October 22, 2012

12 ways measuring can empower your nonprofit

Book giveaway: Win the book to grasp the power of metrics!

John HaydonIf you’re like most nonprofit professionals, you’ll eventually admit that you could do a better job of measuring.

The good news is that you’re not alone. Most nonprofits (and in fact most for-profits) are struggling with the challenge of measuring relationships, which is essentially what social media is all about.

To help you keep your eyes on the prize, Beth Kanter and Katie Paine sell the benefits of measurement in their new book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit. Continue reading

February 14, 2012

To create a metrics program, first identify your goals


Image by Vladimir on BigStockPhoto

If you don’t know what you want to achieve, it doesn’t matter how many people ‘like’ you

This is the first part of a two-part series on creating a strategy for your nonprofit or social cause.

Target audience: Nonprofits, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, cause organizations, brands, businesses, government agencies.

Guest post by Melissa Foley

Deciding how to measure your social media efforts can be a challenging undertaking. Number of likes? Number of followers? Level of engagement? Which measures are right for you?

Believe it or not, these measures are virtually meaningless. In fact, all measures are meaningless — unless they are tied to your goals.

Think about it: An organization working to raise awareness about an issue and an organization working to pass legislation are likely to have very different goals, even though they are likely to use many of the same tools (eg., Facebook and Twitter). One-size-fits-all “Top 10 social media metrics” lists can be tempting but dangerous. Each organization should choose measures that align closely with your goals.

Figure out what you want

Your first step is to figure out what you really want to do, how and why. I recommend using the following strategic planning process. Don’t let “strategic planning process” scare you — one or two well thought-out bullets for each step is sufficient:

  • Step 1: Goal & objective
    Your first step is to carefully define a high-level goal (eg., pass this legislative bill) and a measurable objective (eg., get six key legislators to vote for the legislation).
  • Step 2: Strategy
    Next, you need to decide at a high level how you want to go about doing this. For example, influence newspapers in key districts to write stories about community support for the legislation.
  • Step 3: Tools and tactics
    Once you’ve got your strategy, map out an action plan for using new media and other tools to execute your strategy. For example, follow local newspapers on Twitter and engage in conversations with them, breaking news related to the legislation. Target communities when possible.

Continue reading

January 25, 2012

First steps in measuring impact for your nonprofit


Image by Eraxion on BigStockPhoto.com

Guest post by Julie Macalik
Greenlights for Nonprofit Success

The first step in starting to measure your impact is to identify the major outcomes that you want to examine. To be successful you’ll need full management support and a dedicated key project lead for your team. This person will take the helm on laying out tasks in a sequence, informing other staff of their roles and assignments, and providing assistance to people as they complete their parts of the evaluation.

The standard nonprofit data points come from fundraising, communications, programs, and finance, so consider these sources when gathering your team. For example, a representative from the fundraising department can make sure you consider when your funders’ reporting cycles are so that you are producing outcome measurement results at a time that aligns with their requests for information about your programs. Also, those most directly affected should provide meaningful participation, so don’t forget about your front-line staff directly involved in providing services.

Next, you’ll want to select the outcomes that you want to examine and prioritize them. For each outcome, specify what observable measures, or indicators, will suggest that you’re achieving that key outcome for impact. After you’ve made your selection, you can then identify what information is needed to show whether you’ve succeeded.

There are many types of technology and other management tools available to assist in this process, and now is the time to take stock of your technology and the tools you’re going to use to track your data. Decide how information can be efficiently and realistically gathered using the different methods that are best for your organization, including:

  • Surveys: Consider what features you’ll need. If you’re just looking to get your feet wet with a quick survey, one of the many free or low cost online survey tools will do the trick. In fact, a more sophisticated survey package could be considerably more difficult to use. On the other hand, if you’re looking for survey software to support rigorous research, the more advanced packages are more likely to have the features you need.
  • Interviews and focus groups: The desired outcome of this type of method is to solicit data without any influence or bias. This also allows you to develop a relationship with clients or other key stakeholders and get a full range of information. One benefit of focus groups is the ability for participants to feed off each other’s energy and bounce ideas off one another. Consider using an outside facilitator to help develop questions and protocol and to help identify themes from your data.
  • Continue reading

December 9, 2011

Best Web analytics tools for nonprofits

Web analytics
Image by NAN728 for Big Stock

How to choose the right analytics tools to measure your nonprofit’s success

Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, foundations, cause organizations, businesses, brands, administrators, consultants, social media managers, individuals.

