Tag: benchmarks

Impact is not intent, it is the real-world difference your nonprofit makes, the results that flow from the work you do. Increasingly nonprofits, foundations, and government partners are focusing on impact rather than inputs for several reasons: to report to stakeholders, make allocation decisions or to revise current programs and strategies and more.

However, despite widespread awareness, most nonprofits do not engage in consistent impact evaluation. In 2016, only 12% of nonprofits allocated evaluation to their annual budgets; and of them, less than one-third have performed impact evaluation in the previous year. most lack the structure to implement significant organizational change on their own; others, lack the resources to acquire external support to perform the evaluation consistently.

Understanding data is no longer an expectation reserved for tech nerds who work behind the scenes. Today every nonprofit must be able to measure and track outcomes to articulate its effectiveness.

On a day-to-day basis, immersed in service to their constituents, nonprofits often distribute intake forms, update spreadsheets and even keep mental snapshots of their work – but simply having data collection processes is not enough. It is critical to track the indicators of success most vital to your nonprofit’s mission with surgical precision, then to effectively communicate it at regular intervals.

Areas of importance, depth of detail, formatting, and mediums for data reporting may all vary between stakeholders such as Board of Directors, Grantors, Volunteers, and Community Partners.

As an example, in the past, a mentoring organization was expected to report on their input or activities. An example, how often mentors and mentees participated in an activity together, is a metric focused on the program’s execution, but it does not speak to the program’s value. Today, those funders would expect nonprofits to show the number of mentees who went on to graduate from high school, attend college, and secure a job with sustainable income.

Sometimes implementing a data strategy means investing in technology, other times, the greater investment is staff-wide organization change.

Here are three powerful quotes from nonprofit leaders around the country on why they chose to implement a data strategy:

  1. Understanding data and measuring impact is a critical skill
    Dr. Bennie Harris of Morehouse School of Medicine articulated that “being able to understand data and measure impact is now a skill equally as essential to a development officer’s profile as is the traditional soft skills the position has been known to require.”
  2. Good data leads to new insights.
    Good data, accompanied by critical thinking, can also lead to surprising insights that allow nonprofits to serve our clients and our community in innovative ways. Jim Reese, Atlanta Mission President and CEO, shared “(After implementing a data strategy), we learned that more individuals stayed at our (facilities) than the total number of occupants of all other shelters in Atlanta. The data disproved the presumed transience of our residents.” As a result, Reese has challenged his team to think critically about how to better serve individuals who may be long-term occupants of the Mission, and they began to lobby for increased capacity.
  3. Out-of-the-box thinking can generate new streams of revenue.
    Open Hand, an established nonprofit had long focused its programs on home-delivered meals and wanted to further improve local communities by way of nutrition education but we’re not sure how to start. Developing succinct logic models revealed a way to incorporate nutrition education into their existing operations, thus was birthed Good Measure Meals is a calorie and portion-controlled gourmet meal program. Good Measure Meals’ innovative business model has helped differentiate the brand from other meal plan services. John Jarvis of TechBridge Inc. who worked to execute the initiative praised the initiative, stating that Open Hand is “an organization that is thinking beyond the status quo when it comes to nutrition.” Matthew Pieper, Open Hand Executive Director stated Good Measure Meals “(enabled) Open Hand to offer better meal choices to customers.”

In more ways than one, data strategy provides a massive opportunity to nonprofits. Not only can a well-defined and implemented data strategy improve reporting, but it can also enable nonprofits to scale, innovate and solve real problems.

“At the end of the day, it’s about helping (people) in need,” Matthew Pieper, Executive Director of Good Measure Meals.

There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.

 

Data-driven decisions continue to dominate the workplace, and a demand for leanness is inspiring nonprofits to find ways to turn their qualitative performance into a quantitative metric. Regardless of the size of your nonprofit, you can employ industry-leading analysis to improve your fundraising performance. Year over year, collecting and evaluating data can help you make big gains in money raised for your organization.

To help explain how these key metrics work, I’ll walk you through a fictional example.

Imagine it’s November at Well Valley Elder Services. The development team has just participated in its annual giving drive, and volunteers are working hard to get money counted. The board of directors and finance team have sheets of numbers and data, but as the majority of the staff is new, they don’t know what’s important to look at to evaluate the fundraiser and determine what changes to make for next year’s fundraiser.

Here are four metrics they—and you—should watch to make the best decisions for the future.

