Tag: measurement

Demand for social good services is rising faster than organizations can meet it. To fund your mission, you need to know where your organization stands compared to your peers.

In this white paper — created in partnership with the Blackbaud Institute and NetHope — we’ll explore the value of collaborative benchmarking to comparatively measure your performance against peer organizations. By understanding your position in the sector, you can:

  • Prioritize resources according to your organization’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Ensure that you invest in programs which will lead to organizational growth
  • Enhance collaboration across the social good sector for stronger mission delivery
  • Download the white paper to find out how you can make the most of your benchmarking opportunity!

Download the report from the Blackbaud Institute and begin collaborating today.

A strong social media presence is important for nonprofits. From brand awareness to improved engagement with supporters and donors, there are many reasons to improve your social media strategy. However, it’s not always easy when social media is only part of your role.

When you don’t have the time to apply new ideas, you tend to stick to what’s familiar. This is fine if you want to maintain your current social media presence, but it’s not the best approach to stay creative and engaged in today’s fast-paced social media landscape.

To improve your social media strategy in 2019, here are five mistakes to avoid.

Using too many platforms without a clear strategy

It’s common to jump into social media platforms because they’re new or “everyone is there” without a clear strategy.

There’s no need to join all popular social media platforms if your community and supporters are not using them. Moreover, the more platforms you join, the harder it is to keep them active. It’s better to manage two or three platforms rather than setting up a profile on all social media channels, some of which might not be ideal for your organization.

Think of your strategy and what you want to achieve from every social media channel and then decide which ones will most likely work better for your cause. For example, instead of just saying “we need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn,” start by being more specific.

Each of these social networks provides a clear objective:

  • Facebook: to engage with your supporters of all ages
  • Twitter: to share live updates from your events and benefit from trending awareness
    days to expand your reach
  • Instagram: to tell your story in a more visual way while building a more engaged community of broader supporters
  • YouTube: to showcase your videos and use the channel as an online video library to raise awareness about our your work
  • LinkedIn: to recruit your staff and volunteers

Posting without a plan

You may feel your organization doesn’t have much time to create a content calendar for your social media presence, so you decide to share content when you have the time to do it.

This may seem easy and efficient, but it’s not the most effective strategy.

Posting without a plan can typically save you time from organizing your content in advance, but it also reduces the effectiveness of your social media presence.

If you post to a channel on an ad-hoc basis, it’s harder to remember your initial objectives and to bring your team together to help source the content.

When you spend the time to plan your content, either with spreadsheets or social media management tools like Lightful, you can create more effective posts that align with your main objectives.

Treating social media as a silo

When you create a social media strategy and its objectives, don’t ignore other channels that might complement your organization’s work.

For example, you can send an email newsletter that promotes your latest fundraising campaign. You can also encourage people to spread the word about the campaign on their social media channels by including the links to your social profiles. When supporters promote your campaign through their own networks, you can include these metrics in your social media strategy.

Thus, working with numerous teams can ensure that communications, marketing, fundraising, content, and even SEO can come together to yield the best results for your nonprofit.

Not measuring your performance

A lack of time or skills shouldn’t be an excuse to not measure your social media performance. This is a common mistake, and you end up posting on social channels without really knowing what works and what needs improvement.

Some fundamental steps are to review every channel’s main stats (reach, engagement, clicks, and demographics) while discovering the best performing posts. Sometimes you can be surprised by the findings even when you’re sure of what works and what doesn’t.

Allocate at least 30 minutes each week to review your stats and document the most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your nonprofit. This is also useful when communicating the success of your work to other team members.

Ignoring the latest trends and how they apply to your strategy

You don’t need to be an expert to keep up with the most important social media trends. Sometimes you can even review your own social media presence and what other nonprofits are posting on each channel to help you create successful content for every channel.

