Survey reports from both NTEN and TechSoup Canada indicate that 90% of the non-profits they surveyed are using some form of cloud-based technology. And since this month we’re looking at engagement, I’m wondering if or how moving to the cloud might impact member engagement?
What is the cloud anyway?
To clarify what we mean by “the cloud,” here's a definition in our post -- What is The Cloud Anyway:
“cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet extends IT's existing capabilities.”
Cloud-based software or systems include anything from Google Docs to SaaS (software as service) solutions (such as Wild Apricot) for which you pay a monthly or yearly service fee.
Benefits of moving to the cloud
While the benefits of cloud computing vary depending on the application, the key advantages include:
- Accessibility: Cloud software/systems can be accessed anywhere on any computer that has Internet capability. For example, the volunteers or staff of a membership organization using a cloud-based membership management system, can manage their member database or update their website remotely from their individual computers via the web, without uploading any software on individual computer hard drives.
- Ease of sharing and updating: As noted above, all data or files are stored online (in the cloud) instead of on a particular hard drive, so files can be shared easily and are always up-to-date. This means, no duplicate member lists or out-of-date email lists and no need to email or copy files on USB sticks for updating. With software, such as Google docs, you can “share” documents with multiple individuals and provide read-only or editing privileges so that you can work with other staff or volunteers to create or revise documents across town or across the continent!
- Reduced maintenance: Cloud or web-based software or systems are automatically updated so there is no need to pay for or install upgrades as the system is enhanced.
So how does all this impact member engagement?
In an earlier post - If You Build It - Will They Come? - we looked at building member engagement on your website. Keeping members engaged involves ensuring you have fresh or up-to-date content on your site to keep them coming back. It’s also about keeping the membership connected. And it seems that moving to the cloud may help with both of these challenges.
Keeping web content fresh
If your website content is being created by a number of volunteers, board members and/or staff, they can all create and share documents via cloud technology, as noted above. In addition, if your website is managed through a system - such as Wild Apricot - that offers easy-to-use content management systems, you can offer a number of content providers administrative access to upload content to your website to ensure it remains fresh.
For example, you could have one volunteer responsible for managing the member’s forum, and another could be your blog writer, posting frequently on your blog. The Chair of your event could have access to administer the event registration and post event details on that area of your site. This way, you can offer up-to-date web content on a regular basis, without having to be “held hostage by your web developer,” waiting for an external provider or a busy volunteer to post the content to your site - as we noted in our post - 3 Tips for Keeping Your Website Fresh.
Meeting planning and minutes sharing
Cloud-based software or systems can also offer support for the development and sharing of meeting minutes. As we note in our article - How to Write Effective Meeting Minutes - using web-based technology, such as Google docs enables paperless document sharing for both the minutes writer, chair and committee or board. Alternately, If your organization is using a cloud-based membership management system, you can publish the minutes as a web page and give access only to the committee, Board members, or the entire membership, depending on your organization’s needs. Through members-only webpages, you can create a secure online Intranet for your Board and committees.
Up-to-date data for improved outreach
In addition, when your member database and/or event registration list are maintained in the cloud, everyone is updating one central database or contact list. This means you don’t run the risk of duplicate or outdated records that lead to inaccurate mailing or email lists - and ultimately frustration from both the recipient and the sender.
So as the 90% of organizations now using cloud systems have discovered, the cloud can help enable easier and more frequent updating of your website content and it can also facilitate easier and paperless sharing of meeting minutes and other organization planning.
Has your organization adopted any cloud-based technology? We’d love to hear how the cloud has helped drive increased member engagement - in the comments below.
Image source: Cloud computing concept design, courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com