Stealth Features Available on Request

Can we share a secret?  There are a few “hidden” features that our support team has the power to turn on for individual groups upon request.  If you’d like the team to help you with any one of these things, just get in touch and ask!

Set a max number of ticket purchases for event sales.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 5.53.03 PMIf you’re selling tickets to a popular event and are concerned people may get a bit greedy and snatch up all the tickets for themselves, we can limit the number of tickets available per transaction.

It’s worth noting that people can still buy more tickets in separate transactions, but that would require that they return to your event page and go through the payment process again, so this check should be enough in most cases.

Display custom fields in your website’s member directory

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When you add a custom field to your database, you have the option of displaying the information collected in those fields on individual member’s profile pages.  If you want to display that information as a column in your website’s member directory alongside your member’s names and and emails, we can do that for you.

Change your website’s URL

We don’t allow you to edit your website’s URL as a precautionary measure because changing your URL would break any links that pointed to the previous address, including any links sent out in welcome e-mails, e-mails sent to group members, and so on.

That said, if you’re aware of the above risks, we can change your URL for you on request.

Change your website font

We can change the base font on your website to any of following:

Times New Roman
Comic Sans

Why can’t you make these changes yourself?  In some cases, as editing your URL, it’s because the edit is potentially risk.  In other cases, these features just haven’t been worked into our interface yet, but you will be able to do them on your own eventually.  In the meantime, if you want us to take care of any of things for you, just ask!

Recruitment Tips: Growing Groups Need WOM

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 15.28.36Someone is talking about your group right now.  Are they saying something good or bad?  That depends on whether you’ve done a good job nurturing Word of Mouth, or WOM as it’s known in marketing circles(you know it’s a big deal if it’s got it’s own abbreviation).  If you haven’t given much thought to WOM, you should start because people are more likely to be influenced by recommendations and referrals from people they know.  Not only is this common sense – whose opinion do you trust more, your friend or a salesman? – but marketing studies back it up.

The reason WOM is so powerful is because it is genuine, but don’t assume that means you can just sit back and hope that it happens.  Here are six ways you can encourage, facilitate, and increase WOM within your organization:

1) Make members happy.  Real talk?  Any efforts to recruit new members will be a waste if your existing members are dropping like flies.  When existing members are happy, they will be more likely to recruit others, which is why investing time in your group is also a major investment in WOM.   Ensure you are always working towards the purpose that members joined for, run operations as smoothly as possible, and keep communication clear and open.  When members feel that their purpose for joining is being fulfilled, WOM will occur naturally.

2) Encourage guests.  Suggest that your members bring along guests to any meetings or events rather than keeping them closed to non-members.

3) Free swag.  Budget some funds towards providing members with stickers, shirts, pins, etc. These items can all spark a conversation members wouldn’t ordinarily have started about their involvement in your organization.

4) Arm your members.  Make sure that there is not only a clear purpose for you group, but that it’s been communicated to all members so they can sum it up easily in conversation.  Do they know what links to send to interested friends?  Do they know who potential members should speak to for more information?  If you haven’t communicated to members how they field questions from interested parties, they may not know!

5) Track referrals.  This is as simple as adding a “Were you referred by someone?” field on your group’s registration form.  If you don’t specifically ask, you may not discover who your biggest promoters are!  Those are the members that you want to work to keep engaged, which brings me to our last tip…

6) Reward referrals.  You could establish a literal reward program where you offer discounts on  membership fees or gift certificates, but you may find that members respond even better to non-material rewards.  An acknowledgement of their efforts – privately or publicly at a meeting or in a newsletter – is often reward enough.  Alternatively, you might consider rewarding a particularly strong recruiter with a title in your organization – Membership Manager or something along those lines – and task them with overseeing group recruitment efforts and developing new strategies for building membership.

Has your group benefited from word of mouth, and do you make any efforts to harness it?

Email Tips: 5 Ways to Work With Spam Filters

Spam filters have a pretty thankless job.  You’re totally unaware of them when they’re excelling, but the second they slip up and prevent an legitimate message from reaching your intended audience, it’s a pretty big deal.

We hear from group managers occasionally when an important email ends up in a member’s spam folder, or worse yet, gets filtered out altogether.  Fortunately, this a rare occurrence as spam filters are usually pretty good at their job, but here are five precautions you can take to work with spam filters towards the betterment of your mailing lists and inboxes everywhere.

Don’t talk like a spammer.  You know, the sort of language that would have you clicking the DELETE button in your own inbox without opening the email.  Act Now!, Earn $$$, and Limited Time – that sort of stuff.  Here’s a comprehensive list of such trigger words – just bear in mind that you shouldn’t agonize over avoiding every single one of these words.  Keep them in the back of your mind, but a mention of a free some-or-other every once and awhile won’t cause a communication disaster.

Don’t format like a spammer.  Would you send an email to your friend in a red font, using all caps, or with invisible (white) text?  Of course you wouldn’t, so don’t do it to a mailing list either!  Not only will these attention-grabbing techniques annoy your readers, they very well might get you filtered.

Don’t include attachments. Many spam blockers see attachments as a potential virus threat, so it’s better to avoid them altogether.  Don’t worry, we have a pretty good workaround that makes it just as easy to share files with your mailing lists without any spam trigger risks.

Ask members to whitelist you.  If you have one member who just isn’t receiving your messages no matter what, ask them to add your list’s email address to their address book or approved sender’s list.  Every email service provider is different, and some are just more suspicious than others and being added to the address book effectively let’s the ESP know that you’re someone they actually want to hear from.  In fact, it you might want to include a request that all members add your address to their address book in your registration form’s confirmation message.