Here are some top social media trends to consider for your organization:

  • Visual content to improve awareness and engagement: Images, videos, GIFs, infographics are here to stay. They can help you tell your story in a more engaging way. Moreover, there are many online tools to help you create them without spending too much time or money.
  • Messaging and groups to encourage interactions: WhatsApp and Facebook Groups are good examples of how private messaging and communities are going beyond public Pages. You can use them to work with your ambassadors or your volunteers or even between your team members to enhance collaboration.
  • Improved focus on engagement on every channel: Followers are not as important as engagement. All big social platforms are downgrading the importance of growing your followers if you don’t have strong engagement. This is an attempt to stop the number of fake followers without paying attention to the actual interactions you’re having with your supporters. Try to be more engaging by asking questions, posting interactive content such as polls, and promote dialogue through your content.
  • Stories as a new form of content: Instagram Stories are one of the most engaging content types on social media in 2019. Facebook Stories are now the next thing to try out and LinkedIn is also following with their own version of Stories. This new type of vertical content is appealing because it feels more casual and authentic. It’s also a great way to post interactive content (polls, questions, etc)

Keep all these in mind when you’re reviewing your current social media strategy. One small change at a time can lead to great success, provided that you’re strategic and consistent with your creative ideas.

The key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try out new things, but always document what works and what can be improved. Start thinking of social media as part of a bigger digital journey and work together with other teams to produce the best results.

I’ve found success with putting the analytics where people will see them. One of those places is the website itself.

Figure out what really matters

There’s no shortage of data to review. So, it’s important to move beyond vanity metrics and get to the heart of why we do what we do. This means turning to the goals and key performance indicators you have for your website (or defining them for the first time!).

For my work at Agaric, those goals are:

1. Secure well-matched projects by communicating the value we provide to potential clients.
Key performance indicator: feedback on design and content from target audiences.

2. Diversify and expand free software communities by sharing relevant knowledge.
Key performance indicator: pageviews of blog posts.

Each goal should be accompanied by at least one key performance indicator. This is data that tells you how successful you are being at reaching your goal.

In our case, our first goal of feedback is best measured qualitatively by asking our current clients— and those who we like working with—what they think of the website. We conduct interviews to gather that feedback. For our second goal, we can get a good picture of content relevance by pageviews, a valuable data point to share with the team.

A different site might try to increase one-time donations, in which case seeing the number of donations made during a campaign would be helpful. Another group might focus on building a regular readership, therefore email list sign ups are the best indicator of success. Whatever it is, make sure you can link the analytics you are tracking back to a goal you have for your site. There’s no point in measuring something you won’t take action on.

Know who needs to see the data and where they hang out

After identifying your key performance indicators, decide who on your team should review that data.

For our six-person worker-owned cooperative, that answer was easy – all of us. We all blog and we all have a vested interest in helping our free software communities thrive. We want to know which posts are resonating the most.

After knowing your target audience, find out where they spend their time. In our case, it’s the website’s back-end content overview page. Our website admins go here to pull up a page we want to update and to see what posts are still in draft mode. So, we added a column for pageviews and made that column sortable.

Screenshot of website analytics

 

For the independent news site Portside, the same was true. In addition to showing pageviews on their content overview page, they also include them directly on each post (visible only to content editors).

Portside homepage screen

 

For the online educator portal Teachers with Guts, the organization wanted to track several data points on their members’ use of the platform. So, they have a report page built into the site showing information such as the number of downloads made, comments left, and pages bookmarked.

Data report from Teachers with Guts website

Other opportunities to share analytics include weekly email reports, a user dashboard upon logging in, or via mobile texting or apps. Don’t be shy about asking your team where they would most likely notice the data you’re sharing with them.

Meaningful, informed conversations

By showing key data in high traffic areas, you foster an informed team. From there you can have the conversations you want and need. We now know which posts are getting the most reach and are evaluating why that is. As a result, our best practices have evolved to make our writing more relevant with readers.

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.

While the majority of nonprofit staffers don’t have the word “marketing” in their title, it’s easy to argue that everyone is in the business of marketing. With a unified goal to share the mission of your organization and make change, every role takes on a bit of marketing responsibility. So why not take a page from the marketing playbook and use it to achieve your actual role’s goals?

Marketing in its simplest form is using all devices and mediums available to promote a product, program, or service. While your day-to-day responsibilities may not include content creation or SEO analytics monitoring, there are some go-to strategies of the profession that can help you achieve your goals, no matter what your role is.

