Conversations around technology in the world of associations and nonprofits are constantly evolving. There is a steady stream of new research, case studies, and trends saturating the web. So where should you start?
So where should you go to find out where technology is headed and how to avoid common pitfalls?
We recently spoke with Tom Lehman of Lehman Associates, a technology, strategy, and research firm. Tom has over 25 years of research experience in the association and nonprofit markets.
Lehman and Associates publishes multiple notable industry reports each year. These highly-regarded reports dive deep into the technology used by associations and nonprofits to generate revenue, manage members, and run day-to-day operations.
Lehman Associates' studies investigate technology such as association management software (AMS), email marketing, exhibit management, social media, and its role in these markets. Most recently, Tom has released a third study that explores donor management use and satisfaction among broader nonprofits. The 2015 AMS Use and Satisfaction Report will be out this October.
Association and Nonprofit Technology Trends with Tom Lehman
During our conversation, Tom and I cover emerging association technology trends and those barriers facing associations and nonprofits as technology evolves.
There are many tweetable, or rather quotable, moments from our conversation. I've outlined four that stand out below.
"Moving to technology as a strategy rather than a tool set."
This change in the overall landscape can often be a difficult transition for organizations. Viewing technology platforms strategically is key to engaging your membership in the priorities of your organization.
Often getting executive buy-in is one of the most difficult steps in executing this shift. However, by continuing to view tech tools as tactical channels and productivity utilities, your organization is limiting its ability to leveraging technological advances to scale your impact, control costs, and implement a sustainable growth strategy.
"Part of this trend is also looking more at the outcomes of technology rather than the inputs or the tools that are being used."
The technology platforms that you use and the operational processes that support them have traditionally been the focus for associations and nonprofits. However, high-performing organizations make sure that those elements take a backseat to the business-level outcomes that those tools generate.
When it comes to member engagement, organizations have to think beyond operating the technology as the goal and make the focus facilitating gaining value from the technology.
"It order to get a strategic view of technology, you really need representation at the senior management level."
There is a significant opportunity for organizations to bring a technology strategy person into the leadership to advocate for the opportunities that technology offers to the organization. Lehman Associates studies show that even large, established associations and nonprofits rarely have strategic technology executives.
On the flip side, not all IT people at associations and nonprofits are ready to transitions from being an operator of technology to playing a strategic role in the value that the organization provides to members and supporters. Those that can make the difficult transition to this higher-level function have a tremendous opportunity to become more central to their organization's mission and goals.
"Online communities provide an opportunity to re-build and strengthen the relationship of the group."
Associations have been about community since their inception. In an attempt to make things more tangible at associations and nonprofits in recent years, the focus has shifted from building communities of people to selling products and services.
Online communities provide an opportunity to re-build and strengthen the relationship of the group and the value that holds for both members and the organization itself.
The biggest opportunity for associations and nonprofits to leverage community platforms in helping members to feel like they are part of something, often called a "sense of membership." That value proposition is paramount to growing your organization.