Year-over-year changes

Fundraising records at Well Valley aren’t in the greatest shape, but the development team at least knows what they’ve raised year over year for the past seven years, and about how many donors gave. This should be the bare minimum in terms of data collected and stored for your nonprofit, even if it’s just in a spreadsheet. These numbers become more meaningful when analyzed as a trend in context.

Well Valley could benefit by putting these numbers into context through plotting the year-over-year growth (or decline) in a simple line chart. They’ll be able to tell if profits are generally moving up or down over time without having to rely on a gut check to know for sure. They’ll also be able to tell the rate of this change by how steep the trendline is.

These fundamental analyses are macro-level performance indicators that may seem obvious, but might be lost if your organization is only looking at the past two or three years.

The development team can also plot different annual metrics alongside one another on the same chart to analyze trends in different areas. This will help them see how certain tweaks in the fundraising have affected the overall performance.

Donor volume

Fundraising revenue at Well Valley has been stagnant for a couple years. They’re coming in shy of their goal, despite feeling like they’ve been good stewards of their donor relationships and kept them apprised of how their dollars are doing good work by providing services like healthcare advocates. If this is the case, volume might be the key for Well Valley to reach new levels of fundraising success.

At larger nonprofit organizations, fundraising revenue typically comes in through annual gifts and events. If both of these revenue streams are stable, it’s time to consider looking at the number of new, retained, and lost donors.

If donor attrition is high, consider that something might be going on in your donor relationship space. Donors who are falling off might not feel engaged, especially new donors who are testing the waters.

If, however, you’re retaining the same donors for years at a time, consider the following tactics:

  • Create a campaign focused on a complementary demographic.
  • Host a matched giving campaign where one donor will match every new gift up to a certain amount.
  • Start an affinity group that adds a networking component in your nonprofit’s area of influence.

These tactics may help move volume, and donations, upward. If you can consistently add more donors than you lose, you have a much better shot at achieving sustainable growth.

Volunteer participation

Fundraising programs are often inherently reliant on a volunteer base to be successful. In many nonprofits, the board of directors and even fundraisers are volunteer community members who are invested in your mission.

Well Valley has also noticed that their volunteers are falling off, leaving them with increased workload and fewer feet on the ground. They’ve been hosting an annual giving drive with grassroots giving locations at various shops throughout the city. They’ve had to reduce their staffed locations in recent years, however, which has meant eliminating potential donation sources.

Well Valley has the potential to unlock the power of increasing volunteer participation. They currently lose about 10 volunteers annually, with each volunteer providing about 20 hours a week for about 6 weeks.  With the average volunteer hour valued at around $20, Well Valley is losing $24,000 in free labor while also eliminating revenue sources in their giving drive.

Paying attention to volunteer engagement could clue them in to places where they’re losing volunteers, and end up having to spend more in order to get less. Well Valley could keep more volunteers by creating more opportunities for engagement.

Staff satisfaction

Nonprofit workplace satisfaction is a hot topic, especially because it’s an easy thing to measure and has major implications for fundraising performance. A happy staff will put in more quality work if they feel connected to the mission and supported in their role.

Well Valley has a team of 20 who work tirelessly to meet their fundraising goals and deliver quality programming. But nobody has done a pulse check on the team in quite some time, and turnover seems to be increasing.

Measuring staff satisfaction can be as easy as conducting an anonymous feedback survey. Work with an HR manager or consultant to create a broad and in-depth assessment of how people feel like they’re doing and how they feel like the organization is doing. Ask them to rate things on a Lichter scale, and address areas like morale, work-life balance, physical facilities, client satisfaction, compensation, public perception, and growth potential.

Well Valley can give their team an opportunity to be heard, but it should do so only if it plans on actually responding to grievances. Of course, not every team member will ever be entirely satisfied, but if senior leadership is willing to make some changes, it can go a long way in expressing value. Remember, culture change isn’t easy, but it may be necessary, especially if it’s affecting fundraising success.

These macro-level, micro-level, internal, and external metrics are powerful and simple ways to keep tabs on the performance of your organization. If you want to see giving increase, check in on these metrics annually and track them in a data management system to monitor trends and chart success.

How many emails is the right number to send to your constituents? What kind of fundraising appeals are most effective? These are the questions that keep nonprofit marketing and development staff awake at night.

This year, NTEN is again teaming up with M+R on its Benchmarks Study: an in-depth look at nonprofit data, strategy, and trends. The study helps nonprofit fundraisers, organizers, and marketers make smart decisions based on the experiences of their peers. But we need your help.