1. Strengthen your CTA

quote: just because an approach is trending does not mean it will be a best practice for you.CTA stands for “call to action,” and can be expressed as both a concept and an actual item. Basically, what do you want people to do, and how are they able to quickly do it?
In the first instance, your call to action is probably influenced by what department you work in. If you are in fundraising, your action is “give.” If you run a grants program, it’s probably “apply.” Other CTAs common in the nonprofit space might be “share,” “volunteer,” or “donate.”

While all are good, and quite possibly necessary for the health or your organization, see if you can pick just one. What’s the biggest, most important thing the public needs to do to help you succeed? When everyone in your organization is speaking the same language, the stronger your CTA becomes.

Once you know what that is, you need to shout it from the rooftops. Or, as is often the case in modern marketing, place it in an eye-catching color within a button on your website. In the physical sense, a CTA is the button or link people can click on to perform your desired action. Make sure this button is everywhere a potential supporter could be, and make it easy for them to find and complete the task at hand. Make it a uniform look across your website, landing pages, emails, and even paper collateral. The more accessible and user-friendly your CTA, the more people will do it.

2. Know your KPIs

KPIs are key performance indicators—the data points that help you decide if your efforts are delivering the results you want. Every element of your promotions can and will have its own analytics that you can track and review; for a social media post it might be impressions or likes, for a blog post views or click-throughs to your website. But when you select your top KPIs, you are determining the handful of overreaching numbers that tell you if you are succeeding.

How do you pick? Start with that CTA. If your organization’s top CTA is to apply for a grant, it’s easy to determine that your top KPI is going to be number of grant applications received. Any supporting KPIs are going to be the things that might influence that first one—perhaps visitors to the grant application, visitors to your website’s page about your grant program, or click-throughs on the email sent to your list announcing that the grant application is now open.

There are two common ways to then look at these collected numbers to determine real success. One is year-over-year comparison. If in 2017 you received 100 grant applications and in 2018 you received 150, one can assume things are trending upward.

The other, and sometimes more interesting, way is to look at the KPIs as part of a journey or funnel. If 500 visitors went to your grant program webpage but only 200 went to the application itself and only 100 actually submitted the application, you start to see the conversion rates and where people are dropping off.
Some drop-off is normal and expected, but major drop-offs indicate a potential issue you need to fix. Are you attracting the wrong people to apply for this grant, or using the wrong venues to reach them? Do you need to rework the language used? Is the application too confusing or long?

When you combine these two KPI approaches and compare conversions year-over-year, you can see an even clearer picture of what’s working and what needs improvement.

3. Focus on ROI

When every dollar you are able to save means more investment in your organization’s mission and programs, cost matters. For nonprofits, the concept of return on investment, or ROI, is extremely valuable. It asks: Are you getting the most out of a software platform, advertising run, agency, or campaign? Do the ends justify the means?

ROI can be tricky, though. While some may want to look at it in black and white (the campaign cost $1000 but only brought in $600 in revenue), there is a lot of gray in marketing. You may have lost $400 here in direct cost during the length of the campaign, but are there intangibles you gained that could change the perceived value? How many impressions did the campaign garner? Perhaps all those views have dramatically increased your nonprofit’s brand recognition and over the next year, you’ll see more people attending your events. How many visitors came through to the site? Now all those people know more about your programs and may be more inclined to remember you during their next volunteer day. Did you get new subscribers to your newsletter? These people like what you are doing and want to keep in touch—they are prime for conversion to donors. All these new individuals could lead to thousands of dollars of donations in the future; they just need more time than that strict start and stop dates of the campaign allowed. If you look at the big picture, you might see that your ROI may eventually be well into the black, and thus the campaign is a success.

All that said, know when something did not work and be prepared to end it and learn from it. Your audience is unique and just because an approach is trending does not mean it will be a best practice for you. If you don’t see valuable conversion, consider the language, the imagery, the CTA, and the placement, and try again.

Do you know how well your nonprofit is doing to meet its mission? Is your team able to reflect on ways to improve at meeting your mission? Nonprofits that make their missions measurable can build the tools to improve their effectiveness.

