February 7, 2018

Are Your Association Programs Hurting Your Member Experience?

Giving is good ... until the process through which you give becomes clunky, complicated, and confusing. Improve your process and improve your members' satisfaction.

Scholarships, grants, internships, fellowships, and awards -- they are a standard part of the professional society and trade association experience. And for good reason: In addition to improving the skills of an industry, recruiting students and expanding the profession, and being a great way for an organization to be socially responsible, these days they are simply an expected benefit. Association members are looking for attractive perks before they hand over their dues, and these types of educational and reward programs should be on your list.

But are all of these benefits diminished by your process itself?

A cursory look at many association scholarship, internship, and fellowship programs shows an application process firmly rooted in the past. Outdated technology -- or in some cases the lack of any technology -- creates an antiquated and cumbersome process that has negative impact on numerous players.

Here are three signs your process may be damaging your members' experience, and that it's time to upgrade both your program and your software platform.

1. You use a static web form for your application, or worse, an editable PDF or Word doc. These are difficult to follow, require more work to complete for the applicant, and can often lead to incomplete applications as your members try to rush through or misunderstand instructions. Attachments -- think transcripts or letters of recommendation -- must be emailed or snail mailed separately, and then are often misplaced. And if a member needs to stop during the process for any reason, unsaved work could be lost completely.

2. Your reviewers are given hard copies of application to review. These are people who volunteering to assist your association, yet despite their time being valuable, they are being bogged down with manual processes that can take hours per review. Multiple files have to be considered, literally surrounding a reviewer with paperwork. And feedback process are rudimentary, requiring even more forms, spreadsheets, or emails.

3. Your association staff has no robust tools to track application processes. Programs like scholarships and fellowships are often managed by a lone individual who has other job responsibilities to handle. When left to checklists, Excel spreadsheets, and manual updates, they are constantly trying to put all these pieces together, track their progress, and consolidate the feedback to determine the winners. Their days are a constant to-do list of sending email reminders and status check-ins, photocopying and file building, and trying to make sense of it all. The people whose job it is to improve the member experience are too busy chasing down PDFs to do it.

With a quality application management system, members can enjoy a cleaner application experience for your scholarships, fellowships, internships, and more.

  • Single sign on allows your members to use their association log on information, eliminating the need for creating yet another user profile.
  • Integration with your AMS automatically populates questions in the application with data you have already collected from them.
  • A qualifying quiz quickly lets applicants know if they meet the standard criteria, saving them from wasting time on inappropriate applications.
  • A clean submission portal experience allows for stepped applications, saving as you go, uploading of files, and status check-in after submission.
  • Triggered emails from the administrator easily remind members to finish applications or submit before a deadline.

That doesn't even include the time and stress savings available to your reviewers (who may be members, too) and to your association staff.

With three groups of constituents being positively impacted by the implementation of a application management system, the experience from all angles is greatly improved, along with the satisfaction of the membership.

Keep up with the latest from WizeHive

Subscribe to the monthly Get Wize newsletter.