In this episode, we have Farhad Khan, CEO of Grype, to discuss knowing when is the right time for nonprofits to invest in new technology. He pioneers using a roadmap to maximize return on investment in new technology solutions.

In this episode we cover:

  • Using a marketing roadmap
  • Evaluating ROI of new technology
  • Common myths around adopting new technology
  • Knowing what technology to invest on

More about Farhad Kahn and Grype Solutions.

Grype Solutions works with Professional Associations to help grow their membership with Digital Marketing and by building engaging Membership portals.  

Here are a few links to their workshops and services – 


Hi, Trista McIver here, program advisor with AMC MPO solutions. Today on a strategic nonprofit, we will be talking about associations, increasing their technological platforms. I’ve invited Farhad Khan on the podcast today. He is the founder of great digital accompany, which assists, not for profit associations in growing their membership with engaging membership portals.

Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for having me here. Great. , so could you please , let us know , what your role is, grape digital, and a little bit more about grape as well. Yeah, for sure. For sure. So I’m far ahead and I am arguably a software engineer and, , I switched my carrier from being an engineer to an entrepreneur pretty early and well, once I switched to an entrepreneur, like I’m enjoying my work and everything away better than before.

and I’m a CEO and founder of a company, Greg digital. And what we do is we help professional associations and memorable organizations to grow their associate from the membership. With digital marketing and by building membership portals. So when we work with organizations, what we typically do is that we try to help them both with their digital strategy and the implementation.

Yeah. The strategy as well. So I don’t find that many professional associations and members, organizations do not actually have a good mix of strategy and execution at the same time. Some would do more strategy, less integration, some would do a lot of implementation, but not enough strategy. So what we do is we, when we start to work with any organization, or we start with a very solid light digital strategy workshop to set a roadmap for them to grow their organization and to grow their membership.

So once they’re rolling, maybe is in place, then it’s much easier for them to actually implement that. And we helped them with the implementation of the roadmap as well. yeah, and we have been working with professionals associations for over 10 years now. I have one leg, many hours in my area of work.

We have worked with some of the largest member organizations here in Canada, and we look forward to working with them a lot more in the future. Great. , you touched on it a little bit earlier, but, , can you share a piece of advice, for an organization on how to improve, , the leverage of their technology?

Yeah, for sure. For sure. one key challenge just that we see professional associations have all the time, is that the way they implement their technology is often backwards? So what I mean by backwards is that. say, we’ll say, we’ll talk about the example of a member of management system.

So if a professional association thinks that they need to implement a new member management system at this point in time, what they’ll do is they’ll go out and find out what are the different member, admin systems or CRM platform that are available out there in the market that they can use. So they will look at a few and they’ll probably try some demos and whatnot, and then they will pick one and implement that.

So what, what’s wrong with this process? What happens in this case, is that implementing a major solution? this takes a lot of leg, if time and effort. So maybe you’re looking at 10 to $50,000 of investment in implementing a new solution. You take on a solution like that. But, we don’t always have a professional that physicians don’t always have a deer Glen off, like how to recoup that investment from implementing the technology.

So if you’re investing. So $40,000 in implementing a new member of them and system, then ideally he should get $40,000 back in return when the sustain is launched and more, otherwise your investment is not actually effective. So I think this is the one challenge that a lot of professional associations and nonprofit organizations go through.

So what is wrong with this approach and what should you do? So we always recommend, organizational structure that is started by looking inside, start by looking in health and finding out what are the different challenges their organization is going through right now, if we talk about, example of the member management systems, we need to find out what are some of the things that they really need to do.

To engage better with their members. What do their members like, are there other members really hands on? Do they want to keep in touch with the association every single week? Is it like that much or are they more hands-off like, would they prefer to have one communication or maybe event late?

every couple of months. yeah. Depending on what things your association needs to do to provide a better service, to actually help your members better. We need to understand, to create a roadmap. So we start off, we have to start with creating a roadmap, understand like what is wrong and what you need to do.

So if you have. Clear roadmap of what fellowships do you actually have to put in place? Then if you know what tools you will need. And if you go out and find out what member in the systems and what CRM systems can actually help you implement that roadmap, then you’ll find that your investment in the technology, you’re going to be much more effective.

And you’ll find that your return on investment will actually go up as well. So we find a lot of organizations, implement the technology backwards, as opposed to looking inside. First, they start going, looking at a solution, our CRM, our member management system, and they take it back to their organization and see what problems would the solution fit.

So this is so bad for, so I think this is one key advice that I give, all of my client organizations. and, many of them actually has benefited from this and, just by doing this one simple step, we uncover by doing our strategy session at the very beginning, like we uncover so many little things that the organization never thought of before.

