Can data be securely shared with others' within the organization?
- Is data being managed to proactively engage with member needs?
- Is your membership team able to access information anytime, anywhere?
- What would be the impact to members if your AMS/platform went down?
- Oftentimes the department that oversees and supports these mission critical systems is overlooked — until now.
How Cloud Solutions Empower Membership Initiatives
Many nonprofits and associations are required to do more with less, including minimal IT, financial and human resources. Cloud solutions provide an adaptable, flexible and scalable way to meet the organizational needs of today and into the future.
A More Connected Organization
Perhaps your department is working on a whitepaper discussing important industry research and trends for your members. This project can be accomplished by sending files and documentation through email; however, this method is cumbersome, time consuming and poses potential security risks.
Turning to a cloud solution enables organizations to share, collaborate and securely access files in an efficient and effective way. For example, an application like SharePoint streamlines file sharing by providing a convenient way to organize, save and download documents.
This efficient collaboration system enables staff to access files from one central location, thereby improving their communication and productivity. In addition, since data is stored in a cloud environment, staff members are able to collaborate on projects at remote offices, or from the comfort of their home, provided there is Internet access.
Big Data is Easily Managed
Traditional storage methods struggle to provide a simple way to carry out advanced analysis of membership's database. In the case of organizations with an immense database, it may require highly knowledgeable specialists days to process information before membership initiatives can take place.
Instead of waiting days, real-time analytics and reporting tools can be realized through use of cloud technologies.
This real-time data can be used to track and assess behavior, allowing your organization to proactively engage with members though online campaigns. In addition, executive reports using current member data can be created to justify changes to leadership.
A Strategic Advantage
According to the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 74 percent of organizations feel like cloud computing has given them a strategic advantage, citing "capitalizing on opportunities more quickly" as the main reason.
In the nonprofit and association community, cloud is a catalyst enabling changes to the strategy critical to the mission. In the case of membership, it may be proactively adapting to member needs, or implementing growth initiatives to drive increased revenue.
Investing in the Future
Continuous investments into technology is often an afterthought in many organizations. It's this oversight that leads to systems and devices degrading to a point where security vulnerabilities, and loss of information can occur.
Consider how a security breach would affect you, your organization, your bottom line and most importantly your members.
This year alone has seen numerous security breaches in the commercial sector, including Apple's iCloud, Sony and most recently Blue Cross. These breaches have had a significant impact, resulting in a weakened public perception, and a rattled consumer confidence.
According to Jennifer Lonoff Schiff, a technology writer for CIO.com, one of the top security risks faced by many organizations are careless or uninformed employees.
"Employees who are not trained in security best practices and have weak passwords, visit unauthorized websites and/or click on links in suspicious emails pose an enormous security threat to an organizations' systems and data."
For this reason, it's important that membership and IT work together to establish policies, procedures and training programs designed to deter potential attacks. If your organization partners with an IT provider, consider leveraging their services to develop these protocols.
Loss of Information
Would your organization be able to recover from the loss of your membership information? Not only would contact information be lost, but so would the intellectual knowledge of membership behavior.
This impact would extend to online campaigns, hindering your marketing department's ability to create custom tailored messages to your members.
By storing data in a cloud environment, instant disaster recovery and business continuity solutions are provided in the event of a natural or human induced disaster. This ensures data is protected and can easily be recovered, allowing your organization to continue operations as if nothing had happened.
How has your organization leveraged technology to empower membership initiatives? Comment below to share your thoughts with us.
This post by Jason Firch originally appeared on the Exos by OSIbeyond blog. For more articles on cloud solutions for nonprofits and associations, subscribe here.