Change Your Perception of Time
Time is just as important as money when it comes operating an organisation. Saved time directly translates into dollars when you can see efficiencies stretching from hours into days, and days into weeks.
In this article, I’m going to discuss two digital time saving measures that your not-for-profit or political organisation should consider. They go outside the realm of simply expecting employees to put in longer hours, with the aim of getting you to think about the importance of saving time, or ensuring it’s being spent the right way.
Your Organisation’s Website
The number of poorly constructed sites on the web proves that there are a significant number of organisations that don’t understand or appreciate exactly how much time a website can save their employees. Those who aren’t particularly tech orientated often have a very shallow understanding of a website’s potential, thinking of it as just pages containing information. They don’t understand just how much planning, skill and energy goes into an effective website, nor the enormous benefits it can provide an organisation, especially when it comes to saving time.
As a not for profit or political organisation, there is vital information you want to convey to your supporters. Organisations that interact heavily with the public have the most to gain from investing in an effective website. A well designed website can easily communicate policy, events, contact information, and encourage a potential supporter to get on board with the cause.
Take Barack Obama’s website as an example. If you’re wanting to join an event in your area, you don’t have to speak to anyone. It’s all there, and incredibly user friendly, right on his website. The page starts off with a very simple instruction, with very minimal input from the user.
All you have to do is give the page your ZIP code and how far you’re willing to drive, and it tells you which events you can attend, in chronological order. Easy!
If that person had needed to call someone, or email them to find that out, it could easily take the staff member 10 minutes to service the enquiry. If they got just 50 enquiries about events per week, that would total 433 hours per year to service those enquiries.
The following form is a simple example of an organisation’s website contact form that has too much friction, and will result in many potential enquiries not being made (lost conversations).
The above form has too many fields, which results in what is known as form-fatigue. Many of the fields are unnecessary for the purposes of making an enquiry. I’ve designed a simplified version below, following practices for optimising form completion. Much less daunting, agreed?
When trying to determine what your website is missing, there are a few actions you can take:
Look at similar organisations to get ideas about functions or elements that are working well for them, and think about whether it would work for you. If you can immediately understand their main points, or easily navigate through different sections, there might be some great examples of user experience you can pick up.
Ask a friend or family member who isn’t familiar with your cause or organisation to visit the site. Ask them a range of questions such as what they think your cause is, what are the main points you’re trying to communicate, do they have trouble navigating to particular areas. This can give you a general idea of what’s not getting through.
How to approach it:
If you are concerned that your organisation is not currently making the most of its online presence, there are a few ways you can approach speaking to your manager about it. Firstly, speak to those in the organisation who regularly interact with the public enquiries. Are there questions they feel like they answer again and again?
Secondly, have a chat with your direct manager. Ask them what they think of the current website, and gauge their level of understanding concerning how important it is. Do they realise a lot of great websites involve multiple specialised individuals in creation, not just one person who knows code and a little bit of Photoshop? The reality is that a fantastic website needs:
- Good graphic design
- Clean programming
- Marketing strategy
- Conversion optimising
- Engaging copy writing
- User-experience/user-interface design
While chatting with your manager express there are some things you think could be done differently to save the organisation time, and in turn money. Once you monetise an idea, it can quickly get more traction. If there are good examples of simple queries that interrupt staff on a regular basis, make sure you mention them, as giving solid examples to back up your points can make them seem a lot more credible.
The second approach can be speaking to a digital agency. Many medium sized NFP’s and political organisations don’t have the resources to employ a full-time digital marketing team. Agencies exist so you can access highly skilled teams when necessary, and not have to employ them on an ongoing basis. Most agencies will be happy to quickly point out the improvements you could implement as part of a quoting process, and these will often have time-saving or monetary benefits.
Implementing a Customer Relationship Manager
A Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), is a software platform that allows you to interact with your supporters and volunteers in a more personalised and time efficient manner. For advocacy and political groups, being able to quickly and easily personalise communication with a number of stakeholders is an enormous time saver, and goes a long way towards keeping them interested in your cause, and in a similar vein allowing your cause to move forward.
For example, you may have held an event last month, and you would like to email your volunteers to say “Thank you! Would like to volunteer again next month?”. Without a CRM you would need to manage a list of volunteers, find their contact details, double check who attended, then craft an email to send to these individuals, among other laborious things. It doesn’t sound particularly time consuming when written out, but we all know how much of a nightmare it is trying to find information that hasn’t been properly stored. A good CRM should allow you to easily pull up this information within a minute, along with a history about each person, allowing you to contact these and similar people efficiently.
If you’re thinking about using a CRM to manage your organisation, there are a few you could choose from, which require various levels of integration and technical wrangling. One of the most complete and easy-to-use CRMs (created specifically for organisations), is NationBuilder. I’ll be focusing on for the purposes of this article.
In NationBuilder, each supporter of your cause is added into your database or “Nation”. A supporter doesn’t need to be a person actively supporting your cause, but might be any person who has interacted with your website, such as using an enquiry form. Once their profile is created, it will try pull details from their publically available Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts, creating a snapshot of the person automatically. Within their profile, there are a diverse number of fields you can enter, allowing you to create a comprehensive snapshot of who they are and what is important to them.
The point of having all of this detail is to be able to easily customise and automate communication based on detailed personal criteria. Let’s say you added a tag of “volunteer 2015” to each person who volunteered at all 2015 events. When you want to email that group, it’s as easy as creating a 30 second filter.
In addition to incredibly detailed profiles, a decent CRM will allow you to log all contact you have had with a supporter in their profile. For example, last time one of your volunteers reached out to someone in your organisation, they made it clear they were against a park redevelopment in the area. This information is now sitting in a log against their profile, ready to be seen at a moment’s notice. The benefit of this is that no matter which individual in your organisation talks to that supporter next, they can immediately be updated on the position of the individual, and perhaps not asked if they would like to sign a petition for the park redevelopment.
Whether it’s customised email communication or talking to supporters, a decent CRM will allow you to quickly sort those in your database based on relevant criteria, or give you a snapshot of where they last stood in relation to a particular issue. Saving time and being more relevant to your supporters is vital, and a good CRM will allow you to do both.
If you’re committed to using technology to increase your internal efficiencies, it is always a good idea to approach it thoroughly and thoughtfully.
With that, allow me to leave you with two quotes on productivity and efficiency.
Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity. – Jacques Ellul
Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more. – Henry Ford