Here’s a question that came in last week . . .

Hello Kivi,

Do you have any resources that will help me to measure our communications effectiveness? Our numbers are increasing: clients served, sales at our thrift stores, donations, etc., since I was hired as the organization’s first Communications Coordinator a year ago. But how do I determine how much of the increased activity  is due to the work I’m doing in marketing, communications and advertising?

I have received anecdotal comments such as: “wow, I love the new ads” or “so many people who come here say that they saw a flyer or received an email”. But we want to be able to quantify the impact of our marketing and communications efforts. I would appreciate knowing any resources you may have or be able to refer me to. Thank you very much!


I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

Here are a few thoughts for small nonprofits with just one communications staffer . . .

First, you’ll never be able to say with absolute certainty which activities (or combinations of activities) caused which results. It’s just way too complicated and expensive for small nonprofits.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

So, I’d start by taking a look at each of your major communications channels. See (1) what data is easy to get and (2) what’s the most meaningful number? What’s really the best indicator of success?

Let’s take email for example. It’s common to look at

  • list growth
  • open rates
  • click-through rates
  • which links are actually clicked

You can get all of these from your email provider.

But  . . . you’ll get much more useful data if you connect your email analytics with your website analytics. This is how you can answer questions like,

  • Which email generated the greatest number of donations?
  • Which email raised the most overall?
  • How much of our online fundraising is attributed directly back to emails versus other sources of traffic to the website?

Do this for all of your communications channels.

Next I would consider some measures or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that give you information that is not related to a specific communications channel.

In the business world, the Net Promoter Score is a common example. You might choose something more meaningful. For example, Donor Voice recommends a Donor Commitment Score based on these three questions using a 0 to 10 disagree/agree scale:

  • I am a committed (insert nonprofit name) donor.
  • I feel a sense of loyalty to (insert nonprofit name).
  • (Insert nonprofit name) is my favorite charitable organization.

You’d get this kind of information by building regular surveying or polling into your communications channels (like a popup on your website) and into your communications calendar (like doing an online survey twice a year, or spot-checking in person at your stores or with volunteers several times a year).

What other ideas do you have that one person could handle? Please share in the comments.