Improving Performance with Information and Insight
Published by Lehman Associates

Engagement – real or the flavor of the day?

Two years ago, you couldn’t pick up a magazine or read through nonprofit discussion groups without encountering CRM. It was everywhere and not a few people suggested that CRM would now replace existing application such as association management systems (AMS) and donor management systems (DMS). Several AMS providers branded around CRM and then social CRM. While CRM as both a strategy and set of application tools remains important, its prevalence in conference sessions and articles has diminished.

Today it is all about engagement. Online discussions, conference sessions, blogs and articles are awash with the term. The new version of one major association application, formerly described as an AMS, has been re-branded as an engagement management system 0r EMS. A leading private community application wonders out loud whether they are really an engagement platform.

Is engagement the new flavor of the day, or something more? While there is no question it is currently a buzz word attached to nearly everything, it – or something like it – is likely to have more staying power than CRM. Why?

Work with associations and findings the our industry studies point to a greater focus on outcomes. As noted in earlier posts, this is part of a shift towards viewing technology as a strategic asset, not simply a productivity tool set. Following is a slide used in several presentations over the past two years. We see a progression of focus from the data (the member database) to applications to leverage that data (such as CRM) to outcomes like engagement.

Outcomes Orientation

When you think about, housing the data and using applications to leverage that data focus more on the question of “how” than the question of “what.” They represents tools that may be employed to help achieve organization mission and goals. Engagement on the other hand reflects the relationship with members and other constituents. Those relationships are frequently front and center to the goals of the organization. Another way to think about this is substitution. New and better ways to manage and leverage data can be readily adopted without altering the core goals and mission of the organization. Approaches to engagement scoring may also change, but the critical role those relationships play in the organization will not change – or at least would change only with significant changes to teh mission and goals of the organization.