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Unions 21
| Blog post

Using data - how a CRM can support your union’s strategy and operations

By Victoria Barlow, Consultant at Unions 21 | 4 min

As we discovered in Tom Hunt’s blog on how ‘defining data can help unions use it effectively’, unions have been collecting and analysing a wide range of data to drive their decisions since the day they established themselves.

While a 100 years ago unions didn’t have technology to support collection and analysis, today we find ourselves with a plethora of membership databases, digital platforms - and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems which deliver activities like subs collection, events management, case work, surveys, elections, ballots across channels like websites, emails, newsletters, texts.

That’s why before unions take any steps towards choosing a new membership system, there’s a fantastic opportunity to map out a clear, specific set of requirements for what data the system will collect, what functions the system will perform and what reports you hope to generate to inform your work.

Mapping should start with the strategic plan - what does the union aim to achieve over the next few years and what data and functions would therefore support this work?

Then dig deep into current union activity - what happens across existing platforms and on paper and what needs to be included, scrapped or improved?

Finally, take some time to capture the aspirations and ideas for better and new ways of working from across staff, reps and members.

The following areas will give just a few ideas about how a CRM could support your work around:

Member recruitment:

  • Create an easy route to join online from a webpage where you capture information necessary to admit a new member

  • Digitise any sign off procedures to admit new members - reducing paperwork between HQ and branches limits GDPR breaches

  • Through a series of onboarding emails, capture further information on members or make subsequent asks - for example collecting equalities data or highlighting the political fund

  • With data about each member’s role, workplace, branch/district, protected characteristics, political fund membership etc etc you can cut your data on one or more areas, identify low density and target your recruitment activities

Member retention:

  • Automate a series of emails across a member’s subs year - update the email content each month with latest campaigns or news - especially targeting members with positive messages at pain points such as renewal, payment failure or lapse

  • Use their member data to tell you what kind of content to share when they log on to their members’ area of your website - reflect their role, sector, geographical location etc

Member engagement:

  • Capture broad engagement with your union’s digital activity - and learn, for example, which newsletter stories get most traction or when emails are most likely to be read - and adjust your tactics accordingly

  • Capture individual member’s interactions with your emails, events, surveys, polls etc to spot which members are most engaged with your union - and organise them in to greater involvement

  • Conduct non-statutory elections or indicative ballots electronically to reduce paperwork and encourage participation

Rep engagement:

  • Encourage reps to use a password secure ‘portal’ to keep members’ details up to date, to conduct case work, to communicate with members - and reduce the risk of data breaches and non-compliance with GDPR

  • Set up a dashboard for each rep to see member numbers, density and engagement with invitations to branch meetings or branch newsletters for example

Stakeholder/supporter engagement:

  • Capture your stakeholders and supporters contact details so you can segment your comms to best effect - and see who’s interacting with your comms so you can engage them further

As you can tell, the sky’s the limit for CRM - hence the need to carefully plan your data, function and reporting requirements at the start of the project. Some of this planning might involve challenging ‘ways we’ve always done things’ which might stall the project while agreement is reached on updating ways we’ve always done things.

A few months of deep dive research and unpicking current ways of working will, however, save time, money and staff goodwill in the long run - as retro fitting an unsuitable CRM is a painful, clumsy, expensive job.

Join us at our report launch and read more about how Victoria helped ASLEF in their CRM project.

More ideas