Imagine the difference for our communities if every nonprofit could improve its performance at meeting its mission. Based on nonprofit Theory of Change, here are five steps nonprofits can take to prepare to improve mission performance, starting with the two foundational mission commitments:

1. Define who the nonprofit commits to engage.

Who do we live and die for? Who is our target population? This can be:

  • Individuals, for example: parents of color with school-age children in Boston
  • Organizations, for example: environmental nonprofits in Vermont
  • A community, for example: the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago

Then you can define key measurable, observable characteristics of your target population:

  • Demographics: For individuals, where are they? How old are they/their children? For organizations, how big are they or what kinds of missions do they have? For communities, what are the boundary lines?
  • Assets or strengths: What are they good at? What assets do they bring to the table?
  • Challenges: What challenges do they bring to the process. What help do they need from you?

2. Agree to what end the nonprofit commits to engage them.

There are three kinds of nonprofit missions, each a different way to answer the question “To what end?”

Some nonprofits are accountable to provide basic needs: food, shelter, safety, or clothing; for example a food pantry or the Red Cross. Basic needs are those without which one cannot live, the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Some nonprofits are accountable to deliver a specific quality service, for example a liberal arts education, health care, ballet performance, or museum experience.

Some nonprofits commit to help participants climb an outcomes ladder. Outcomes are meaningful, intentional, sustained changes in people’s lives. Here is an example showing how a child learns to read:

  • Initial outcomes include inside changes: New knowledge and skills, like learning the alphabet and understanding phonics and sight words, and changed values and attitudes like taking an interest in reading
  • Intermediate outcomes include behaviors and milestones, such as reading an early reader out loud and reading at a third grade level with comprehension. Intermediate outcomes can only grow if the necessary initial outcomes have first developed
  • Long-term outcomes are the changes in life status that result from sustaining intermediate outcomes over time, in this case reading for knowledge and pleasure.

All three kinds of missions are uniquely valuable to deliver public benefit. Each kind of mission implies a different definition of success. Each kind of nonprofit mission can be made measurable by selecting indicators that tell if the accountability has been met.

All nonprofits can be clear, focused, and agreed on their definition of “Who?” and “To what end?” These two measures are the bookends of nonprofit missions and nonprofit performance management.

3. Codify the nonprofit’s program strategy and activities.

What strategies and activities are necessary to help your target population reach your committed destination above in #2? What quantity, quality, and duration of program activities, requirements, and relationships are logically necessary to engage your participants in their unique context and help them progress along the path you believe is necessary to reach the final destination in your mission?

Once your nonprofit has mapped out its theory of change, it can measure participant attendance and progress at each key step along the journey.

4. Define indicators and select measurement tools.

Indicators are measurable data that tell whether individual participants have received the basic needs or quality service commitment, or have achieved success on a priority outcome. After indicators are defined, a nonprofit can select or develop questions and a realistic plan to gather that data. For example, who will gather it, how, and when? Where will the data be stored? How will the data be compiled and presented?

By taking these steps, you design a clear pathway for participants to reach the intended mission destination. Depending on your nonprofit’s specific mission commitments and pathway, here are the kinds of data sets nonprofits need to manage and improve their performance on mission, which tell if a participant:

  • meets criteria for target population.
  • has completed sufficient program dosage needed to receive basic needs or quality services or achieve outcomes.
  • has completed all the program requirements.
  • has met basic needs or quality standards.
  • has achieved initial outcomes, intermediate outcomes, and long-term outcomes.

The goal of data analysis is to answer the question, “How many of our target population reached our final mission destination?” And for the ones who did not reach the desired destination, “Where did we lose them? How can we intervene sooner and do better next time?”

5. Design a plan to learn from the data and use it to inform improvement.

You want to gather data about each individual participant’s progress down your nonprofit’s pathway. This empowers front-line staff to use real-time participant data to make optimal daily decisions to help them. This process is called tactical data use.

At the same time, you want to compile data about groups of participants’ progress, so that program leadership can identify patterns of success or lagging behind, to make needed program adjustments and provide support to staff.

Finally, your organization’s management and board of directors can use compiled data to make better decisions about raising and allocating resources, and about staffing, partnerships and program strategy. This process is called strategic data use. Together they become a powerful engine for organization-wide learning and improvement, in the hands of leadership and staff committed to mission effectiveness.

 

This approach is an all-hands-on-deck, relentless pursuit to improve participant outcomes, which requires that a nonprofit make changes in the way it manages its operations. Any nonprofit can clarify its mission commitments and theory of change and ultimately make it measurable.

