Fundraiser's Forum
AFP Chicago Guest Column Series


Member Engagement By Generation
Guest Post for AFP Chicago, by Amanda Myers

At the core of many nonprofits and associations and their mission delivery is membership – recruitment AND retention. It’s not a stretch to say members serve as the lifeblood of these organization. Member engagement is crucial. Not everyone’s talking about it, but they should be.

The Abila team recently released the Member Engagement Study. In it we cover:

  1. What matters most to members when they join an organization
  2. What makes members feel involved and engaged
  3. How organizations can better communicate
  4. Whether organizations engage members in a segmented, targeted, personal way

Central to our findings was that organizations are missing the boat on targeting communications. Only 29 percent report using a members’ age to segment communications, and less than half use a member's career stage. And, out of those who are sending more tailored communications, very few report targeting members with any sort of consistency, and instead, adopt a “one-size fits-all” approach across the entire member base.

There are stark differences in the way younger and early career members like to be communicated with versus older, more established members. For example, you can appeal to younger members by leading with a jobs message, but focus on credentials and ethics for older members.

Not surprisingly, we found similar trends regarding differences by generation in the Donor Loyalty Study earlier this year. Millennial donors, for example, like nonprofits to communicate with them two times per month or more, while Baby Boomers prefer a frequency of about monthly.

For members and donors, once you start developing messaging that considers age and career stage, you can more effectively recruit and retain your members. To learn more about member engagement preferences, see the infographic below or download the full Member Engagement Study today.


Our Strategic Planning Year

Written by: Eric Johnson, CFRE, President of AFP Chicago’s Board of Directors and Director of National Philanthropy for Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL)

I don’t always choose to blog, but when I do, I blog about AFP Chicago.  There, I got that out of my system.  While I kid, let’s also be honest – I should blog more often (it is 2016, right?).  Let’s consider this a new beginning, perhaps in more than one way, especially as I anticipate how the next several weeks will unfold.

AFP Chicago has been chest-deep in strategic planning for the past four months, our first foray into such plan development in five years.  It is important to point out that, for a working Board of Directors that is the heart and soul of the organization, I have asked our Board members to take on more than they likely anticipated when the clock stuck midnight on January 1st.  I hope they forgive me.  I also hope they don’t wish for the proverbial door to hit me on the arse on my way out as I end my term as Board President on December 31st.  I have to take a moment to thank AFP Chicago’s Board for the sweat they have put into the process thus far.  The blood and tears come later.  I kid again (maybe).

If you’re reading this, then I dare say you care just a little bit about where AFP Chicago is going with our strategy.  After all, what other organization in Chicago, besides AFP, has the collective knowledge – among its 900 individual members, within the Board, across its many committees – to ensure every nonprofit organization in Chicago can raise funds and advance its mission to, in turn, serve our community’s most pressing needs?

As you ponder that, let’s recap AFP Chicago’s efforts this summer.  The name of the game since June has been research – a critical phase which we only recently concluded in order to focus on the brass tacks that will become our plan.  Our Board and staff surveyed hundreds of fundraising professionals; convened five focus groups; interviewed 15 CEOs, CDOs, foundation heads and other industry thought leaders; and scanned Chicago’s environment for the ripest of opportunities to improve what AFP does locally.  What did we learn?  Let’s take a look:

  • AFP Chicago is well-regarded within the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, but we are well-positioned to turn more people and organizations – AFP members, fundraising professionals in general, donors and other nonprofit leaders – on to what we do and can offer;
  • We will better address the needs of our diverse AFP community, across affinity groups and according to level of experience, and speak to the “whole” professional;
  • We will foster dialogue about state-of-the-art issues, including the role of “big data” and technology, as examples, within our community;
  • We will make education of the non-believers (they’re out there) about fundraising as an art, science and lifeblood of our industry a priority; and
  • Finally, we will nurture collaboration among fundraising professionals.

In short, Chicago’s fundraising professionals have tremendous assets and we can do a better job leveraging them.  The idea of the learning community has not been fully realized among our peers.  AFP hopes to be the convener and catalyst to meet this ideal, but we need you to be involved.  When AFP Chicago’s nascent plan is complete, it will only be successful to the extent that we all contribute what we have learned, how we have gotten results, and how we have failed.  That is the vision peeking out from behind our process.

In that spirit, now is as good a time as any to contribute what you know and what you seek from AFP Chicago.  I invite you to reach out to me or any of my Board peers to do so.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more.  I have great hopes for the future of our organization.

Eric Johnson is the President of AFP Chicago’s Board of Directors and Director of National Philanthropy for Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), a national organization that seeks to transform the academic achievements, self-confidence, and life trajectories of children living in under-resourced communities.  You can contact Eric at [email protected].

Interested in contributing to Fundraiser's Forum? Please contact AFP Chicago Communications Coordinator, Elizabeth Haley at [email protected]

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