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The Reporting Trick that Makes Association Data More Useful

Written by Julie Dietz on October 18, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Make your association's data more useful by gathering information by segments, such as chapters.

Many associations and nonprofits work with data on two levels: organization-wide and individual. They can see both how single members are interacting with their organization and view association-wide results.

Unfortunately, that means that many groups are missing out on valuable information, because most associations aren’t organized only around individual members or organizations. They have groups within them, usually chapters, committees, or special interest groups that combine individuals with similar characteristics or priorities.

If your association has these types of groups under its umbrella, then you need data on those groups in addition to individual and association-wide data. You need data on your segments.

What are Segments?

For associations, segments are generally either targeted groups inside your organization or a set of information. Most associations already use segments for data and communication, usually in external marketing and member acquisition. One such group or segment might be students and another might be young professionals. Each of these segments would receive different marketing messages based on their needs.

You can apply the same concept to groups within your existing member base, with segments being your chapters, committees, special interest groups, and other sections within your organization.

Why Collect Data on Member Segments?

If all your association’s data and reports focus on the big picture or individuals, then you’re not able to see how well chapters, committees, and other groups are performing.

For example, one of your association chapters may be much more active than others, generating more volunteers and making more progress toward your goals than the others. If you don’t have volunteer data for just that chapter, then you won’t see this. You’ll only know that your association as a whole has a certain number of volunteer hours and individual members or organizations have contributed a certain amount of that.

By collecting data on your segments, you’ll get a better picture of what various groups are doing and how well they’re doing it. You’ll be able to:

  • Identify your most active components – whether they’re chapters, committees, or special interest groups
  • See which groups are growing and which are losing members
  • Compare the performance of different groups and see how much they’re contributing to your association

Once you have data on each of your groups, you can use that to inform your association’s strategy so that every group gets the resources and support they need most. For example, if half your chapters have low event participation and half have low volunteer hours, then you can provide targeted event and volunteering support based on each chapter’s needs.

How to Collect Data on Segments

The first step in gathering data on segments is to break out the specific groups within your organization that you want more information on. For instance, you may want information on all your chapters as well as the volunteer committees that help run your association.

Once you’ve decided what groups you want information on, decide what information you want on each group. This will depend heavily on what’s important to your organization. To help you get started, here are four common sets of data that associations often collect by group.

1. Membership Over Time

While committees often have a set membership number, chapters and special interest groups do not. Trends in these groups’ membership numbers can help associations see which groups are most popular and which may need more help to thrive.

2. Retention

Even groups that are growing in terms of overall members may be in trouble if they have a high turnover rate. Collect member retention data for each of your groups to see which ones are serving members well over the long-haul and which ones quickly lose new members.

3. Events

According to a recent report on non-dues revenue, events are one of the most common ways that associations bring in extra income. Since events are so popular, many associations find it useful to break out their event data by groups. They can see event registrations, unique attendees, and overall event participation within each group, which helps them determine how effective group events are.

4. Volunteering

Associations and nonprofits rely on volunteers to do everything from serving on the board to planning events and spearheading advocacy campaigns. Often, most chapter and group leaders are themselves volunteers. That makes it doubly useful for organizations to see volunteer hours and dollars contributed based from each of their groups.

When you’ve mapped out what data you want to collect on each of your segments, use your software to get the information you need. Online community software can gather data on segments that have private communities, displaying it in reports or graphs on dashboards. Other association software may also allow you to segment larger data sets based on your groups using specific filtering or reporting tools.

Once data is collected and organized into graphs, it’s ready to be used by staff and volunteer leaders.

Use Data Segments to Personalize the Member Experience Without Getting Overwhelmed

By gathering data and generating reports on distinct member segments, associations that are strapped for time and resources can find a middle ground between large, association-wide data and individualized information on every member. It’s an efficient way to learn more about different populations within your association, while keeping the amount of information manageable. You can then use what you learn to better serve your groups, providing customized information, tools, and support.

The most successful membership managers practice these 11 habits.

Topics: Associations

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