So I think this is the one key advice that I would have for professional associations, Tristan. So thank you. so when you’re talking about creating a roadmap, so what I’ve talked with some, other, Companies that do, that have the CRMs and all the different types of member management software or, board management software, that type of thing.

and that’s something that you’re touching on too, which is very interesting is to actually look at the organization from within first, almost do Like a poll or, a survey within the, the organization of staff itself first, because there’s a lot of software out there that, it’s too much for where the organization needs, and I think is that what you’re trying to say?

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. yeah. Yeah. Okay, cool. No, that’s great. That’s great. Thank you. say, what if, I guess another piece of advice, what would you give, advice, around, utilizing the technology, within the organization. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. For sure. And, something that we find with personnel affairs a lot is that there’s a lot of like resistance to change often, so maybe, yeah.

Yeah. And we see this all the time, but I’d like maybe the team members are not digitally savvy, or maybe they’re very used to doing things in a certain way and they don’t want to change they’re there. So comfortable doing that. So we find that there’s a lot of resistance to change often.

And there’s also a fear of technology that like, that comes with it as well. So we are effort or things that we don’t know of. and fear of technology is something that is like really very common across organizations and not just professional associations. We work with a lot of like large government organizations as well, in particular in government it’s even worse.

what I say to all my client organizations is that, technology is happening no matter what, It’s taken with this happening, no matter what. And, we don’t really have a choice right now. We don’t have a choice. We have to embrace it. if we don’t embrace it, the rest of the world is just like, moving ahead, they’re just moving forward.

So you can either embrace it and grow with the rest of the world. Or you can fall behind, you can get buried by the wave, you either, The technology wave or you get back. Bye. So which one would you prefer? in order to, get over the fear of technology, I guess like the first thing that people need to do is start by using smaller tools, as opposed to like adopting like large technology solutions.

Like at once, like start by using small tools that you are more comfortable with get yourself like used to with those. And the other things that are technology is becoming like mat, any person today has some basic knowledge of calculus, algebra, arithmetic.

and geometry. And if we have gone to any level of school, maybe finished even legs, like sight on the Creek, you’re not at school. You will have a basic idea of math technology and computer programming is becoming like that over time. So in a couple of years, every single person who’s going through school or like middle school or high school, they will be expected to know quite a bit more about technology.

That was perfect to actually, No coding like computer programming by itself. So coding in a couple of years will become like math is to them. So you can either write the technology wave or even get paired by it. Now, also at the same time, you have to keep in mind that technology in itself is never a solution.

Technologic is really yet at least to solve problems. what do you mean by that? Is that there’ll be often thing that if we just took this, fancy CRM system, if we just implemented that, or if we build this like fancy website, it, it will solve all of our problems. But in reality, it’s almost never the case.

So taking what you had still does not solve your problems, but what you can instead do is if you know all that on your website, as a certain like process or a certain technique is working really well. Why not double down on that? So if your members are really engaging with a certain type of service that you’re delivering, why not implement technology there, or use technology to make that service 10 times better?

so use technology as a catalyst. To double down on your strengths and deliver a much better service to your members. So as opposed to like thinking of technology as a solution for everything, what we should do is find out, he thinks that you’ll need to do, in your organization to help yourself go to help your organization grow and then use the right technology, use the right tools to amplify your strengths 10 times.

So I think the right use of technology really is in that, like they’re using it strategically and not just using it randomly. Oh, very good. Yeah, no, that’s, you mentioned coding and, I think that is the way of the future. My friend has a son, he’s eight, I think. And she’s putting him in some coding courses, and it’s just, as you said, like the, the way of the future, we’re just, it’s.

We’re going to need to know and what end those and those young kids are gonna rip it around past us pretty soon. how could, associations, like what would you suggest for associations to increase their membership through marketing? Yeah, for sure. So I guess. if you are looking to invest in marketing or digital marketing for your professional association, I always tell everyone that like the first one you should look at is to your existing members because, it’s, it’s 10 times more difficult to, sell to a new client as opposed to fame to an existing client.

So if you’re not doing enough and most associations, a lot of officials don’t do enough in marketing to their existing members. So the one thing that I tell everyone is that let’s start by marketing your benefits to your existing members first. And when you’re marketing your benefits to our existing members, like you shouldn’t just sell the features of your association.

Don’t just tell them that, Hey, we have this training, we have that, that you can do. Don’t just say that. Tell them how your benefits, how they’ve been through soccer association. Again, improve the person’s life. How your clinics can actually improve the parcels carrier overall. So a share shared the value that the individual that the member will let you do, you get in their own lives or in their own carriers, stuck by that.

