Are you ready to get serious about measuring your nonprofit marketing success? It’s a challenge, but one definitely worth taking on. We have lots of advice to get you started!
Choosing Your Objectives
One of the reasons that measuring nonprofit marketing communications work is so hard is that we have a lot of different marketing and communications objectives to consider.
Based on our research, there are 12 different categories of nonprofit marketing objectives. But all of these must be customized and made SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound). Couple that with the sheer amount of data that many of your online marketing channels give you, and you have hundreds if not thousands of choices for what to measure.
Try to narrow that down by focusing on what you really want to know. That will help you decide between what you could measure and what you should measure.
Measurement Frameworks for Communications and Marketing
It’s helpful to understand some of the different ways we talk about measuring nonprofit marketing or communications success.
One easy way to think about it is Outputs, Outcomes, and Impacts.
- Outputs are what you create, like an email fundraising campaign and your posts on Facebook.
- Outcomes are what people do with what you create, like opening, clicking, and donating.
- Impacts are the results or the changes produced by your outputs and the outcomes. For example, having people attend an event or donate money are impacts of your communications.
Wondering what to measure first and where to start? Describing your outputs, especially in relation to your editorial calendar, is a great start. After all, we know that how often nonprofits communicate is a really important indicator of success. That’s why keeping track of how often you are communicating and whether you are following through on your editorial calendar or not is meaningful, even if you aren’t quite ready to measure outcomes or impacts.
Another popular approach to marketing measurement is tracking Activity, Reach, Engagement, and Impact, which basically takes “Outcomes” above and splits it into Reach and Engagement.
Activity, like outputs, measures what you create.
Reach is how many people saw what you created. Sometimes people use the concept of “impressions” here.
Engagement is akin to Outcomes above. It’s some percentage of those you “reached” actually doing something with the content.
Impact is the same in both frameworks: the results or the changes produced when your activity reaches someone and they engage with it.
Let’s take measuring awareness-raising for example. You might decide to focus on building the size of your permission-based mailing lists. That will increase your reach over time. You could also look at the activity (the content you are producing and sharing) that brings people to those opt-in and other engagement opportunities.
Reporting Results to Others
You may be wondering how often you should report marketing and communications results to others. This depends in part on just how interested your leadership team is and whether they really care about communications results.
Most nonprofit communicators try to develop some kind of dashboard to share results. You may have a few different versions: one very high-level dashboard for your board, a more detailed one for your internal management team, and even more specific ones for you personally. (We teach a Dashboard Jump Starter for All-Access Pass Holders.)
Auditing and Testing to Learn Even More from Your Data
Auditing or reviewing what you are currently doing can go hand in hand with a measurement strategy. Depending on what you are most interested in learning, you may want to conduct
- A Channel Mix Audit
- A Content or Messaging Audit
- A Brand Audit
- A Strategic Objectives Audit
- A Tactical Best Practices Audit
You can learn more about the five different types of nonprofit communications and marketing audits here. These will help you get some ideas for how to move the numbers you are tracking.
You will also want to experiment with new approaches to your messaging or communications channels to see if you can move your number in the right direction. Just doing the same old thing isn’t likely to produce significant results. Why leave it up to chance or luck?
Instead, experiment and try some new ideas out. For example, here are 14 easy tests to run to improve your nonprofit’s email marketing.
Ready to Create a Marketing Measurement Plan?
Here are three measurement concepts to keep in mind and five questions to help you walk through the process of deciding what to measure.