Background

Heading into its 30th year, ACN is challenging itself. Seeing that only a subset of member attended events, the ACN board wondered how they could more effectively engage members and ultimately boost ACN’s visibility and contribution to the sector.

Forming the team

CBWhite, a leading marketing research and strategy consultancy, formed a unique team to help ACN tackle this challenge with a full spectrum of services.

The Team includes:

teenyBIG to apply design thinking to capture the qualitative research and landscape analysis,
CBWhite to craft a survey and analyze results to shed light on ACN’s questions, and
Data Viz for Nonprofits to bring the results to life at the anniversary event.

The Journey

Over the next few months, we will take you along on the team’s journey as we work with ACN to build engagement. You will learn how each team member took on a specific part of the challenge and how the work will lead to actionable solutions.



    April 15th, 2019

  • Who is CBWhite? 

    Carol White likes to figure people out. In graduate school, she discovered market research and was delighted to learn she could have a career in “figuring people out” and, further, use results to make informed decisions. In 1999, Carol founded CBWhite to apply her market research expertise to organizations serving the public interest. With 20 years of experience and regular conversations with clients, Carol has learned that CBWhite results build confidence. With research results in hand, clients feel they know their constituents (such as visitors, donors, users of services, members) and can make decisions with confidence.

    Gathering insights through surveys


  • I dug into Emily’s qualitative and landscape analyses (described in an earlier post), as well as our conversation with a Core Team of ACN leaders, to define information needs, burning questions, issues, and options. I asked hard questions and I challenged assumptions.
  • With a clearly defined focus on increasing the engagement level of current members, I wrote a survey that asked for motivations, priorities, education interests, and perceptions. ACN sent the survey link to all its members. Data was collected by an independent firm to guarantee respondents their individual answers would remain confidential. Almost two-thirds of the members completed the survey. Next, I analyzed the data set and organized it to address ACN’s questions.
  • I worked with our team and my colleague, Julianne Dieterich, throughout this phase of the project to bring as much expertise and wisdom as possible to each step. Since I am a long-time ACN member it’s been helpful to have Julianne’s perspective, as well as the rest of our team, to ensure we analyze the results in an objective manner.
  • The analysis phase is the most fun. I know most people don’t think of data as fun, but numbers can tell a story. We looked across the responses to let ACN member needs emerge and to find the threads that will empower ACN to make great decisions for the future of the members, the association and, most importantly, the sector we all serve. Seeing what motivated people to start their practices, learning what they most want from ACN, and exploring how they might increase their engagement was exciting and we look forward to sharing the details soon.
  • In our next segment, you’ll see how we bring the data to life so those who don’t love numbers as much as I do can still be energized and empowered and confident in decision-making.



  • March 15, 2019

    Understanding the Audience

    Who is teenyBIG?

    Emily Taylor, the Principal of teenyBIG, is a design thinking expert who brings a user-centered perspective to the table. She believes that the first step in any project should be listening to those you serve so that you may better understand how they perceive your message and what issues are important to address.

    Gathering insights through interviews and landscape analysis

    I kicked off this project by having one-on-one interviews with members at various levels of engagement with ACN. As I spoke to them, I was looking for not only what their impressions and behaviors were in interacting with ACN, but also for why they made these decisions. This work was paired with a landscape analysis that explored what other analogous organizations AND non-related, but inspirational, organizations were doing to build engagement, such as building a voice for their brand that connects with their audience.

Broad thinking and what that brings to the table in a project

As a design thinking practitioner, in these early stages I look at both the perception of an organization and its possibilities. By better understanding members’ perceptions through the interviews and seeing the possibilities through the landscape analysis, I was able to set up our team with a better understanding of where to dig deeper – for example, what motivates members to be a nonprofit consultant? - with the quantitative survey. This broader thinking also sets up the ACN team with a focus on how to use the results.



May 15, 2019



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