And then said, by the way, we have a soul, you can use our benefits to improve your life. And by the way, this is our membership fee. if you start by doing that, you’ll find that your members are much more receptive to your marketing because you’re speaking about their lives first and your members want to be hard.

So as opposed to like selling your Peter stock more about your members, how can they improve their lives? How can they improve their carriers? Now, the other thing about marketing is that yeah. So forth. And so first of all, yeah, you start by, marketing to your existing members. And after that, you’ll go up, you go outside.

Your goal, you don’t marketing for your prospecting numbers and then tell them how great your aspiration is now. one, one thing that we find a lot of organizations do is that they do not have, like a coherent strategy in their marketing. So they will try a bit of this, a bit of that, and many of them are probably like doing a lot of things all at once.

But really in marketing, you don’t have to do all that. A lot of things, a lot of different, but instead of what you have to do is to do a few things really well. So in marketing, you have to take an iterative approach. You have to start by designing small experiments to see, Hey, do email campus work well for us.

So it should be sent email campaigns or, those social media work better, the better. So we have to design small experiments and every single time when you design experiments, don’t do too many things at once to maybe take three marketing activities at a time. So maybe. If Facebook take email and then take Twitter, right?

So you’re focusing one, three at a time and then see which one is performing the best. And then the channels and activities that are performing the best you double down on those. And then you’ll stop doing the activities that are not working out that well for you. And the channels that are not working out, in the next iteration, you maybe you discard almost all of it or you lower your investment in that area.

And then you find a new activity or a new channel that you think will actually give you better returns. So over time you have to take an iterative approach to understand which areas like which channels should be working better. And, over the. longterm what you have to, because you have to stick to those few channels and those few campaigns that are really working for you.

So if you find a few that are really working the moment, you have realized that they are working well, don’t look for another shiny new thing, like whatever is working double down on those, invest more on those. so this is like what, most organizations should do, as opposed to like doing too many things, you should really narrow your focus and then focus on the few things that really matter.

And you have to have a structured approach to find out which marketing campaigns are actually working better for you without a structured approach. It usually does not happen. like you can send out like any middle blast and not on and not tread the results. How many opens do you get?

How many, the place you get. So it’s very easy to actually like. Do marketing activities and feel good about it that you think that, Oh, you know what, I did the marketing, so I’m done. But that’s actually not enough. You do the activity, you track the results, And then you iterate, you improve that.

And if it’s not working at all, maybe leave their channel altogether. try something new. yeah. So I guess like in order to improve the, member engagement, cause there’s some other things that officials should do for their member marketing. Yeah. No, that’s actually, that’s really interesting.

Cause we do that, with AMC, we track, we Mark, our marketing. but I know that, my mom’s part of yacht club and they don’t really have any. Marketing. if they were to market themselves on tech talk, that would not be the right place to do their marketing. It’s just emails. And even some of them don’t have emails.

They’re all retired people with boats and stuff like that. yeah. I know. It’s really interesting that you touched on. it’s not just about the marketing, it’s also about tracking and seeing where your engagement is coming from a is their engagement via. Yeah, exactly. If they’re opening emails, even, you can use, there is software to track that.

So that’s yeah, that’s good. So is there anything that I missed or anything that you’d like to touch on that you’d like, That we should share with the other associations. Yeah, for sure. For sure. like most professional officials are nonprofits and they have a limited budget. So when you’re actually like investing, a limited amount of money, like where should you focus your investment?

So we can do a lot of things. what I find is that for marketing, what you should be doing is you take in. Outside in approach. And it is this kind of seems backwards. But what it really means is that, when you’re invested in your like technology or you’re investing in your marketing, start by finding out what are some of the things that you can do to improve your service delivery to your members.

So start with young members. What are some of the, he thinks you have to go to a significant improve there. They’re like, that’s fine. It was delivered to your members being proved on member experience. So you’ll start by doing that. and then if you identified like three or four different things, you have to do then come back.

What investment do you have to make within our organization to make those happen? So in general, in our organization, you typically have like marketing, you have operations. Yeah. Then you have finance. So there are different levels. Parking is where you can make the investment for your digital technology.

If you take an outside in approach, you’ll see that, when you have a single focus, like your primary focus is to improve. The services that you’re delivering to your members, you’ll find that you have to make small investments, maybe in marketing, you have to make small investments in operation.

You have to do a bit of an improvement in your finance. When you have a single focus, you’ll find that your investor and we’ll actually be spread around, brought different gear. Yes. you’re investing your, marketing dollars or technology dollars at the right place because you have a single goal that you’re trying to achieve.