Send messages from a reputable server.  This is actually the single most important precaution, and if you’re using GroupSpaces, then you’re already set!  You’d be surprised how many of the aforementioned no-nos you can get away with if your server has a healthy reputation, which is why we take this responsibility very seriously.  We maintain a good server rep by having internal checks to prevent actual spammers abusing our mailing list feature, including unsubscribe links in  newsletter and email discussions sent by every group in our system, and – to get a bit technical – using DomainKeys DKIM, and SPF.

Remember, spam filters are our friends and they to do a standup job keeping inboxes sane and safe overall, but nobody is perfect,  so help them out by keeping the five tips above in mind when messaging your group.

5 Tips for Getting Email Discussions Rolling

Whether you’re launching a new email discussion list, or trying to liven up the chat on a existing list, here are a few tips to get your virtual conversations flowing.

Establish clear guidelines.  Take some time to draft a document covering what sort of contribution is welcome and what is not – self promotion or off-topic comments, for example.  Share these guidelines with new members and perhaps include a link in your footer.  Have a plan of action in mind if these guidelines are not followed, such as a policy to issue three private warnings followed by removal from the list.

Pay attention to subject lines.  Most people’s inboxes are inundated with emails they never read.  Informative subject lines help members identify the messages that really interest them, making it less likely that they’ll overlook them.

Ask questions.  Whether you’re sharing an opinion, article, or piece of work, always try to end with a question.  You’d be surprised how far a simple “Do you agree?” or “What do you think?” will go.

Offer feedback.  Especially in the early days of a list, it’s a good idea to message members privately to thank them for their contributions and encourage them to continue.

Enlist help.  If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to members who are already participating, let them know how valuable their contributions have been thus far, and ask if they’d be interested in helping to facilitate discussions in a more official capacity.  Offer them a moderator title and give them clear responsibilities – such as starting one discussion per week – so they know what is expected of them.  Many people will be happy to take on a small responsibility in exchange for the acknowledgement, and even those who decline will be flattered by the offer.

How do you facilitate email discussions amongst your members?

Group Manager of the Month: Jackie Jobes of the Bright Futures Society

The Bright Futures Society was started over 35 years ago to prepare students for life after school and university.  With committees operating all over the UK, the non-profit educates UK students on employment opportunities and arms them with the skills necessary to hit the ground running after graduation.

JackieJobesWith over 50 university committees spread throughout the England, Scotland, and Wales, Society Manager Jackie Jobes has her hands full ensuring each society remains supported and successful.  Having first joined Bright Futures as a student, Jackie found the experience so enriching she joined the team after graduating, quickly progressing from South England’s Regional Manager to her current position, overseeing the entirety of Bright Future’s societies, while planning and hosting National Conferences and managing the organization’s online presence.  When GroupSpaces was first recommended to her at a networking event, she thought it was precisely the simple management solution the societies needed.

Jackie and the Bright Futures team created individual group websites for each university committee in their organization and then handed the group management over to local leaders. She remains a manger of every group to keep an eye on things and assist when needed. The goal of each committee is to build local membership and organize events and activities to boost the overall employability of the student community, and an online presence is necessary to promote growth and keep members informed.  “Our groups enable each of our societies to have their own fully functional website and database management system,” Jackie explains.  “It is also great for them to promote and manage their events and communications to their members.”

Jackie admits that implementing big changes like the move to GroupSpaces can seem daunting.  “It is always a challenge taking on a completely new software,” she relates, “never mind encouraging over 50 students groups to understand and use it effectively too!”  But never one to shirk from a challenge, Jackie got Bright Futures through any “teething pains” with the help of GroupSpace’s support team, and the non-profit is the better for it.  “We love the fact that we have a fully integrated system where all our members from all our separate groups come into one,” she reports. “It is much easier to manage this way and saves a hell of a lot of time!”

To see examples of what local Bright Futures Societies get up to, check out the groups Jackie created for Birmingham, Manchester, or Bristol.

Does your manager keep your group running like clockwork?  Drop us a line to nominate them for a  feature in a future post!

Email Tips: Think before you attach!

We’re not crazy about email attachments here at GroupSpaces HQ.  So much so that we limit the size of attachments in emails sent through GroupSpaces to 128MB.  An attachment may get the job done when you’re checking in with Mom, but it has the potential to cause problems when  emailing a large number of people on, say, a listserv.  The most troubling side effect being that your message may never reach your recipients.

Attachments 1) increase the size of your message, sometimes dramatically so, and 2) can freak virus scanners out, particularly when sent to a large group of people.  Either can result in your email being blocked or filtered out.  Fortunately, we have an easy workaround.

Screen shot 2013-01-22 at 16.20.17Instead of adding a file as an attachment, we recommend including a download link in your message.  Upload the file to the File section of your GroupSpaces account.  Ctrl+click(or right-click) on the download link that appears below the filename to copy the link.  Once copied, you can paste the download link directly into your email message and recipients will be able to click on the link to download the file.

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Just remember to check that you’ve configured the visibility settings for that particular file so members of your list you’re messaging will be able to access it!  We recommend making the file totally public if possible, so the download is immediate and no login is required.

New Feature: Catch up with Email Digests

You may have noticed our blog was down this past week, but we’re back with a special treat to make it up to you. Fresh out of the oven, the Email Digests you ordered are ready to be put to use!

There are some people that want up to the minute notifications when a lively email discussion is underway, and there are others who may view a constant stream of messages as a disruption. We’ve added an Email Digest option for the latter group, members who want to stay in loop without cluttering up their inbox. Digests collect all the messages sent to a list and present them within a single email—delivered on either a daily or weekly basis—making it easier for members to catch up on your group’s activities whenever it’s most convenient for them.

Member Email Preferences

Digests can be enabled in your account with a single clicking in your email settings, and members can opt in to digests by editing their member settings. The setup specifics can be found in our help pages.