Will you take part in the 11th Benchmarks Study in 2017? By adding your data, you’ll help make Benchmarks more useful. Your investment will be just a few hours of effort to collect and report your data to M+R, which will confidentially roll it up into the final study.

Complete the expression of interest form to take part.

Let me paint a picture: You’re ready to boost your online fundraising efforts or plan a strategy for online advocacy. You’ve got some experience but would love data on how your peers are doing on these fronts. You even have some numbers of your own to share to help them as well. Gosh…if only there was an opportunity to crunch some data!

Well, your opportunity is here in the form of the M+R and NTEN 2016 Benchmarks Survey.

Now in it’s tenth year, the report collects and analyzes data from nonprofits (last year 84 organizations participated!) to establish benchmarks and trends that nonprofits can use when crafting their digital strategies.

Curious about how the data is used and presented? Take a look at the 2015 survey. Still not convinced you should participate? Peep the 2014 trailer video for additional insights and an afternoon chuckle.

By adding your data (which is kept completely confidential), you’ll help make Benchmarks the most complete and comprehensive compendium of online nonprofit metrics possible—and you’ll find out everything you need to know about the numbers that matter most.

Help determine the industry standard for online fundraising and advocacy. Sign up to participate here: http://mrbenchmarks.com/2016/participate.html by January 29. 

Questions? Concerns? Data jokes? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our friends at M+R. (Actually—just send us the data jokes.)

Your organization is successful and growing day by day. Yeah! That’s the good news. The bad news is that the overhead needed to support more volume is stretching your resources to the limits. You know you need to do something to support the organization’s changing needs, but what exactly?

The Way It Is Now

This is the situation at most small, nonprofit organizations I have worked with. Files are scattered from here to eternity. The shared file drive resembles the Wild West. Content is hidden from view in departmental silo-folders. There is no intranet, so it’s difficult to know what other staff members have written or created. The primary method of communication between departments is email; consequently your email inbox is overflowing and has to be archived on a regular basis, which is a huge time waster. Yuck.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

What to do? It takes some work, but you can move your company forward with steps that are well-defined. You are not the first to make this journey. And guess what? There is no technology in the first part of the process.

Take Some Time To Think About It

Discuss the following with your staff. Creating a common vision is one of the most important things you can do. If everyone is on the same page, a unified effort can accomplish wonders.

Here are some points to crystallize and document:

  • What is your mission statement? Why does your particular organization exist and in its most basic sense, what do you do?
  • What is your vision? What impact do you want to have on society? What are your values and principles? What do you believe in?
  • What is the state of your organization? Are you just starting out, or have you been around for a while?
  • How many physical spaces are you dealing with? Are you a museum that shows works of fine art, a theatre company with performing stages, a charitable institution with offices, or perhaps a library with books to house and lend?
  • Do you create any products, manufacture artifacts, or offer services? If so, what processes are employed and are they written down?
  • What type of marketing is important to you? What kind of IT department or resources do you have now? Is there a document library you wish to support or start? Do you want to be able to reuse strategic assets or content across departments?
  • How many employees do you have? Are you growing, shrinking, or in a steady state?
  • How often do you publish patron communications, web pages, e-mail blasts, marketing content, photos, or images? What kind of graphics do you use for your content? Are they systematically stored somewhere for reuse?
  • Do you sell tickets? What kind of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are you currently using? Are you happy with it? Do you wish it did more for your projects? Are you getting the patron data out of it that’s helping to build your following?

This is a start. After consolidating your vision and mission statement, you may wish to tailor your focus to any particular areas you think need special attention.

Prioritize

Write the answers down and store them somewhere that is accessible to your staff members. Nobody has unlimited time and money. What is most important to your staff, your management, your board, and your audiences?

Decide what you want to tackle now and what can wait. Consider the income picture for this year and the next two or three. Of course, you can’t tell exactly what will happen, but make some educated guesses and reasonable estimates. The point is to consider your world and how you will proceed in it. You can always adjust course later when you revisit the plan. But if you have no initial course of action, then you are always reacting to the present instead of taking meaningful steps towards a successful future. You want to be proactive, not reactive.

Planning

The next step is to make a plan. First, define several business goals for five years out. Then identify shorter-term, associated goals that will set your organization on the path to achieve the long-term goals. Finally, decide on objectives and specific actions for each goal.

It’s useful to assign a primary owner to each goal. Most times, one department will not be able to achieve the goal alone. Staff members will need help from partnering departments with complementary skill sets. Explicitly nurturing partnerships, synergies and teaming opportunities is one of the ways to make your organization stand out in the marketplace. For example, if Marketing understands how IT can assist its digital content strategy program, staff members working together to identify the software requirements and implementation strategies can make the best use of limited budgets. IT may be able to point out shortcuts to success or gaps in technical assumptions. Marketing may be able to articulate requirements that IT is not aware of.