That is to improve your member experience, Or can maybe reach to, like a larger group of prospective members in order to grow your membership. I always like to tell people that are taken outside, proton start by defining a key goal, a key metric, a key performance indicator, a KPI that will really move the needle for your organization.

So when you start there and then you’ll come back and find, by the way, you know what we can, Mark it. Yeah. Lack of hospital members. But when all these members like comments start to sign up, we don’t really have the internal operational specialists sustain that rest hour. system will crumble.

So maybe even have to make some investment in our member management system as well. Maybe the system that process that we have. And it’s not working that well. So you know what, so while we’re doing our marketing activities, let’s like do some investment in our member management system. And by the way, our renewal process sucks.

Like we don’t renew. So then you could go back to your financial side, right? Is your financial tools. So why are people not renewing? Where are people dropping off? So maybe, make an automatic so that people don’t actually have to renew by default, they will renew, right? And then only when they want to cancel the membership, they call you and then they have to cancel.

So things like that. So when you have single focus and then you have a single goal and you’ll take that goal and bet your organization and see what are the different investments you have to make in the different areas, you’ll find that the investment that you make will be significantly more effective.

And I guess like with that, I will touch on one, one last thing. So when we are looking at, investing in marketing activities in general, a lot of people think activities. So they think that, Hey, you know what, maybe Facebook would work better for me. Maybe you can start on, would work better for us, or, you know what our members are not even not on any social media, so maybe email would work better.

So we think of marketing as activities, but really what makes, marketing, Can be a successful the design of a whole campaign. It’s not just one activity, right? So what we should we be doing in designing our marketing is still like a design or marketing campaigns around key activities.

So key activities or key events. So for example, like if you’re a professional that is doing a webinar, right? So they’re subliminally coming up with a great speaker, then that webinar will become your key event. And then you design your marketing campaign around that key event. You’ll take that webinar and then you.

From what the hell out of it, right? So you promote the hell out of it. And when you’re promoting that webinar, you can use Facebook. You can use LinkedIn, you can use Twitter, you can use email blast, right? you can actually use paid ads. But what you’re doing is that you start with an event, design a campaign around that one event.

Because your prospect and members can come from a variety of different sources. So you don’t always know. And, when you’re promoting your events and promoting your services to a diverse group of members, like a member of staff, different ages, they are, they will usually like from different sources, different social media channels.

Younger audience. They are probably like more active on Instagram. like people, my age are probably like more active on Facebook. And maybe like another generation is not active on social media at all. They only read emails. So it’s not about one activity. It’s about designing campaigns around your events and making sure that those campaigns are well executed.

if you do that, then you’ll find that your marketing campaign is a little bit more effective. Yeah, I guess I had a thought that, it might be an idea also for, an association to ask their members. How would you like to receive, information, would you prefer email? Would you prefer. through Facebook, would you prefer through Instagram or just even ask them, or just do a survey with them about what do you use the most and then that way?

the target, cause I know I was same yacht club. My mom is part of, some members still want. Yeah. the AGM notice mailed to them through the posts. Exactly. What are the ladies? how does this just it’s so it’s interesting that, there are some people they don’t have emails.

Like they just do not have emails they’re in their eighties. They’re just, they don’t and, yeah, it’s really, I think that you. Especially, what you touched on today is it’s really important to know your membership. Yeah, for sure. For sure to know who your demographic, age demographic, and then their technology knowledge too.

but as you said, we are moving to an age where. are my kids going to be coding and I’m still, on the iPad, he’s teaching me. Thanks. thanks, Virginia state of forehead. So how could, how can our listeners learn more? Yeah, for sure. So if you want to find out more about like myself or about the work that we do or our company, Oh, you can go to our website.

It is a that is G R Y P It’s the word gripe with a Y as opposed to using I, and if you go to our website, you’ll actually find we have a number of free guides there that you can download for free. So feel free to use them. They’re very helpful for professional associations. And particularly we have a guide for improving your memory retention and the personal disposition.

So you can download that guide for sure. And I am pretty active on social media and, I have a podcast as well, so I host a podcast it’s for professional associations. So if you like what you hear over here, you can actually like, come listen to our podcasts. And there’s a lot more of this over there in that pocket as well.

About Tom (TJ) Abbott

Tom (TJ) Abbott, CSP is the Managing Director of AMC NPO Solutions and an authority on Governance. He has over 25 years experience as CEO, President and board director of several not-for-profit organizations. Tom has also spoken in over 20 countries.