By Laura S. Quinn and Kyle Andrei
Techsoup article courtesy of Idealware

Web analytics tools help you track your site’s statistics, which let you see how many people are looking at each page, what sites they came from, and other information to help develop a picture of who your audience is. But which Web analytics tool should you use? Data-tracking needs are similar for all organizations, including nonprofits, libraries, small businesses, and corporations. But given the vast array of analytics tools out there, selecting the right package can be overwhelming.

Idealware talked to six nonprofit experts about the Web analytics tools they’ve seen work well. We also consulted postings on a number of nonprofit listserves and scoured reports on the topic. In this article, we summarize what we’ve learned to help you understand what to consider when choosing an analytics package and identify free tools and applications to help you better monitor your site’s visitors.

Which data should you analyze?

There’s no point in looking for a tool unless you have a sense of what information you want to track. Needs can vary from simple traffic-monitoring to complex analysis on the behavior of specific user groups, support for multivariate testing, and more.

What important metrics and figures should you keep in mind when selecting a Web analytics package? We’ve broken them down into three overarching areas to track. The first thing you want to track is an accurate measure of how many people are using your site, which is neither as easy nor as clear-cut as you might think. Metrics that address this include hits, visits, unique visitors, and page views. Next, you’ll want to track who the visitors to your site are, in broad terms, and what they’re doing when they visit – in other words, what site features and pages engage them? Which ones go ignored? Last, it can be beneficial to track where visitors to your site are coming from. This can help you find similar sites or better understand the types of things that lead people to you.

These areas should be enough to get you started, but powerful Web analytics tools support even more sophisticated analysis. There are people who make a living analyzing Web statistics – if you have a large site and the desire for deep usage analysis, you may want to consult with one of them.

The world of analytics is complicated by the fact that not every software tool handles metrics in the same way. Determining what sequence of Web actions to interpret as a “visit” or a “unique visitor” is complex, and somewhat subjective. Different tools calculate these figures differently. Some types of software – called “log analytics” software – look at traffic based on a log of what pages your web server provides, while others rely on what’s reported back by “cookies” – pieces of information sent back by each user’s browser. Don’t be surprised if your metrics vary somewhat among tools. Continue reading

March 23, 2011

New report: Nonprofit numbers for social media, advocacy, fundraising


Email outreach still dwarfs social media and mobile.

Benchmarks study: How does your nonprofit stack up?

JD LasicaAt the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington D.C. the other day, I was one of 50 attendees who got a sneak preview of the fascinating 2011 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study, the big annual study that shows how nonprofits are using social media, email and much more.

You can download the free 36-page report from M+R Strategic Services and NTEN. The study — the fifth Benchmarks report — collected data about email messaging, email list size, fundraising, online advocacy, Facebook, Twitter and text messaging from 40 U.S.-based national nonprofit organizations for the calendar year of 2010. The study’s authors analyzed the results of 672 million email messages sent to over 17 million list subscribers; more than $114 million in online donations and 2.9 million advocacy actions.

Key fIndIngs of the report

  • Online fundraising showed steady growth for participating groups in 2010 despite the current economic climate. Most groups saw a 10% increase in dollars raised online from 2009 to 2010.
  • The 2010 advocacy response rate was 3.3%. From 2009 to 2010, advocacy response rates declined 7% on average.
  • Not surprisingly, advocacy emails had the highest open, click-through and response rates while fundraising emails had the lowest click-through rate.
  • Annual email list churn was 18%.
  • Online fundraising revenue grew overall by 14% between 2009 and 2010. This rebound was led by an enormous 163% increase in the International sector due to emergencies like the earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan. However, all sectors saw an increase of some size in overall revenue from 2009, driven by an increase in the number of online gifts.
  • On average, nonprofit Facebook Pages had 15,053 users, defined as people who “Like” a Page (but this includes large nonprofits).
  • Facebook users were much more engaged with nonprofits in the Wildlife / Animal Welfare sector than in any other sector.
  • On average, an organization’s text messaging list size was 1.9% of its email list size.
  • Annual mobile list churn was 14% in 2010.

The graphic at the top of this article conveys, at a glance, why no one is suggesting that nonprofits abandon email marketing in favor of social media or mobile. For every 1,000 email subscribers for your nonprofit, you’ll have, on average, 110 Facebook fans, 19 Twitter followers and 19 mobile text subscribers. What those numbers don’t show, however, is that engaged fans on social networks, and connected fans on mobile devices, tend to be more loyal, to respond at higher rates to advocacy campaigns and to donate at higher rates than the average user. Continue reading