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Nonprofits face increasing pressure to prove how their efforts make an impact. Donors, including grantors and foundations, want to know how effectively nonprofits are using their money. That’s one reason why measuring ROI is more important than ever for nonprofit marketing.

An overwhelming majority (83%) of nonprofit marketers place a priority on improving how they measure marketing ROI and attribution, reveals a recent Salesforce survey.

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • 58% of nonprofit marketers cite budgetary constraints as a challenge, underscoring the importance of measurement to demonstrate the value of their marketing activities and win budget increases.
  • Only 29% are completely or highly satisfied with how they currently measure marketing ROI and attribution.
  • 67% use automated processes to measure marketing ROI and attribution.

The Role of Data for Personalizing Messages

Data enables nonprofits to personalize marketing campaign, increase donations and find new supporters. In a Catch-22 situation, nonprofits must personalize messages before people share their names, contact information and other personal details. Merging and organizing that information across different systems and devices can be challenging due to the large number of devices and channels people use, according to the survey. The average number of data sources continues to increase from five in 2019, six in 2020, and an anticipated eight in 2021.

Nonprofit marketers have lagged most other industries in personalizing messages and tailoring content for different channels: 54% of nonprofit marketers duplicate content for different channels, compared to 31% for retail and 32% for financial services.

Social media measurement, also called social media analytics, combined with measurement of traditional media offers an invaluable tool for gauging the effectiveness of a nonprofit’s marketing efforts.

Media measurement can:

  • Reveal how many people discuss your key issues, measure sentiment surrounding those conversations, and track trends in mentions and sentiment.
  • Show how well audiences understand your issues and gauge their level of awareness.
  • Track what media outlets, bloggers and other influencers say about the organization, its leadership and cause.
  • Determine what type of content works best and the best channels for communications.
  • Reveal what inspires people to donate or volunteer.
  • Uncover heartwarming stories and proof cases of people the organization has helped.

Key Media Monitoring and Measurement Tips for Nonprofits

Nonprofits that follow these steps will be better positioned to gain the full value of media monitoring and measurement.

Establish objectives. Setting clear, realistic objectives is the first step for measuring results. Goals might cite the number of new clients or members attracted, dollar value of new clients or members, amount of media coverage and its reach, increase in number of social media engagements, trend in sentiment of social media followers, number of donors, donor retention, fundraising amounts, the number of volunteers and volunteer retained, number of clients served, or number of prospective users reached.

Connect goals to actions. Establish a connection between the nonprofit’s mission and its marketing and PR activities before starting a measurement program. “Far too few nonprofit communicators take the time to make the connection between their efforts and the mission before they embark on a measurement program. When you do, the results are powerful,” writes PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, in her blog the Measurement Advisor. The problem facing nonprofits is not a lack of data. It’s is finding the right data, and then analyzing it to obtain answers that improve their marketing. “The key to solving this problem is connecting the dots between the mission and the activities with which nonprofit communicators fill their days,” Paine says.

Monitor broad issues. Many nonprofits track only mentions of their organizations. Monitoring broad issues related to your cause can reveal deeper insights. For example, search for “mental health” or “food kitchen” in addition to your organization’s name. Using Boolean search techniques can locate specific results and eliminate irrelevant results. Including words like “and,” “or” and “not” can greatly improve search results.

Consider your stakeholders. Nonprofits have many stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, sponsors, employees, and the people they serve. Design the monitoring and measurement program to seek insights that meet the different interests of those diverse stakeholders.

Control costs. Paid monitoring services offer distinct advantages over free services. However, nonprofits face unique pressure to keep expenses down. Nonprofits can control costs by working with a monitoring service that offers month-to-month agreements rather than one that binds them into long-term contracts. In addition, selecting vendors that can customize their services to the nonprofit’s needs can help the organization avoid paying for unneeded services. Some media monitoring and measurement services, such as Glean.info, offer sizable discounts to non-profit organizations.

Select appropriate metrics. Select at least three specific metrics for analyzing various categories of communications, including email, marketing, public relations and social media, Paine advises. Select metrics that are quantifiable, with a number such as an amount of money or percentage that can be compared to another number such as past performance or competitors. It’s also critical to include a date when the goal will be achieved.

Beware of vanity metrics. Don’t be distracted by vanity metrics, such as the number of followers and fans, cautions social media consultant Julia Campbell. Possible metrics to track include:

  • Engagement. The response (or lack of) that your social media content receives: shares, comments and likes.
  • Reach. Reach indicates how many people saw your social media content. Since reach does not indicate if they took action, it has limited value.
  • Traffic to the nonprofit’s website
  • Email newsletter sign-ups
  • Repeats of a hashtag you created for a particular online engagement campaign.

Consider outsourcing media monitoring and measurement. Outsourcing services provides crucial media monitoring and measurement advantages over trying to perform the task in house, including specialized expertise, advanced technology and objective analysis. Organizations that outsource the service are better positioned to obtain the full benefits of media monitoring and analytics. Most not-for-profit organizations ultimately find that outsourcing is more cost effective.

While nonprofits, especially smaller ones, often struggle for adequate funding, organizations can now measure their PR and marketing efforts without spending huge sums. Carefully selecting metrics and partnering with the right media monitoring service enables PR and marketing to accurately measure their campaigns for reasonable costs.

Bottom Line: Social media listening and media measurement provides substantial benefits for nonprofits, including identifying the best strategies for attracting new clients or members and encouraging people to donate and volunteer. Probably most importantly, media measurement can determine their marketing ROI and show if nonprofits meet their marketing and PR goals.

Schedule a Free Online Demo of the Glean.info Media Monitoring & Measurement Dashboard.

This article was first published on Aug. 21, 2018, and updated on June 30, 2020.