The digital landscape is changing at a dizzying rate and sometimes it feels like the plans you made yesterday are obsolete by morning. But help is at hand!

For the third year, NTEN is proud to partner with Care2, hjc and Resource Alliance on a report that sets the standard for nonprofit digital planning. But we need your help. The 2017 Digital Outlook Report is powered by responses by nonprofit professionals just like you. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete and you’ll be entered in the drawing for some great prizes.

Take the survey today and be the first to know when the findings are published later this year.

 

It’s no secret that more and more funders are focused on results and impact, and that the simple act of “giving back” is no longer enough for them to support your organization. Increasingly, funders want to go beyond doing good—they want to focus on achievement through measurable outcomes that demonstrate that their investments (in the form of donations, grants, etc.) have improved the situation for the intended population.

This level of scrutiny must now be addressed, especially if you want to maintain or grow your donor base and raise more money for your organization. You need to measure your organization’s outcomes and impact—if you are not already doing this—and figure out how to turn that information into success stories that can be shared with prospective and current funders. While donor scrutiny has become a catalyst to set up outcomes measurement programs and to tell impact stories, the motivation has always been there—you want to have the most impact through the work that you do. Measuring program outcomes is the best way to get there, while also providing today’s funders with the information they are demanding.

The Road to Telling Your Impact Story

Let’s take a look at the benefits of measuring outcomes for your organization and programs.

Preparing to measure outcomes forces you to define not only the issues that need to be addressed, but also the steps needed to help resolve these issues or at least create some improvement. When you are clear about this, you can use this information to find and attract funders who are aligned with your organization and its mission. Once funders are on board, you can monitor progress toward those desired outcomes. You’ll be able to not only determine if your program is successful, but also learn and identify gaps to either adjust your program’s strategy or find ways to collaborate with other organizations to increase the impact you are having on your target population. And ultimately your development team will be better able to tell your organization’s impact story, which will bring you back full circle to finding and attracting more funders.

The bottom line is this: Establishing and measuring program outcomes and telling impact stories helps attract donors and funders, and ultimately ensures we are helping those in need. So, how do we set up outcomes measurement programs?

The people and organizations that have had the most success have done so by utilizing effective technology, which can be the bridge connecting funders and nonprofits to increase collaboration, drive higher performance, and ultimately, improve outcomes and impact.

Benefits of Effective Tech

With the right strategic focus supported by technology, process, and access to data, funders and nonprofits can work together more strategically to further help those they serve. Some of the key benefits of effective technology are:

  • Community and Collaboration: Funders and nonprofits focused on impact know that communication is key, and clear communication about program impact is dependent upon collaborating and using the same measures. Working together to determine key changes (outcomes) that participants experience will only help both parties achieve their goals. On the nonprofit side, you’re on the front lines and have firsthand insight into your community’s needs, so assisting the funder when they are developing their programmatic strategy is critical to everyone’s overall successes. Leveraging the power of a sector-sourced taxonomy of measures will give both funders and nonprofits a jumping-off point to further their collaboration and enable the sector to speak the same language, and thus to also truly collaborate and monitor progress towards achievement on key social issues.
  • Two-Way Communication: Results-focused organizations on both sides see the ability to foster stronger communication and increase collaboration as a path toward true partnership. That balanced, respectful partnership can help you achieve your intended impact more effectively. The right technology will facilitate a new level of communication and partnership between funders and nonprofits. Monitoring of progress toward shared goals and learning from that progress in clear, concise dashboards allows for easier identification of your organization’s achievements as well as needed adjustments to focus and/or strategy.
  • Data Access: Having access to relevant data that is timely and accessible will empower you to continue to inform and grow your program’s and organization’s impact.

Ultimately, technology can play a key role in optimizing and streamlining the process that funders and nonprofits go through when defining key measurements of a program. It opens the door to clearer communication, better definition of the results achieved, and more data at the ready to tell your impact story. It can help get you to a place that you wanted to go to anyway—knowing what your impact is, and continuing to grow your impact—and it can help you be better prepared for the increasing level of scrutiny you’re seeing from funders.

To build a successful fundraising program, nonprofits need to set goals, track outcomes, and learn from past performance. Collecting and analyzing your data in a vacuum only gives part of the picture—nonprofits also need to be able to measure the impact of fundraising and compare it to others, as well as to the larger sector.