Be sure the plan’s goals and objectives are as clear as possible. The actions should have measurable steps to them. The key is to produce metrics on a regular basis so that you can check progress and recalibrate if necessary.

It helps to have an outline like the sample below.

DutraJayne.img1

Execute

Now, put your plan into action. Most businesses do this annually and revisit their achievements quarterly. Be sure your efforts are included in the budget process so that resources are allocated for the projects and initiatives that make up the actions needed to reach your goals.

Measure

Ideally, you will identify actions that have measurable outcomes. For example, if your annual goal is to raise online traffic by 25%, perhaps the quarterly goal is to see an increase of at least 5-6% each quarter. If you miss your actionable outcome, then backtrack and reconsider the plan. Are there additional actions you can take to realize the results you’re looking for? Do you need to apply additional resources? Were your initial assumptions off in some way? Was your target too optimistic to be realistic?

Even though you may not reach your goals right away, these self-evaluation processes are extremely valuable. The better you can pinpoint your organization’s strengths and weaknesses, the more effective steps you can take towards improvement.

Reassess Periodically

Check your strategic plan every year. New conditions, personnel, and offerings may change the direction you want the organization to take. Every situation is different, and yours will most likely be unique to your history, location, and internal culture.

Many times, we get wrapped up in the crisis of the day or go about daily routines without taking a break to consider how we can improve our business environment. By considering the mission, prioritizing goals, making a plan, executing a strategy, and evaluating the results, an organization can make giant strides towards becoming successful and effective. Start your plan today!

2015 Nonprofit Staffing ReportNow in our ninth year of collecting and reporting on these nonprofit technology spending and practices data, this research provides valuable benchmarks to help you assess and plan your technology budgets and strategies, and considers the nonprofit sector as a whole to gauge the maturity and effectiveness of technology strategies and use.



Please log in to download this report.
With NTEN’s theory of change in mind, this report examines technology staffing levels, technology budgets, overall organizational approach to technology decisions, as well as technology oversight and management practices. Over 700 individuals from nonprofits participated in taking the survey, ranging from various operating budget size, staff size, and more.

Key findings from this year’s survey:

  • On average, nonprofits have 4.6 technology-responsible staff.
  • On average, each technology responsible staff supports about 28 organizational staff members.
  • We continue to see a positive trend in terms of including technology in strategic plans with 66% of all respondents indicating this practice.
  • The median technology budget as a percentage of the organization’s total operating budget across all organization sizes in our survey ranges from 1% to 2.2%.
  • We asked respondents to indicate the number of technology-responsible staff with technology credentials (e.g., a degree or certificate in IT, computing, or programming). We found a strong correlation between Technology Adoption and number of technology-responsible staff with credentials.
  • We have seen some positive change regarding respondents conducting Return on Investment (ROI) evaluation for technology investments: while we’ve seen no increase in firm Yes’s here, we see the following: last year only 36% reported conducting informal or infrequent ROI, compared to 42% this year. This has moved the “No” responses from 48% last year to 41% this year.


Please log in to download this report.

M+R and NTEN’s 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Report returns for the ninth year, the ultimate guide to nonprofit industry standards for online fundraising, advocacy, and list building. The data from the nonprofits we survey is big. So big, it couldn’t be contained by two measly dimensions, and had to be released in 3D. But the really exciting thing is that we’ve crunched numbers from a whopping 84 organizations this year (last year we worked with 53 organizations), which means more data, more insight, and more takeaways about nonprofit fundraising, list building, and advocacy to share with all of you.

We’ve also added three new sectors to our line up, which means we have data from organizations working in environmental, international, rights, wildlife/animal welfare, hunger/poverty, cultural, and health fields (also: other).

What did the findings reveal? Here’s what you need to know about nonprofit online fundraising and advocacy last year:

  1. Online revenue is up! Online revenue increased by 13 percent from 2013 to 2014 for the groups in our study thanks to a 32% increase in monthly giving and 16.6% increase in web traffic.
  2. More gifts in smaller amounts. Nonprofits are reaching more people but their average donation is smaller. The average online one-time gift was $104 and monthly gifts were $23 for participants in our study last year. For every 1,000 web visitors, participants raised $610 — that’s 61 cents per visitor, down 12 percent from the year before.
  3. Forty bucks and 29 actions. If you’re like the groups in our study, that’s how much money you’ll raise and the number of actions your supporters will take for every 1,000 fundraising and advocacy messages you send.
  4. Audiences on social media are growing faster than email — but email still reaches a lot more supporters. For every 1,000 email subscribers, our participants had 285 Facebook fans and 112 Twitter followers.
  5. About three quarters of nonprofits are investing in paid marketing online, including paid search, retargeting, and text and display ads. And many organizations are investing big bucks — 16% of respondents spent $100,000 or more in paid search alone last year.

