In 2012, Idealware worked with our friends at MAP for Nonprofits on Unleashing Innovation: Lessons and Stories from a Pilot Program. Since then, the folks at MAP tested an approach to helping nonprofits identify viable opportunities for innovation. You can read all about the pilot program and read a number of case studies in MAP for Nonprofits’ Unleashing Innovation: Lessons and Stories from a Pilot Program; we’re reprinting a few of the case studies here because we think they’re of interest to our audience.

Minnesota State Bar Association (MSBA)

When MSBA entered the pilot program, the organization was in the middle of implementing a new association management software package (AMS), and had already slated several other routine but resource-intensive IT upgrades. Part of their reason for joining the pilot was to stay mindful of the organization’s overall IT needs in the midst of these projects, and begin identifying the next thing on the horizon.

Survey responses showed membership recruitment and retention as a priority. Barriers between the organization and its priority included staff and volunteers who were feeling spread too thin, incomplete/inaccurate member data, and a website perceived to be weak on branding and engagement. Overall, respondents seemed positive about technology.

In their exit interview, the MSBA participants said this process has helped them become aware of some new possibilities. However, they affirmed their decision to stick to the basics for now, and get what they have working smoothly before experimenting with new technologies.One thing that drives membership recruitment and retention is emailing valuable information and resources to members. MSBA emerged from the pilot program with an objective to improve accuracy and completeness of member information, especially email addresses, in order to reliably reach members with information that adds value to their membership in the association.

In order to reach its objective, MSBA needed a creative way to obtain the information, while making the most of staff time. The new AMS will require members to log in with email addresses in order to access benefits online, so much of their plan intersects with roll-out of that new platform.

MSBA Ideas and Next Steps:

  • Design a communication plan
  • Remind members to update email addresses
  • Create incentives or contests to motivate members to update their records
  • Investigate list enhancement services that append email addresses to a mailing list
  • Phone members to update information and get them more engaged

This organization discovered some creative solutions to an issue that is connected to their top strategic challenge, namely keeping members engaged with relevant content in order to support strong member acquisition and retention. That was a positive outcome of the pilot project. However, there weren’t any truly innovative solutions. We think that is because the organization was already using all of its innovative bandwidth on the AMS project. The timing was not right to make an innovative leap, as key parts of their IT infrastructure were already in flux.