For many associations and nonprofits, a new eLearning initiative requires approval from their board. Understandably, some association executives have anxiety about the type of resistance they may face when presenting online learning to their board for the first time. eLearning may not be a term your “old school” board is even familiar with. Or perhaps your association struggles with a board that is simply averse to change and prefers to do things “like they’ve always done them.” Even in the face of possible resistance, you owe it to your members to advocate for their needs and wants, not to mention the betterment of your association or nonprofit. How you go about presenting eLearning concepts to the board is critical and can greatly affect your ability to gain approval to move forward with online member education. From my experience working in associations and nonprofits in the past, and now working for the leading eLearning services partner to associations, I have some tips for getting your board behind online learning.
Here’s how to make a successful initial presentation to your board on the benefits of adding eLearning to your current member education offerings:
Explain the advantages
Start with the purpose of offering online education rather than with the concept itself. Online learning is a solution to a problem; so spend some time analyzing your association’s challenges or the voids that eLearning can help fulfill. Some common challenges associations have include: identifying their value proposition, decline in or lack of non-dues revenue, an unengaged membership, appealing to millennials, ensuring education offerings are convenient for members, and cyclical revenue that creates a “feast or famine” budgeting crisis year-after-year. If you can present a solution to a problem, rather than just another “new idea,” your board will be more inclined to listen and see the benefit to the association.
Make it about the members (need/want)
When introducing eLearning to the board, also be sure to emphasize the benefit to members. Share the need or want that members have expressed for more accessible education and training. Be prepared to show the board why you need to consider eLearning. Member survey data is an excellent way to demonstrate the wants and needs of your membership. If you haven’t already surveyed members at your last annual meeting or during your renewal period, gather their feedback now, before you meet with the board. Additionally, come to the meeting prepared with industry trends and statistics demonstrating the growth in online learning and the success similar associations and nonprofits have had with online offerings. Tagoras has plenty of data on association member education trends, including their State of the Sector Update.
Explain the potential
The untapped potential should be the final selling point you present. Using our proprietary eLearning ROI calculator, you can project your association’s non-dues revenue from online education and show the return on investment over time. Additionally, explain the advantages of eLearning over traditional learning and how moving into this market can not only broaden your offerings and add value to your membership, but also how it can save your organization thousands of dollars. Use case studies from similar associations who ventured into eLearning and found great success to demonstrate this potential to your board.
Hopefully these ideas get you thinking about your association’s upcoming board meeting and how you can make a successful initial pitch for online member education. My next blog post will explore this topic more in-depth for those who are currently pursuing eLearning for their association and now seek final approval from the board.
Have you recently ventured into eLearning at your association? What tips do you have for fellow association executives who need board approval to begin the exploration phase? Comment below and let me know!
A relative newbie to the eLearning scene, Sarah is no stranger to the association and non-profit world. Before joining the “dark side,” Sarah served as a marketing and communications specialist at various organizations including the American Lung Association and the Association of Corporate Contribution Professionals. Today, Sarah serves as Digitec’s Digital Marketing Coordinator or “SM Queen” for short. In her new role, Sarah enjoys blogging, tweeting and sharing membership engagement tips for association professionals. Sarah earned certificates in non-profit and volunteer management as well as a B.A. in media and communications from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL.
Spirit animal: Lion
Comfort object: Sunglasses
Personal vice: #longhashtags ;)
Useless talent: Can fall asleep in seconds
Unreasonable paranoia: Tsunamis
Wishes more people cared about: Recycling and the environment