It is incredibly important to understand how your data measures up – where you are doing well, and where there’s room for improvement. That’s why we created the Individual Donor Benchmark Project, a deep dive into the data of small but mighty organizations.

There is no other benchmarking resource for smaller organizations with individual donor fundraising programs. The Individual Donor Benchmark Report is a resource for nonprofits to see how you stack up. Where is your fundraising doing well? What parts of your fundraising program might need a little more attention? What experiments could you try?

For fundraisers, it’s easy to forget to look beyond “Did we make our budget?” when measuring the impact of fundraising. But, if you’re ready to take your development to the next level – the first step to success is to dig into your results!

To continue to grow your fundraising, you need to understand the health of your fundraising program. Metrics like average gift, percentage of online funding, and retention rate can give you a more complete picture of your revenue generation.

But it’s also important to measure your non-monetary results and activities. Keeping an eye on things like the number of meetings with donors, the growth of your email list, and the number of Board members involved in fundraising will help you better understand current success. Measuring those activities will also help you track how you are growing a sustainable program – one with strong connections to donors, increasing numbers of potential donors, and an engaged Board.

Here’s a snapshot of what we have found by working with small and medium-sized nonprofits to measure their own organization’s outcomes for greater success:

What We Found in the Data

We found that the average organization with budgets less than $2 million saw significant growth between 2013 and 2014, including a 47 percent jump in overall revenue and an 67 percent increase in individual donor revenue. But even with this growth, we identified some huge opportunities for small organizations to increase individual donor fundraising success.

For instance, we asked organizations how many donors gave more than $1,000 in a year— and the average organization only had 29, or about 7 percent of their donor base. That 7 percent gives half of the overall individual donor revenue on average. We also found that most organizations only meet with 17 donors a year. There’s a great opportunity to cultivate larger donors to sustain and increase their funding, and a great opportunity to upgrade existing donors to a higher level of giving.

Additionally, recurring donations—those donors automatically give monthly or at regular intervals—continue to be a source of large gifts for smaller nonprofits. The average gift from these donors is $520, which is about 20 percent more than the overall average of $435. However, only 11 percent of donors are making recurring gifts, so there’s great potential to grow this powerful type of individual giving.

We also found several “universal truths” from the 2014 report, including:

  • The single most important thing you can do to strengthen your individual donor fundraising is to create a plan.
  • The average small but mighty nonprofit raises 36 percent of their revenue from individual donors.
  • About 16 percent of individual donor revenue is generated online.
  • The average individual donor gift is around $400.

Having a fundraising plan is the single best predictor of fundraising success. If you have a plan, other investments in your fundraising program—more staff, higher paid staff, and more donor meetings—lead to bigger impact. If you don’t have a fundraising plan, they don’t matter. If you don’t, the data shows no relationship between investing more in individual donor fundraising and seeing greater results. For example, if you have a fundraising plan, every $1 more you pay your primary individual donor fundraiser, you are able to raise another $4.25.

Get Started With Measurement

Through the Individual Donor Benchmark Project, we’ve created tools to help more small and medium organizations analyze and measure their data for increased success. By looking at a wide range of data to measure your impact, you can find ways to enhance your fundraising strategies. We recommend you start with:

  • What is your average gift?
  • What is your retention rate – the percentage of people who returned as donors this year?
  • What is the percentage of income from small donors? Large donor?
  • How much do you raise online?
  • What is your income growth year over year?

Understand Your Impact

Nonprofits utilizing the data from the Individual Donor Benchmark Project gain valuable resources to understand their donor potential and enhance fundraising strategies. Understanding how your data measures and compares to like-sized organizations is incredibly valuable to any group looking to grow a fundraising program.

Once you’re ready to measure your impact for greater fundraising success, analyzing your data will help you identify where your organization might focus fundraising energy and increase outcomes. Read the latest Individual Donor Benchmark Report [link to http://www.thirdspacestudio.com/idb2014/] to look for places that your organization’s results are below the average and get empowered to enhance your efforts. You may find, for example, that your organization has a small recurring donor program that could blossom with a little more attention.

