By Matthew Bugnacki, Membership Management Specialist
Recently my family and I were invited to a friend's house for breakfast. One of them asked if I would be writing another blog post for WebLink. I mentioned I would be writing one on dashboarding…silence…blank stares...I decided more information was needed. As I paused and searched for the best way to explain what I was writing about I asked myself whether or not this even applied to him; he’s a professional photographer. It did. In fact dashboards and the use of them apply to all of us. I explained that dashboards exist in almost every device we use.
The easiest dashboard to identify is the one in your car. You look at it every day when you drive to work, drop the kids off at school, etc. It tells you, in a snapshot, the health of your car and key things to pay attention to so that your car can remain healthy. Dashboards are a quick, easy, brief overview of data, not a complex report that you have to read every time you get into the car.
Approximately a year ago I was at the New England Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives fall conference. Cathi Hight was one of the highlighted guest speakers. I had heard great things about Cathi as she has helped many organizations through her creative approach to membership retention and Kaizan discipline. She teaches organizations to create “good change” and positive experiences for all. That day she spoke specifically about dashboards. I remember sitting in the room feeling a small epiphany coming on. Many people write about how membership isn’t what it used to be, we need to adapt and change to understand or membership, or something similar. I even wrote about it a couple of weeks ago in my blog post, Is Your Association Adapting to Your Members? But many identify the problem without finding a way to create a solution. Cathi identified the solution that day to answer the ever rapidly changing environment of membership. The answer lies in the ability to understand what is happening with your membership - what is working and what isn’t. Imagine the ability to create a set of reports that help you determine what your retention rate is, your percent of participation at events, or your own set of reports that gauge the fiscal health and overall performance of your association. By utilizing the ability to create real time reporting that can be accessed from your association management software, specifically tailored to your specific needs, you will always have your finger on the pulse of your association's health.
Just like anything in life, the information you use is only as good as the information you have. To properly use dashboards you have to have all of your data accessible and in one place. If your data is trapped in different software programs it can be tricky to make sure the data talks to each other and ensure you have an accurate snapshot of your organizations health. So it is essential to utilize an association management software that is comprehensive enough to not only capture the information you need - events info, payment history, engagement, etc. - but also one that has the reporting and the tools you need to build additional dashboards as needed. Because your membership data is centrally located in one place, it can help you to dig deeper than the standard report. Instead of a basic report of how many members were added and dropped this month you can now look at a retention report that shows the overall effect to the bottom line based on those adds and drops. Three dropped members could be a devastating event for your association if they are your top three investors. Without the appropriate tools to accumulate the data and interpret it in a way that is meaningful, you may miss a key opportunity to retain that member or show the value that you delivered and change their mind.
In the end it comes down to functionality and ease of use. Just like my car delivers the information I need with a click of the button, a robust association management software will deliver access to reporting that delivers quality data. If you have decided that you are on the search for a new AMS or assessing your current AMS, it is good practice to ask whether the data your AMS is delivering is quality data that you can work with or just looks good. Is my AMS reporting the information I need (overall financial effect of an add/drop) vs. information that isn’t useful (looks pretty but not functional). Use industry experts like Cathi Hight to build in additional value that will help you be more relevant and successful. If you would like to learn more about dashboarding and how WebLink may be able to help you do more with your membership, email us for a free recording of our demo.