> Download the 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study (and share it with your peers!)

Also, if the 3D report is a bit too much on the eyes for you, please download the report in 2D!

You can also check out the infographic that details key findings from the report, and create your very own infographic with your benchmarks. Also, check out the article that appeared in Mashable: Leading nonprofits are raising more money online than ever before.

2015benchmarks.jpg

M+R and NTEN’s 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Report returns for the ninth year, the ultimate guide to nonprofit industry standards for online fundraising, advocacy, and list building. The data from the nonprofits we survey is big. So big, it couldn’t be contained by two measly dimensions, and had to be released in 3D. But the really exciting thing is that we’ve crunched numbers from a whopping 84 organizations this year (last year we worked with 53 organizations), which means more data, more insight, and more takeaways about nonprofit fundraising, list building, and advocacy to share with all of you.

We’ve also added three new sectors to our line up, which means we have data from organizations working in environmental, international, rights, wildlife/animal welfare, hunger/poverty, cultural, and health fields (also: other).

What did the findings reveal? Here’s what you need to know about nonprofit online fundraising and advocacy last year:

  1. Online revenue is up! Online revenue increased by 13 percent from 2013 to 2014 for the groups in our study thanks to a 32% increase in monthly giving and 16.6% increase in web traffic.
  2. More gifts in smaller amounts. Nonprofits are reaching more people but their average donation is smaller. The average online one-time gift was $104 and monthly gifts were $23 for participants in our study last year. For every 1,000 web visitors, participants raised $610 – that’s 61 cents per visitor, down 12 percent from the year before.
  3. Forty bucks and 29 actions. If you’re like the groups in our study, that’s how much money you’ll raise and the number of actions your supporters will take for every 1,000 fundraising and advocacy messages you send.
  4. Audiences on social media are growing faster than email – but email still reaches a lot more supporters. For every 1,000 email subscribers, our participants had 285 Facebook fans and 112 Twitter followers.
  5. About three quarters of nonprofits are investing in paid marketing online, including paid search, retargeting, and text and display ads. And many organizations are investing big bucks — 16% of respondents spent $100,000 or more in paid search alone last year.

> Download the 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study (and share it with your peers!) 

You can also check out the infographic that details key findings from the report, and create your very own infographic with your benchmarks. Also, check out the article that appeared in Mashable: Leading nonprofits are raising more money online than ever before.

If you’re interested in learning more about this report, register for our free webinar next Wednesday, May 6 at 11:00am-12:00pm PT.

Participate in the 2015 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study!Are you ready to crunch some serious numbers and dive deep into nonprofit data? Are you ready to find out how your online program stacks up against your competitors, colleagues, and frenemies? We thought so. Which is why we’re excited to invite organizations to participate in M+R and NTEN’s 2015 Benchmarks Study to help determine this year’s industry standards for online fundraising, advocacy, and list building.

Now in its ninth year, the report collects data from over 50 (and counting!) organizations to capture the metrics and trends that nonprofits can use to gauge their current work, and help inform how to move forward with their digital strategies. It is, in a word, awesome. In a hyphenated word: super-awesome.

Still not clear on what Benchmarks is or why you will love being a part of it? Not a problem. Hop on over to mrbenchmarks.com to check out last year’s report, and check out the infographic that appeared in Mashable. Also, don’t forget to watch the Benchmarks trailer which pretty much sums it all up (pun intended).

By adding your (totally confidential) data to the 2015 study, you’ll help make Benchmarks the most complete and comprehensive compendium of online nonprofit metrics possible — and you’ll find out everything you need to know about the numbers that matter most.

If you’d like to participate, let us know by filling out this form, and we’ll be sure to follow up with next steps: mrbenchmarks.com/participate.html. The deadline to express your interest in this form is December 31. 

Not sure if you’re a good fit, but still interested? Fill out the form anyway – we’re looking for organizations of all shapes and sizes and want to hear from you. And of course, if you need any additional information at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out to benchmarks@mrss.com with questions – our friends at M+R have all the answers.