What You Get When You Give

For four years running, the Individual Donor Benchmark Project has collected donor data from nonprofits nationwide with budgets under $2 million to fill a void of donor data. The results of the IDB Project have helped nonprofits enhance their fundraising efforts and find great success. You can download the 2014 Individual Donor Benchmark Report here.

Now is the time to join this growing grassroots movement and start on the path to measuring the impact of your fundraising. You can click here to share your donor data through Individual Donor Benchmark Survey, open through Friday, April 8.

Kim Kardashian gets paid $200k to send one tweet to her 40 million followers, that’s 0.5¢ per follower. Mike Tyson sells exposure to his 5 million followers for only $3.5k, or 0.07¢ per follower.

The ability to reach people through social networks is an important part of an organization’s marketing strategy. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other networks are where people spend their time, consume their content, and interact and engage with others.

Making Your Message Stand Out

Any nonprofit that has tried to generate significant impact through social media knows that the immense amount of content flowing through these platforms makes it hard for your message to stand out and get the attention of your audience.

Let’s look at the numbers Twitter provides for engagement:

  • Only 7% of tweets sent are seen by followers
  • Less than 2% of those actually engage with the content they view

Twitter actually includes many different types of actions as engagement, including those that have a near zero effect on impact, such as viewing the expanded tweet, clicking on a hashtag, or viewing a profile.

Clicking on a link in your tweet accounts for less than a third of those engagements.

If you have 10,000 followers on Twitter, and you want to promote your fundraiser by sending out a tweet with a link to your donation page, only 700 will see your tweet, and around 3 will click on the link. Even with a million followers, the number of clicks generated is around 350.

Having lots of followers does not guarantee high engagements.

What if your followers could do more than just be passive recipients of your message? What if they could actively spread your message?

Our approach at justcoz.org to overcoming this challenge is to find and enlist social influencers from an organization’s community, and automatically send their message through their accounts, using their voices. These influential followers, called “supporters,” are the ones who can best amplify a message and make it effective.

Relaying a message through supporters’ accounts increases its effectiveness and impact in three ways.

Multiplying the Reach
No matter the size of one’s current audience (as can be defined by the number of “followers” you have on a social network), recruiting members of that audience to act as amplifiers of your message will increase the size of your audience considerably. Our measurements show that converting just 1% of your followers into supporters provides anywhere from a two- to a forty-fold increase in the amount of people reached with each message.

Diversifying the Audience
Your current messages only reach those who already know who you are and are actively listening to you. Your supporters’ audience contains people whom you have never been able to reach before, yet they are only one connection away from someone who cares about your cause.

Humanizing the Message
Having your message sent through a human account rather than an organizational account makes it much more likely to be engaged with. Messages that are relayed through influencers act as a third-party endorsement for your message, making your cause more approachable, and your content more engaging.

All three aspects represent a profound change in the way your message is received and perceived by your potential audience.

There are many factors that contribute to the probable effectiveness of a supporter. While the parameters are dynamic and constantly changing, gauging them enables us to locate and activate the supporters that are the most influential and that can generate the highest levels of engagement.

Important parameters we use to determine probable effectiveness are:

  1. Connections—While the number of followers can be very misleading, it does have relevance to the effectiveness of a message. After all, a person with no social influence can have no effect, regardless of any other parameter. In addition, we also look at the number of people followed back, which is seen to positively contribute to the effectiveness of messages sent.
  2. Activity – Too much or too little activity means your message will go unnoticed or likely have less impact if it is noticed. The highest effectiveness is achieved at a specific level of activity that is calculated based on the tolerance and behavior of each supporter and their social sphere.
  3. Time-of-day/day-of-week – This parameter has significant impact on a message’s effectiveness. Interestingly, the best time to send a message is affected by the timezones of the people in a supporter’s social sphere more than they are on the supporter’s own timezone.
  4. Content – The structure and content of the message itself has a significant influence on engagement metrics. The number of links, hashtags, and mentions in the message, as well as the actual content, language, and orientation of the message, all contribute to its probable impact.
  5. Previous engagement – We look at a supporter’s history to see how much engagement they have created in the past to calculate their probable effectiveness for a campaign.

These parameters and others, allow us to identify the supporters who are powerful influencers of your potential audience, and provide better insight into the best way of spreading your message through social media.