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. Even small nonprofits hear questions about what difference they make. Yet many nonprofits cannot definitively say how much their activities impact problems they seek to improve.
Most nonprofits at least have a presence on social media. Many build Facebook Pages and post often on Facebook and Twitter. However, fewer monitor social media and traditional news media for mentions of their organization’s name. Even fewer employ advanced media measurement tools to gauge the value of their activities.
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 donors, donor retention, fundraising amounts, the number of volunteers and volunteer retention, or number of clients served.
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.
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 those diverse groups of 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. Nonprofits can find the best strategies for encouraging people to donate and volunteer. Probably most importantly, media measurement can show if nonprofits meet their goals.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.